Skills Development: Stakeholders Advocate For Curriculum Overhaul For Vocational Institutions

Mr Ladi Lawanson with members of staff of the FSTC Yaba, Lagos.

Concerned about the paucity of skilled manpower, with the attendant dire consequences on the country’s economy, some stakeholders have advocated the need for curriculum overhaul, especially for vocational institutions.

They are of the view that what was presently on the ground was inadequate.

Mr. Bolaji Osunsanya, Chief Executive Officer, (CEO) Axxela Limited, stated this  when Mr. Ladi Lawanson, Chairman, School Based Management Committee (SBMC) and some senior staff of the Federal Science and Technical College (FSTC) Yaba, paid him a courtesy visit in Lagos

Axxela Limited is the pioneering private sector-led developer of natural gas distribution in Nigeria and designated natural gas shipper on the West African Gas Pipeline (WAGP), with operations across Nigeria and West Africa.

Osunsanya also emphasised the need for the country to be development-hungry and to let our education curriculum speak to that hunger.

According to him, most companies’ preference for technicians trained abroad has to do with the assessment of their competence.

For instance, he said that out of about 50 applicants tested by his company recently, only a few passed and were selected.

“And if you look at the selected few, it is because they had supplementary experience with one of the IOCs or big companies,” he said.

2nd from right, Mr Bolaji Osunsanya, with Mr Ladi Lawanson to his immediate right during the courtesy visit in Lagos.

Speaking further, he explained that in a bid therefore to contribute its quota towards the development of vocational education, Axxela, through one of its subsidiaries, Gaslink had commenced the refurbishing of the Welding and Fabrication Department at FSTC.

Osunsanya said the company’s Corporate Social Responsibility is hugely focused on education, as a way of giving back to the communities where it derives its income from.

According to him, in taking this approach, the company will also seek to solve some of the challenges of its business operations.

“FSTC Yaba in Lagos, then became a choice because it ticked both boxes for us. It created input resources for us as an organisation and created a worthy cause for giving back to society.

“There is a dearth of competent local welders and fabricators in the country, and we see that in everyday life, and running our business.

“So this for us is strategic, we will be able to access the best skills and put our resources behind this undertaking,” he stated.

The CEO noted that the company’s intervention at the college would be full-spectrum and would lead to the establishment of a ‘Centre of Excellence in welding and fabrication, which is expected to come in four stages.

“One is the facility upgrade, which is what we are currently doing. We will also support curriculum development and teacher training.

“We will invest in teacher training, look at the curriculum and make it more relevant to everyday work and make it as global or world-class as it needs to be.

“There are developments in that area already, so, we just need to leapfrog that.

Then we will be looking at what you will call extension work, making sure that when you impart the skills, they have the opportunity to practice in a live environment.

“We will bring them in and encourage our other partner companies to use graduates of the school in real-life experience.

“We will also help them coordinate internships, vacation jobs and opportunities to work ultimately, not just on our own as Axxela, but leveraging our other alliance partners.

“We think a combination of these should make for a very strong welding and fabrication professional and that is what we desire,” he stated

On the expectations from graduates of the proposed centre of excellence, the Axxela CEO said for the company, the test is the quality of workmen that people would begin to see in society.

He stated that the skills obtainable from this centre would continue to be pivotal to operational excellence within Axxela’s segment of the value chain.

“Hence, we need to have an active system for grooming them to become competent welders. Our expectation is that whenever we assess these practitioners, it would be clear that some would have passed through FSTC.

“If we track it and it starts to show, then we will know we are getting it right.

“I am hoping that if we call 500 welders for a test, among the top numbers, quite a sizable number will be from FSTC and it will be clear that we are on the right track,” he said.

Asked if public perception is responsible for the low enrollment into technical schools, Osunsanya said: “It is probably the way we look at such professions and how we project them’’.

“If they think a welder can achieve everything that society expects him to achieve, then they will pay attention to it. And I think that is what we need to do, get them trained properly.

“In our field, a welder earns more than a safety officer and if you have a top welder, he probably will even earn more than the chief engineer in a typical company because it is a highly specialised skill.

“I think first, the trade centre should not be a remedial school, that people go into because they could not get admitted into a technical school or university,” he said.

According to him, it should be a path on its own and after the trade centre, the students should graduate to be top of their profession.

He added that there is a need to have poster professionals that had gone through this path, so that their achievements could be beamed and highlighted, to encourage the students.

According to him, this can change the perception with time.

In his remarks, Lawanson lauded the Axxela CEO for his vision and gesture, noting that it was the way to go.

He however regretted that the country has not made an adequate investment in vocational skills training, adding that technical and vocational training is one aspect of the country’s economy that is yet to unleashed.

He said there is a huge aspect of the country’s economy where such skills are required, so that gap costs the country a lot because companies hire expatriates with these specialised skills.

“If we have trained professionals in such areas who have the right skills set, then even the equipment we will buy will last longer, even employment within those different trades will help to pay people properly and put them in the economy.

“I think we have this unidirectional mindset that everybody must be a white collared job professional, which is not true, as this is not realistic to our national objective. 

“Let me then state that this is what drives my passion in accepting to serve in this capacity as the chairman of the SBMC of FSTC and to help to bring as much awareness and support to that key sector of our livelihood.

“This will basically help us to unlock the potential of these young ones, as well as also propel them to be able to contribute meaningfully to the economy and the development of the nation,” the chairman stated.

Lawanson added that one of the key reasons for setting up the SBMC by the Federal Government is to support it by attracting partners, funding, ideas and knowledge to support the schools.

He expressed delight at the ability to facilitate the Axxela project, to the tune of N23 million and others to the college, noting that the development was one that he had pursued with passion and would continue to look out for such collaborations.

“The first stage is the renovation of the Welding and Fabrication workshop, not only in terms of renovation of the workshop.

“It is also to be able to make linkages between what we are teaching them here and the industry out there.

“So, part of the attraction also, is that once they have been trained properly, we will now make the linkage for them to be employed there as required,” Lawanson noted.

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