In order for Nigeria to sustain current economic development and accelerate growth, a strong understanding of the education, skills, and employment landscape is important in determining where shortfalls might exist. This is part of the findings of the latest World Bank Competitiveness and Employability Report.
While the country’s unemployment rate sits at approximately 20 percent, most Nigerians are employed in low productivity and low earning sectors, predominantly in the informal economy which requires basic manual labour. The demand for skilled workers and technicians is rising and this is expected to increase as industrialisation expands.
The technical and vocational subsector of the economy is having a tough time keeping up with demand due to a shortfall in resources and institutional capacity. The largest challenge is that the majority of workers are employed in the informal sector, which has training by industry aimed at the younger generation who are not in school or unemployed, but have proved insufficient for upskilling the labour market status quo. It is clear that a specific TVET policy framework is required.
An obstacle facing youth and general unemployment initiatives is the prevalent belief or stigma that vocational colleges are subpar to academic colleges. As of 2015 there were fewer than 185,000 students enrolled in TVET programmes in Nigeria; a figure that has remained unchanged for the preceding decade. This is far below the demand for skilled workers. It is clear that a new landscape needs to be drawn where TVET programmes are a priority and the networks to facilitate the student to worker transition needs to be clarified. The young and unskilled need to be encouraged to consider TVET programmes as a way to meet the demand for vocational skills.
The World Bank has shared its recommendations to reduce the skills gap in Nigeria, which includes building a stronger foundation in basic education; addressing the skills deficit of existing workers through informal short programmes; enhancing employability; and expanding access and market relevance. The World Bank states that a new TVET programme is necessary to increase enrolment to 400,000 by 2020 and to one million by 2025. These targets are the minimum required to meet demand in Nigeria and allow the economy to move forward into more industrial sectors.
The World Bank believes that these targets are feasible if the TVET sector is given priority financing and policy support by the Nigerian government. Such initiatives should include training and support for educators, funding grants and scholarships to facilities across the country to address regional and gender disparity, improving governance and accountability through institutional management committees, updating academic and vocational curriculums and expanding school readiness initiatives.
There is a large cohort of Nigerians who require basic training to participate actively in the economy. Support in this regard will include programmes aimed at activating labour and creating apprenticeship opportunities similar to the Indian model of Infrastructure Leasing and Financial Services and the Jovenes Project in Latin America where short term and low-cost training links training to demands in the job market. The Indian programme provides instruction for 1 to 3 months on subjects ranging from welding, textiles, hospitality, and retail. It is an innovative design where commitments are made with companies and enterprises to provide employment to graduates.
Over the medium-term there needs to be a movement to create policy initiatives to upscale new-economy skills. There has been a quiet revolution in the Information and Communications Technology sector within Nigeria with more than US $10 billion being invested over the last two decades. New-economy skills are needed to take advantage of this investment.
The World Bank suggests that Nigeria strengthen its job accreditation and certification processes and increase opportunities for school to work transition. This includes the finalisation and implementation of the National Vocational Qualification Framework (NVQF). They further suggest that the Nigerian government follows the precedent set in South Africa with their Skills Education and Training Authority (SETA), as well as Brazil’s National Service for Industrial Training (SENAI). Defining job qualifications will need input from employers, especially in the private sector, and this is where SETA can provide assistance. SETA has been established to manage the skills development in 23 sectors including agriculture, banking, and manufacturing in South Africa. Each sector has its own unique SETA programme which provides for learnerships, internships, and defining the learning type matrix and skills programme.
The economic gains that have been made over the last few decades have exposed the skills shortage within Nigeria. Most of the population have minimal education and work in labour intensive industries such as farming or in the informal sector. If Nigeria is to sustain and increase their economic growth it is vital that a plan and programmes are put in place to increase the skills of its citizens, particularly in vocational or trades skills such as electricians, masons, plumbers, and future growth skills such as information technology.