By Philip Yatai
National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), on Monday, called for replacement of Industrial Training Fund (ITF) with National Skills Fund (NSF) as a means of funding skills development in the country.
Executive Secretary of NBTE, Prof. Idris Bugaje, who made the call at a news conference in Kaduna, said this was part of the resolutions reached at the 7th Industry Stakeholders’ Consultation on Skills Development held recently.
Bugaje said that to avoid over taxation of industries, the stakeholders recommended that ITF be transformed into NSF to fund and support skills development.
He said the proposed NSF should not be a trainer or certificate awarding body.
According to him, the idea is to refocus ITF to fund skills development, that is, to provide funds for skills training and support training of national skills qualification (NSQ) verifiers and assessors.
“NSF, if established, will also support the development of national occupational standards and other relevant skill councils,” he said.
Bugaje added that the stakeholders also proposed an executive bill on NSQ framework to be sent to the National Assembly for passage.
He explained that the resolutions had become necessary, following the challenges affecting the vocational training sector in the country.
The NBTE boss identified some of the challenges as the weak linkages between industry and training institutions; loose coordination of the skills eco-system and low awareness on NSQ.
“There is also the problem of non-inclusion of NSQ in the national scheme of service, non-legislation of the framework, engagement of non-certified professionals by employers and lack of special funding scheme for skills development.
“Other problems include non-competitiveness of Nigerian artisans, lack of skilled and certified artisans for employment, non-availability of national skills policy and lack of labour market information,” he said.
Bugaje also said that the stakeholders recommended that all skills qualification in the country, such as Trade Test certificate and City and Guild, among others, be collapsed into the NSQ, as approved by the Federal Executive Council.
“The meeting also recommended the listing of NSQ as a qualification in the national scheme of service to improve the recognition of skills qualifications, both nationally and internationally.
“We equally resolved that the National Council on Skills (NCS) should direct the development of national skills policy and generation of functional labour market information to determine the skills gap in the country.
“Part of our resolve was also that NCS should establish a functional structure for labour supply to Europe and Middle East, India, Morocco and Bangladesh.
“Bangladesh, for example in 2019, exported 2.5 million skilled construction workers to Saudi Arabia and other parts of the world as a source of foreign exchange,” he said.
The executive secretary all stressed the need for a policy on employment of certified artisans and professionals, stressing that currently, only paper qualifications were being considered at the expense of skills.
He added that technical colleges at state levels needed special intervention to upgrade their facilities to enable them roll out NSQ training and meet the immediate skill gaps in the country.
Bugaje also said that polytechnics should be mandated to engage in skills training, in partnership with formal and informal industrial settings in their respective environment.
“We have already informed the polytechnics that from 2023, there will be no accreditation of any technical programme unless they are running, at least, one skill programme,” he said. (NAN)