A typical conversation on skills acquisition normally centers on the numerous empowerment programs that have long been a fad for the three tiers of governments and their agencies. This is so much so that people consider public agencies as the main drivers of skills acquisition in Nigeria.
Maybe it helps that almost every new government that assumes power sets up skills acquisition centers as part of their agenda to tackle unemployment and youth restiveness. However, there are some private sector organizations that also invest in human capacity building through this means.
Leading global supplier of technology services, Bosch Nigeria, has partnered the organizers of the iCreate Festival. These two giants have partnered in an event that has been tagged ‘Africa’s Olympics of Skills’. The event is open to the young and skilled, aged from 18 to 28. The iCreate Festival seeks to train these youths on various vocational skills training such as carpentry, automobile mechanics, solar or electrical installations, welding and fabrication, garment making, shoe and leatherworks, art, app development, graphics and web design, robotics, and cooking, to name a few.
Bosch Nigeria will be focused on the construction segment of the 2019 festival. Its Power Tools will be the preferred tools used by the competitors in the participating segments. Additionally, Bosch will be supporting with technical expertise and training, while focusing on safety.
The festival is in three stages, starting with the Regional Technical and Vocational Skills competitions in Kaduna. This already held on April 26 and 27. It will be followed by another regional competition in Enugu from July 19 to 20. The finals will take place in Lagos on December 4 and 5. All three events will feature exhibitions, entertainment and panel discussions around youth empowerment, and Bosch intends to participate in the entire event.
According to the organizers, “The skill competition is an innovative strategy to help reduce the high rate of youth unemployment. It will also help to promote skill excellence and prepare youths for jobs of the future. By directing attention on vocational skills, iCreate Africa is addressing the societal perspective affecting the acceptance of technical skill trades while upgrading the value of skilled professions”.
During last year’s event, 45 winners from 14 skill trades received cash prizes, equipment, endorsement deals from brands, internship and job placements, training and mentoring. The 14 Gold medallists who were crowned as iCreate Skill Champions are representing each skill-trade. Also, they are billed to attend the 2019 World Skills Competition in Kazan, Russia in August.
Bosch is an avid promoter of young, skilled and talented people. This is especially so in Africa where it operates in 13 countries within the continent. As part of its Corporate Social Responsibility, the company is part of a group of about 20 companies offering scholarships to African junior executives. This scholarship allows them to spend a year in Germany, completing a professional training program. The initiative is called ‘Afrika Kommit’, and Bosch has been involved since 2008. More than 123 young Africans have benefited so far.
In 2015, Bosch in South Africa invested in an outreach robotics program that provided the opportunity for children from various backgrounds to study Robotics. This resulted in two teams qualifying and competing in the 2016 World Robotics Olympiad. Since then, Bosch has continued to foster the program in bringing robotics to scholars in outreach communities.
Judging by the opinion of experts on the importance of skill acquisition as an effective means to tackle unemployment and youth restiveness, one can understand the renewed interest in the topic by not just the public sector, but also private organizations. The successes recorded by notable public agencies such as the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC) and the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) have made the subject interesting.
Other empowerment interventions past and present that have made indelible marks and become popular over time with Nigerians are the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP), Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agencies of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), Youth Enterprise with Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN) and N-Power.
“In just two years, over 450,000 Nigerian youths have been empowered by the ITF in skills training. It is with the aim of making them self-reliant”. This is according to Nigeria’s Vice President, Yemi Osinbajo, who spoke at a recent graduation ceremony of over 11,000 Nigerian youths from the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP) of the ITF.
Youths were trained in welding and fabrication, plumbing and pipefitting, tailoring and aluminum. They were also trained in tiling, Plaster of Paris (POP) as well as photography. According to the ITF Director General, Joseph Hari, start-up kits were given to the youths to complement their training. “Our monitoring and evaluation template indicates that where training occurs without the accompanying empowerment tools, the results become less impactful”, he said.
In 2018, aside Bosch, other partners for the iCreate Festival included such notable brands like the ITF and GIZ. Sterling Bank Plc, Julius Berger Nig. Ltd, Mafita UKAid, the German Embassy Abuja, and Trace were not left out. There were also others that played very strategic roles as major sponsors of the festival.
Aside from the ITF, the NDDC is also doing a good job with its involvement in skills acquisitions, especially with the segment of the population it’s affecting. Towards the end of the first quarter of this year, the NDDC trained persons living with disabilities in Edo state. The two weeks of skills acquisition training was aimed at reducing poverty among Nigeria’s physically challenged.
According to the state chairman of the Joint National Assembly of Persons with Disabilities (JONAPWD), Henry Ebose, “For the past two weeks, we have learned different skills that most of us did not know before now. And we have gathered adequate knowledge to enable us to earn a living. We commend the NDDC for the initiative aimed at eradicating poverty among the physically challenged persons in Edo State”, Ebose said.
Also, initiatives like the iCreate Festival foster healthy competition, which in turn leads to a drive for excellence. When you consider the fact that several organizations do not lack unskilled manpower so much as they lack skilled talents with a hunger for excellence, then you’ll appreciate the culture of excellence that initiatives like the iCreate Festival is creating.