By Lancelot Obiaku
No one can gainsay the fact that technology rules today’s world. There is hardly any sector of the world economy that has not come under the positive influence of products of technology. It has improved the ease of doing work, productivity, and economies of several nations. Japan, USA, China, Germany, et al, who are pacesetters have attained unbelievable level of technological advancements. To justify this fact, these nations enjoy low unemployment rates. Japan with 2.9% (according to factsmap.com, March 2018) has a very low unemployment rate, while Germany with 3.8% within the same period is not far off. The U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics reported in May 2019 that the nation’s unemployment rate remained at 3.6 percent. For China, unemployment rate decreased to 3.67 percent in the first quarter of 2019 from 3.80 percent in the fourth quarter of 2018. Unsurprisingly, these four countries are ranked among top five most economically developed in the world, with Gross Domestic Products (GDP) per capita ranging from 5 to 24 trillion dollars.
When one considers the influx of job seeking immigrants to the aforementioned countries and justaposes same with their unemployment rates, it is simple to deduce that these nations which have technology as their mainstay are doing very well, not just to the gain of their citizens who live quality lives and enjoy social security, but also those of other nations of world. From the foregoing, it is also convenient to conclude that technological advancement transcends to job and wealth creation, ensures productivity and develops the economy of a nation or state.
Nigeria with an unemployment rate of around 23% is not doing well in job and wealth creation for the well being of her teaming population. Despite whatsoever the federal and state governments may claim to be doing to reduce the unemployment tally, there has not been strong and befitting efforts to tackle the problem. To achieve sufficient job creation and reduction of unemployment, one expects the leaders to think outside the box, initiate and sustain policies that naturally create employment. One of such is improving technical education. As it is said that no nation can rise above the level of her education, it is impossible to attain technological development and low unemployment rate without offering qualitative technical education to citizens. China has the best technical schools in the world and they have built more in recent years. It is therefore not a surprise that they are doing tremendous exploits technologically.
Today, most graduates of Nigerian Universities of Technology and Polytechnics who ordinarily are meant to be employers of labour are themselves either unemployable or unproductive. This is largely because of poor foundation. Raw and budding talents are not given the right environment to realize their potential. No one guides them, their surroundings do not encourage their development. Everyday, we see children display technical gifts, but these come to nothing because of lack of the support provided by an organized technical school. It is akin to building castles in the air for Nigerian leaders to talk of getting the country to compete technologically with other advanced nations of the world, yet, the few technical colleges the country can boast of have witnessed decay and there has been little or no efforts targeted at restoring them to their former selves and in line with 21st Century demands.
The Imo State governor, His Excellency Hon. Emeka Ihedioha, knowing the need for job and wealth creation has set out to change the order through the repositioning of Technical and Vocational Education in the state. His target on the long run is to see reduction in youth unemployment and entrench economic development.
It would be vividly recalled that the new Imo governor during his campaigns stated his intention to revitalize the four Technical Colleges in the state. On the day of his inauguration and swearing in, he also reiterated this resolve and he is now set to commence the process of delivering this important promise, with the flag off of its programme implementation slated for July 23, 2019. The Imo number one is committed to developing a sustainable model for a 21st Century Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) to set the pace for other states in Nigeria.
The plan is to ensure that at least 90% of graduates of the tertiary institutions in the state are both readily employable and/or employers of labour at the time of graduation. Through the Task Force on the implementation plan for TVET that would conduct an industry skill gap analysis, identify the specific competence-based courses to address the gap, and determine the human capital and physical infrastructure required for the offering of the courses.
Gov. Ihedioha knows fully that constructing and/or rehabilitating infrastructure is critical to the revitalization of the four technical colleges at Ahiara, Owerri, Okohia Osu, and Okporo in Orlu. By the time this first plan is achieved, he would have naturally created the right environment for the realization of the entire set objectives. To this end, he has vowed to make sure that the four colleges are rebuilt to high standards.
One of the major factors that negatively affect learning, especially in TVET is poor quality of teaching. The present administration will develop an instrument for a Teacher Development Needs Assessment (TDNA), as well as administer, analyze and evaluate its results. The administration will design and implement a program for continuous professional development of teachers. It will also conduct a recruitment exercise to close identified gaps following the TDNA and implement in-service training to upgrade teachers, a practice that is today no longer a routine as it ought to be. School administrators and regulators will also be subjected to programmes that will improve them. It is generally agreed that when the teacher is skilled and boasts good mastery of the subject matter, the chances are that the learner will learn better.
Furthermore, one of the objectives of the programme is to engage Education Resource Centre of the Imo State Ministry of Education to review the curriculum in liaison with the National Board For Technical Education (NBTE) and the National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB). This is with a view to equating the curriculum with relevant best practices and to ensure that graduates of TVET, as an alternative pathway to job and wealth creation, are industry-ready at the point of graduation.
It is not enough to bring TVET back to life in the state through rebuilding the technical colleges, there should be a mechanism in place to sustain and make technical education a major part of the state’s educational fabric for many years to come. This will be done by continuous monitoring and evaluation of their activities to ensure that the standards in the TVET system are maintained.
To this end, the plan for technical education include to review the governance and operational model for assessing performance to see that they conform to the National Vocational Quality Framework (NVQF), Launch TVET awareness campaigns at the state, local government and community levels on the obvious importance of Technical and Vocational education, develop advocacy campaign with relevant materials for print, electronic and other media; partner with influencers such as the Churches, artistes, celebrities, role models, among other things.
Furthermore, sustaining TVET will require constant funding needed to maintain a set standard by, for example, replacing obsolete equipment and tools and servicing current ones. Governor Ihedioha’s plan on TVET will identity and engage new funding sources, encourage private sector participation and support to establish new TVET institutions, build linkages with development partners across the world and link the TVET system to an innovative funding by establishing Imo State Education Trust Fund, Certification Programmes, attracting Multilateral Support, eg. DFID, USAID, JETRO, GIZ, et al. The above is of course in line with global practices, as a developmental project such as this is funded, and in other cases, owned by the private sector.
Gov. Ihedioha’s intention and plan is to directly encourage technical education by seeing to the full implementation of an Executive order directing all contracts awarded by the government of the state to have a minimum of 70% local content in human capital requirements from middle to lower class labour. This is nothing but a wise move. It will offer job opportunities to home groomed skilled personnel. Above all, the planned establishment of Imo State Technical and Vocational Education Board as a governance structure and appointment of a cabinet level official to oversee TVET and implement policies, is a sign of seriousness by the visionary governor to create jobs, improve productivity and economy of Imo State, through Technical and Vocational Education.
Governor Ihedioha as a sound administrator understands that there can be no quick fixes in solving unemployment problems of the state. When the state’s labour market is peopled by very skilled, talented, creative and sophisticated workforce, it is only natural that there will not just be a good number of individuals who are self employed, there will also be upsurge in the number of employers of labour. It is expected that this will culminate in a buoyant and thriving economy. This is the Imo governor Ihedioha wants to create and it would be responsible of Imolites to support him in this regard.