How $1b Annual in Vocational Education Can Produce 50m Technicians

Put $1b into vocational education rather than fuel subsidy and you can bet that Nigeria will produce millions of artisans and technicians, addressing the shortage of skilled labour and addressing youth unemployment currently at 55%. This is how it would work.

In 2015, there were 392 vocational education centres[https://net.nbte.gov.ng/] recognised by the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE). They comprised of 104 technical colleges, 119 innovation and enterprise institutes, 88 polytechnics, 33 agric-related colleges, 23 specialised institutes and 25 health-related institutes. They produced 108,288 graduates that year, 40% female. But the institutional average output was 276, a dismal showing for a country that claims to be in a hurry to industrialise. At this rate, Nigeria will have only produced 11 million technicians after 100 years!

According to UNESCO’s [2018 Country Profile|https://net.nbte.gov.ng/sites/default/files/2018-02/DIGEST%20OF%20TVET%20INSTITUTIONS%20STATISTICS%20IN%20NIGERIA%202014-15.pdf] on Nigeria, “Access to TVET (technical and vocational education and training) is constrained by inadequate and obsolete infrastructure, as promising projects often fail even if they have good pedagogical schemes. There is a lack of practical laboratories, workshops and there are a limited number of lecture rooms. The inadequate infrastructure also hinders institutions’ ability to catch up with the latest technical developments.”

Evidently, the NBTE model of vocational education is not working. What we need is a second model that responds to the needs of communities, local and state governments as well as the national economy. Such a model exists, and was demonstrated 2009-2014[ in a pilo|https://pdf.usaid.gov/pdf_docs/pa00k1db.pdf]t in Bauchi and Sokoto states, by providing 2,868 Almajiri youths annually vocational as well as non-formal education in skills chosen by their communities.

What are these skills that communities find attractive and in demand? Carpentry, brick-laying, painting, metal working, vulcanising, generator repairs, electrician, barbing, tailoring, embroidery, bead making, makup and skin care, soap making, etc. Some of these skills can be taught in as little as six months while others require 12 months or more.

So our model will be community-driven. This means responding to the needs of the 774 local councils and 8,809 wards. This is a 22-fold scale up from 392 technical institutions supervised by NBTE. Take note that UNESCO summarises the failures of the existing system as shortages in laboratories, workshops and lecture rooms. The first two already exist in nooks and crannies of the country while the last may need to be built at a practical and affordable level.

For our model, we will build a simple community vocational centre in each ward for N5m. Some wards, particularly urban wards, may require two or three vocational centres, taking the number of centres to 12,500. The centre will be a flat, straight-forward  five-classroom school block. The community will donate the land, provide direct labour for its construction and approve the finished classroom building before the contractor gets paid. Communities will take responsibility for furnishing classrooms with seaters and blackboards and will be reimbursed at a standard rate across the country.

The technical faculty for our model are the practising tradesmen, artisans and craftsmen in the locality. Youths to be trained through our model will be apprenticed to these practising technicians. They would go to their workshops in bands of 10 to 40 and receive practical training in the workshops of the technicians. The community vocational centre is the place where they receive classroom training.

For each ward, an early identification of available technicians, and community demand for skills will be conducted, analysed and presented to each community to decide the core skills they want their youths to be trained in.

Regular monitoring teams comprising education officials and community members will ensure that training progresses on schedule. The faculty is hired, paid for and fired by the government – upon community recommendation.

At the end of each graduating set, the government can issue a “completion” certificate and a tool-kit to each graduating youth. NBTE can follow up with an official examination and trade certification of interested youths.

So, how many artisans and technicians will our model produce? Each ward can focus on up to 10 skills, training 40 per skill class, for a total of up to 400 apprentice/students per centre. This means that there will be morning and afternoon classes for each centre. For each graduating set there could be up to five million graduates from the 12,500 centres nationwide, 50 million in 10 years! Remember that some skills are delivered in six months while others may be 12-24 months.

And how much will this cost? Other than classroom construction, furnishing and equipment, the main cost of this model is the faculty. Up to 125,000 practising technicians could be engaged at any time with this model, delivering classroom and practical instruction to up to five million apprentice/students. Each can be paid a stipend of N50,000 monthly, for a total of N75b or $208m a year. Classroom construction is proposed at N62.5b or $173m, classroom furniture at N13.2b or $36.4m. The rest of the $1b to be diverted from fuel subsidy to vocational education can pay for monitoring and evaluation, programme management and procurement of tool-kits for graduates.

Where will this army of trained, technically equipped youth be employed? Many will form a ready pool of skilled labour for the National Housing Programme, enabling it to initiate multiple home constructions concurrently at any site across the country, to meet our national shortage of 17m dwellings.

Some will fan out into the emerging mining industry, providing needed technical skills to build vents, shafts and pits. More skilled labour available could mean more mines, shorter times from from financing rounds to mine production. Others may not need more than a chair in front of their home to start gainful employment.

One conclusion is evident from the outline of the above model. Nigeria will never be the same again, once we start producing five million technicians annually.


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