Skill acquisition as leeway to tackling unemployment

Okonjo-Iweala-Tuesday

IN today’s world, the stack reality is that for university graduates and other professionals, job competition and unemployment are becoming stiffer and tougher. Unfortunately, government’s response to the unemployment problem is slow, inadequate and not radical.

Unemployment in Nigeria is one of the most critical problems the country is facing. The years of corruption, civil war, military rule, and mismanagement have hindered economic growth of the country. Nigeria is endowed with diverse and infinite resources, both human and material.

      However, years of negligence and adverse policies have led to the under-utilization of these resources. These resources have not been effectively utilized in order to yield maximum economic benefits.

    Recognising the challenges of unemployment in the country, stakeholders and experts at a seminar organized by Decent Work Labour and Skills Development Services, Oyo State, Ibadan, stressed the need for Nigerian graduates to engage in skill acquisition.

     In his opening speech, the Founder and Chief Executive Officer of Decent Work and Skills Institute, Dr. Yunus Dauda, traced the problems of mass unemployment, insecurity and poverty to the mismanagement of Nigeria’s national economy.

      He added that corruptions and maladministration by successive Nigerian government since independence also contributed to unemployment issues in the country.

    Dauda explained that the nation’s oil wealth as well as other material and human resources have not been properly managed as to make the average Nigerian benefit from them, adding that successive Nigerian government have paid lip service to the problem of mass unemployment and poverty.

    Dauda, who is also a former Head of Department of the Human Resources and Industrial Relations’ department of the Lagos State University, Ojo, noted that most government institution such as National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and National Poverty Eradication programme (NADEP) as well as other state and local government initiators have not yielded desired results.

 He said: “The Decent Work and Skills Institute was established to complement the efforts of government to improve the skills of unemployed graduates and workers in order to improve organizational and worker’s performance for sustainable economic growth, national development and to reduce substantially mass unemployment and poverty”.

    He added: “The first annual lecture of the Institute titled: Developing Unemployed Graduates and Workers Skills for Unemployment Reduction in Nigeria is to enable the institute and the general public to benefit from the two eminent scholars on how these problems could be addressed”.

    The Chairman of the occasion, Prof. Nurain Bolanle Tanimowo, stressed the need for the government and the private sector to solve the problem of unemployment in the country. “The Decent Work and Skills Development institute establishment is the right step in the right direction. The Institute will improve the skills of our youth in order to make them to be gainfully employed”.

 He also explained the relationship, the effect of the present form of public educations as the problems of mass unemployment.

     He argued that the system of education is based on the colonial system,

‘which is directed mainly to train clerks, interpreters and messengers for the colonial administration. This system of education relies on paper qualification rather than improving knowledge and skills of the youth.

      He stated that the educated elites immediately after independence occupied the position formerly occupied by the colonialist, adding that increase in population make it difficult for the government to cope with the army of unemployed youth after graduation.

 In order to make the education responsive to the need of the nations and to provide employment to the youth, it is imperative that education should be directed towards improving the knowledge and skills of the Nigerian youth.

     He reiterated that Dauda should be commended for setting up the institute, adding that he hope that others will emulate him in this direction.

The Chief Judge of Oyo State, Justice Munta Ladipo Abimbola, who was the guest of honour at the ceremony, attributed his achievements to the quality education he received from his alma mater, which was directed to train the minds and hands of its students and to equip them with skills and knowledge to cope with challenges of life.

     He called on both the government and private sectors to provide solutions to the problem of mass unemployment and poverty.

He emphasized the need for all to come together to solve the problems of mass unemployment, which is now posing a great challenge to the nations.

 He also commanded the efforts of Dauda and appealed to the government and private sector to assist him in the noble work.

 The Head of Department of Mathematics, University of Ibadan, Professor Ezekiel Olusola Ayoola, traced the effort of Dauda to his background and also to his desire to provide solutions to the problems of the common man.

He called on the government as well as individual to promote and establish industries to provide employment to the teeming graduate from all schools including colleges and universities.

    Prof Hammed Agboola of the Ladoke Akintola University of Technology, Ogbomosho, in response to the presentations, explained how his skills as a tailor while in Nigeria assisted him greatly in his thirty years stay in America. 

He recommended that Nigerian should learn entrepreneurship skills to cope with the challenges of mass unemployment.

Bayo Tijani, retired director of National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) also spoke on the need to ensure that Nigerian graduates have the required skills to enable them stand on their own rather than to look for government jobs that is not available.

    Also, the Vice President of Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC, Issa Aremu, said that skills acquisition development is a major component of the recommendations of the 2014 National Conference as it affects labour.

He urged governments at all levels to ensure the implementation of the recommendation of 2014 National Conference as it affects labour in general. 

To tackle the issue of unemployment, Aremu called for the enactment of fundamental policies to provide incentives to and protect domestic industries.

He added that there should be promotion of added value to local raw material and the need to fix the power sector to enable industries thrive.

He said that there should also be the encouragement and protection of farmers to produce raw materials for industry, pointing out that this can be done through guaranteed markets for agricultural produce.

      He said: “There should be an overhaul of existing skills acquisition programmes to make them more functional and effective through the revival of vocational and Technical Education/schools. The ITF should be strengthened to provide effective linkage between Educational Institutions and Industries. Adequate financial support should be made to the ITF to support the establishment of Skill acquisition centres across the country. There should be funding of skills acquisition projects through revolving loans for rake-off”.

    He called on the Federal Government to reserve 15 per cent of employment places in public and private sectors of the economy for persons with disabilities and ensure that they are given work that matches their qualifications.

     Aremu added that government should ratify and implement ILO Convention No. 159 by developing a National Policy on Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment of Persons with Disabilities to ensure entry to the labour market.

He called for the provision of reasonable accommodation in work places according to Article 2 of the United Nations Convention on the Right of Persons with Disabilities (UNCRPD) which Nigeria had signed and ratified.

    He stated: “There should be regulations guaranteeing casual workers permanent employment after working for six months, irrespective of the number of contracts making up the period should be enacted. Policies and laws, which extend labour and social protection to domestic workers, should be put in place urgently. Such laws should regulate working hours, pay, maternity protection and other conditions of work. The National Child Rights Act should be strengthened and made applicable even where states have not domesticated the act. 

  “There is the need to revive and strengthen labour inspectorate division of the Ministry of Labour. The National Minimum Wage, as currently provided for in the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria 1999 should remain on the exclusive legislative list. All stakeholders, including state governments should avail themselves of the tripartite framework for determining the minimum wage to ensure ownership and acceptability”.

   Aremu said that no attempt should be made to deny workers the right of unionisation, adding that strikes are legitimate instruments of enforcing workers’ rights and negotiations within the framework of collective bargaining”.

He added that balkanizing labour and trade unionism should not compromise the Pan-National Character of Labour Unions, which has played an important role in national development,,  “Labour and unionism should continue to be on the exclusive legislative list”.

   He said that the 2004 Pension Act should be amended to raise the minimum contribution of employers to 15 per cent and clearly state the continuous existence of gratuity. “The constitutional provision for the periodic review of pensions should be adhered to. Pension for those retired under the old pension system should be placed on first line charge. Relevant legislation should be made to prescribe very severe penalty for those found to have stolen money meant for pension.

   He added: “A comprehensive reform of existing labour and related laws should be undertaken, so as to remove or amend provisions which impede workers’ welfare and productivity. Such laws and institutions include the Employee Compensation Act, the National Industrial Court, the Trade Union Act and the Industrial Arbitration Panel”.



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