By Felix Khanoba
The Industrial Training Fund (ITF) says the quest by Nigerian graduates to secure white collar jobs despite the available opportunity in hand-on skills is fuelling the unemployment problem in the country.
Director-General of ITF, Sir Joseph Ari, who stated this at the First National Skills Summit organised by the agency in Abuja on Thursday, called on Nigerians to fully embrace skills acquisition as a sustainable alternative to office jobs.
“My understanding of this is that if over 20 million Nigerians are not employed and yet technicians are imported, the answer can only be that Nigerians have not fully embraced skills acquisition as a sustainable alternative to white collar jobs. This mindset and the perception that hands-on skills are for a certain group of Nigerians has to change,” Ari said.
While saying the Federal Government has rolled out several measures through ITF and other agencies to tackle the nation’s unemployment situation, Ari said the problem persisted not as a result of lack of will on part of the government but on the attitude of Nigerians to skills acquisition.
“Till date, many Nigerians still believe that hands-on skills are a preserve of the poor and the disadvantaged in our society as they are viewed as dirty, dreaded and dangerous. This perception has led to skills shortages in trades and vocational areas that Nigerians should be well equipped to perform.
“My opinion finds support from a Skills Gap Survey in Six Priority Sectors of the Nigerian Economy that was conducted by the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) in liaison with the United Nations Industrial Development Organisation (UNIDO), which showed that despite rising unemployment, vacancies still existed in several sectors of the economy that are still reliant on foreign labour to be filled.”
Also speaking at the event, Minister of State, Industry, Trade and Investment, Mrs Mariam Katagum, said the Summit with the theme: ‘Skills for Employability and Job Creation, and Strategies for Developing Employability Skills in Nigeria and Industry Needs and Education Curricula’, provided the opportunity to deliberate on ways to resolve the unemployment situation, including fulfilling the commitment of President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration to take 100 million Nigerians out of poverty in the next ten years.
“This Summit is coming at a crucial time in our life as a country, as the rising unemployment has led to the insecurity witnessed across Nigeria today. To address the insecurity challenges, we will first of all have to create jobs by equipping Nigerians with skills to take advantage of the policies that have been put in place,” she said.
The minister called on Nigerians to embrace skills acquisition as it has become the currency of countries desirous of development, with the T-BRICS nations – Turkey, Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa as ready examples.