By Steve Oni, Ilorin
In the face of the seemingly intractable unemployment in the country, Nigeria can be a net exporter of skills to the West African Sub-region by training youths to fill local and regional middle level manpower gaps.
The Kwara State Governor, Alhaji Abdulfatah Ahmed stated this during a meeting with the Vice Chancellor of University of Wolverhampton, as part of his official visit to the United Kingdom.
Governor Ahmed maintained that if the proper structures for the training of Nigerian youths in market-relevant vocational skills are put in place, the country will not only meet local needs for critical vocational skills but will be a net exporter of skills to the sub-region.
Having realised that formal educational institutions have been unable to fill the skills gap in Nigeria and the sub-region, the Kwara State government, he said, is showing the way through the establishment of the International Vocational, Technical and Entrepreneurship Center, (IVTEC) Ajase Ipo, whose curriculum was developed with the Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA).
Kwara State, he revealed, is also supporting this drive through the establishment of the nationally-acclaimed Micro, Small, Medium Enterprises Scheme (MSME) in the state under which more than N2b has been disbursed to small business owners through cooperatives.
IVTEC, according to him, will train youths in critical skill areas identified in partnership with NECA and prepare students for City and Guilds of London certification which will make such graduates employable locally, nationally and internationally. Ahmed stressed that the present practice of importing artisans from the West African sub-region into Nigeria needs to be reversed in favour of the country and its youths.
Governor Ahmed emphasised that his administration’s renewed drive for skills training and entrepreneurship was also spurred by the gradual transformation of the state from a civil service-driven environment to an economically vibrant state which must be sustained by promoting entrepreneurship and growing the private sector, especially the informal economy.
He, therefore, solicited the partnership of the University of Wolverhampton, which he said has a long history of providing vocational and skills training on a regional basis, in the development of IVTEC and the state’s Internal Revenue Service, (KWIRS) whose management had just completed an executive course at the University’s Business School.
Responding, the University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Geoff Layer, said given the Wolverhampton’s role in Europe’s industrial revolution and the university’s history of promoting entrepreneurship, it stands ready to support the state government’s drive for entrepreneurship, manufacturing, vocational skills and education.
Prof. Layer acknowledged Governor Ahmed’s quest to change the way Kwara State is governed and funded through IGR reforms and manpower training, stressing that like any change process, the quest may be difficult but should be sustained in the interest of the state and its future, especially the youths.
Governor Ahmed and Professor Layer thereafter signed a letter of intent for partnership between the University of Wolverhampton and the Kwara State Government on behalf of the International Vocation, Technical and Entrepreneurship Centre, IVTEC, Ajase-Ipo.
Governor Ahmed was also hosted to a reception by the Mayor of the City of Wolverhampton, Councilor Elias Mattu.