Over the upcoming weeks, I’ll be sharing my thoughts on the challenges facing the Nigerian Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and what is being done by the Government and Private Sector in that regard. TVET has become critical to the upskilling of mid-level manpower – as they are the driving force required for sustained economic growth.
Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) refers to; “aspects of the educational process involving, in addition to general education, the study of technologies and related sciences, and the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge relating to occupants in various sectors of economic and social life” (UNESCO and ILO). Similarly, it is the learning, developing and mastery of work-related skill(s) in order to meet the demands of the ever-evolving world of work. So, when considering what TVET is all about, it is worthwhile to first take a look around the houses we live in. From the furniture we make use of, to the television screens, electronic gadgets, the building itself etc; are all wholly or partly the product of TVET. Hence, TVET is not merely a profession, but the practice of life-saving skills.
In the last three decades, Sub-Saharan African countries have experienced significant economic growth as a result of the increase in commodity prices, foreign investments and relative political stability. Nevertheless, these countries still suffer from a huge deficit of low to mid-level technical skills needed to sustain the continued growth of their economies.
Looking at the TVET challenge in Nigeria, one of the problems we are grappling with both at the federal and state level is the importance given to vocational education. The National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) is the parastatal charged with regulating and promoting TVET in Nigeria. They are to promote the production of skilled technical and professional manpower for the development and sustenance of the national economy. Whilst they have been working to overcome this challenge, there is still a mismatch between the skilled manpower required and that which is currently available. Every year, various colleges churn out graduates who do not have the specific skill sets required by the job market. This has resulted in a situation where on the one hand, there are millions of unemployed Nigerians and on the other hand, there is a huge shortage of skilled workers such as; plumbers, electricians, tilers, builders etc. As a result, the shortage of an adequately educated workforce is a major constraint to the growth and development of our nation.
Furthermore, there are a number of factors, which has impeded the smooth implementation of TVET in the country. According to the NBTE, the underlying challenges of TVET includes; Low Societal Recognition – which translates to Low Enrolment and Shortage in Skilled Workforce, Obsolete Instructional Facility, Inadequate Funding, Poor Staffing, Poor Linkages with Industry and General Deficiency in Quality. In addition, evaluation in most sectors of our education framework tends to be by conventional examinations, which generally does not make enough allowance for practicals – which is critical to TVET.
Taking a look at Germany’s VET (vocational education and training) system which is recognized as one of the most successful models in the world – largely because of the dual system, which leads to high-quality vocational qualifications and enables smooth education-to-work transitions. Moreover, more than one-third of all pupils graduating from secondary school in Germany enter a vocational training program. One-third go on to pursue a single-track, school-based VET and two-thirds apply for the dual-track counterpart. Approximately 68% of the latter system’s graduates enter the workforce in the company where they were trained immediately after their VET program. More so, about 51% of Germany’s workers are skilled in VET. A further 11% of workers are master craftsmen and vocational and technical college graduates. Germany’s vocational schools partner with around 430,000 companies, and more than 80% of large companies hire apprentices. As a result, every year there are more than 500,000 apprenticeships positions available across all sectors of the German economy.
Germany’s success with VET helps us realise that TVET is an important instrument for economic development, although our reality in Nigeria reveals that very few youths opt for technical education. As of 2020, out of the 2 million students who applied for tertiary education, only 612,557 were admitted. The admission data released by the Joint Admissions and Matriculations Board (JAMB) shows that the nation’s universities admitted a total of 444,947 students; polytechnics and monotechnics, had about 96,423 students; colleges of education had 69,810 students; and innovation enterprise institutions, admitted 1,377 students. It is therefore necessary that TVET becomes and is seen as a viable career pathway for our youths.
The Nigerian Bureau of Statistics reported a high unemployment rate of 27.1% and underemployment of 28.6% with an aggregate of 55.7% as of the second quarter of last year. Furthermore, with the COVID-19 pandemic currently decimating economies globally, the unemployment picture is only set to worsen – current projections by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) estimate that 1.6 billion jobs may be lost worldwide. This just reaffirms how important it is for us as a nation to solve our TVET challenge – as a TVET graduate has the relevant skills to get into employment immediately or start off on their own.
In February 2020, the National Skills Council (NSC) was inaugurated. The Council is the highest decision-making body on skills development and is made up of all key stakeholders critical to the TVET eco-system in Nigeria. This council is chaired by the Vice-President, Professor Yemi Osinbajo with the Minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, as the First Deputy Chairman and the Chairman of Dangote Group, Alhaji Aliko Dangote, as the Second Deputy Chairman. One of their key objectives is to come up with clear strategies that will help us bridge our current skills gap in the nation.
So, what next?
We have to re-work our primary and secondary education system to make it practically impossible for any student to come out of our schools without acquiring basic TVET skills. In addition, anybody outside the school system must also have a clear pathway to pick up TVET skills in an easily accessible and affordable manner.
To do this, do we go on a building spree of vocation centres at the Federal and State levels?
This would definitely be unsustainable, as we don’t have the resources and such an intervention would be susceptible to corruption. In my opinion, the most feasible way of providing TVET infrastructure nation-wide would be to create an economy around a TVET model that would incentivise the private sector to be involved in the provision, training, delivery and management of TVET facilities across the country.
In my next article, I will expatiate on how I think this can work.
Till the next time we meet here, remember we all have “A Role to Play”.