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Bright Jaja, represented iCreate Africa as a paper discussant on Industry Need & Education Curricular: Global Perspective speaking at the maiden National Skills Summit hosted by the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) themed Skills for Employability and Job Creation. He reiterated the need for action in the skills space and taking initiative wherein the public aid in solving the problem of youth unemployment in Nigeria.

The skills of the youth and their employment status go hand-in-hand and this summit proved the need for such conversations on a national scale, revealing the cracks in the current educational curricular in Nigeria, and its inability to aptly capture the current global need for skills.

Highlighting the need for synergy between the educational curriculum to suit the need of technological demands, industry need and development in education are inseparable, and should be reviewed and consulted by industry leaders, as there’s a practical relationship between schools and employment.

There is a clearly defined market for skills in the ecosystem as in Nigeria, about 19 million people get educated, with about 4 million well employed, and 15 unemployed or underemployed. Prof. Abubakar Adamu World Bank highlights, with a percentage of uneducated growing from 22 % to 36 %.

Another factor influencing the educational system is that students who have paid with their hard-earned coins are not being trained in anything that is in demand by the labour market. So, one might ask, “What’s the point?”. However, restructuring the curriculum to accommodate for the skills that are in demand need collaborative effort to ensure the new system works. From primary, secondary to tertiary education, all as a unit must change with the new demands of the market. Individual motives will not birth results

The skills space in Nigeria is one that is often despised, and one might say the renumeration in the said field is discouraging, and the Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) program by ITF is not without. Prof. Abubakar Adamu speaking on behalf of the National Universities Commission (NUC) frowned upon the standards being set for students of the program who since 1977 have been paid N2,500 for 6months, which needs to be reviewed.

Another way of up-skilling Nigeria’s able work force, is to train employees, and placing graduates in a place of their peers rather than engineers for instance being deployed by the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) to teach maths for a year, reiterates Engr. Ali Alimasuya Rabiu President, The Council of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN).

With all the factors in play and lack of skills policy, one must wonder, “What will skills of the future look like? Are we prepared for it? Are we ready?” Director, Research and Curriculum Development ITF, Mr. Zacharia Piwuna questions and thus charges, Human Resource must be turned into human capital.

In 2019, 79,000 people in total applied to technical and vocational schools, and that alone is about the same statistics for applicants in UNI Ilorin. There is an insinuated elitist problem wherein few people want to go to polytechnics and technical colleges, let alone as a first choice.

As a way of up-skilling the work force, a member of the public suggested that “theorizing” be scrapped and “practicalising” be fostered in the educational curricular. Another stated that each student should start learning any skills from level one (1) of their university degree regardless of their field of study.

Despite the factors at play in the educational curricular in Nigeria, we are charged to learn a skill which is in demand in the labour market. The sole belief that university education is the key to success has been demystified. The key is now in your hands… what are you going to do about it?

Author Deborah Odibo