Akor: I don’t think so. There needs to be a clear distinction in the type of skills that we create. Most especially, the difference between polytechnics and universities – Their different functions over the years have been blended into each other. Now polytechnic graduates desire university graduate jobs, when none should think of the other as more important. This problem though can be traced to the industry that does not distinguish between the skills necessary, and emphasize on who should take these roles.
Gihan: I don’t know that there is currently a public skill gap training, unless within organizations. Orientation is definitely important to building basic with ethic. Your skill must be matched with good ethics.
Ernest: I think they are starting to create the impact desired. The pace is just not keeping up with the problem. For instance the government has identified 4 sectors in which to focus its skills training – ICT and Digital Jobs, agriculture, Construction and Wholesale and retail. The problem is even if you reach full capacity (which will take some time) in the training in these sectors you still have a huge gap in job creation, which then overshadows whatever gains are being made.
Bankole: I believe the word “skill” is very broad. There are soft and technical skills. These two have to be addressed right from institutions of higher learning. However there seems to be more emphasis in the theory of technical skills which do not apply to every day problems faced in society.
Laolu: I believe that the problem is not the lack of degrees but the lack of education. Closely linked to this, I also believe that the problem especially in Nigeria is actually more of a diligence, discipline and Contentment problem. It’s a mentality problem and very vast in this generation. Young people these days are increasingly ‘mental’. Nigeria only happens to show this problem more because of the seeming more limited opportunities in the formal sector here than there is in other parts of the world. By diligence and discipline, I mean, we hardly have young people who are willing after their basic degrees, to actually volunteer with little or no pay to gain the required ‘skill and knowledge’. Our internship programs are simply nowhere to be found. Even on internships that we call ‘SIWES’ and ‘IT’, young individuals are more concerned with looking for postings in large organizations where they can immediately earn something good with little or no experience. Nowhere in the world do fresh graduates have the required practical skill sets. The difference however is that their internship programs are very dynamic and efficient and people are willing to actually learn and go through what it takes.
Gihan: Nigerians are ‘paper educated’, we brandish degrees like they are badges of honor. This also is wrong societal orientation. We live in a society where we don’t understand the difference between using what you have to create success and showing what you have to appear successful. A McDonalds line manager knows more about churning out efficient burger numbers and increasing profitability more than a Masters degree graduate in Nigeria knows about producing his product more efficiently to reach wider markets. The gap is basic orientation. Nigerians have the tools but we don’t know how to use it. As an employer myself, I weep at the efficiency of our workforce in Nigeria. I feel it has created a lazy generation and a failing economy. An economy/business is built with hard work, many moving parts. I don’t see the movement and people still get paid to work at 20% capacity. There is a major issue here and fixing it is a ‘journey of a thousand miles’.
Toks: The country simply does not have enough jobs to go around. Education and Skills development should be the primary focus for government. We need Nigerian students to study what the country needs, not them studying what we don’t need. For example opportunities in the mining sector are untapped but how many students are studying for mining degrees? How many of our universities are offering these courses? We need to start planning for the future and developing skills in the areas that can grow the country.
Bankole: I also believe strongly that we need to move from an EMPLOYMENT based society to a DEPLOYMENT based society. We are conditioned to look for jobs when we get out of school. There Is very little emphasis on enterprise development as opposed to employment. The average graduate seeks to get a job but like Toks mentioned there are not enough jobs. We need more basic skills acquisition intiatives, we Need to grow the small and medium scale business sector. Some societies in Asia are conditioned to set up businesses. That’s why a Lebanese man can move to Nigeria to set a business on my street. What he is looking for by virtue of his education is totally different from what the average graduate seeks.
Laolu: I also believe that Technical skill Like Bankole alluded to has to be repackaged and impact organizations in partnership with the government need to champion this. Everyone wants a white Collar Job. No one wants to be a plumber. Some of the best mechanics I know have degrees. But our young people all want to wear suits and sit behind a desk. That’s where ‘self worth’ comes from. The suit gives more young people ‘self confidence’ than ‘purpose’ does. So we have a ‘born mechanic’ vying for the job of a ‘teller’ and we expect that there won’t be a seeming skill gap. Again, We have a mental problem! We need to create more campaigns targeting young individuals in high school. Our Guidance and counselling departments in secondary schools have been reduced to where a student is taken when he/she misbehaves!
Ernest: Gihan’s point about the McDonalds manager knowing more about logistics and efficiency raises yet another question which is what is the role of society in skills training. If society prizes politicians and contracts, as opposed to the US that prizes the factory worker and the line manager, those skills begin to diminish. And so what you see is a society that has neglected over the decades the hard worker. While we talk about skills as an important factor we also need to make sure we have people who are willing to do the dirty work. Implementers. We are building a generation of strategists with no one to implement. Which is why we’re one of the smartest countries on the planet and one of the poorest.
The Octagon: Will incentivizing help solve these issues that Gihan, bankole, Laolu and Akor have raised? How do we even start this “journey of a thousand miles”
Ernest: We need to incentivize schools and universities that train and equip young adults with skills to succeed. In most advanced countries a huge metric in assessing Universities and Polytechnics is the percentage of their graduates that land full time jobs. If we can start to do that it might encourage schools to over perform. And maybe share best practices from institutions like Yaba Tech which repeatedly comes up as a model for schools producing outstanding graduates.
Gihan: I have to reiterate that in my opinion it’s a basic orientation issue. And Ernest hit the nail on the head with the “generation of strategist with no one to implement”. We as Nigerians have a false sense of achievement. If you give a lazy man a Ph.D, he remains a LAZY MAN with a Ph.D. We have grown in a society where a man doesn’t build a life ‘block by block’ and this has been the orientation of a generation. Until we change our value system, we can’t see real change in efficiently and result. The banker steals money and build a mansion, the cleaner sweeps dust under your carpet; on every level of employment it evident that there are orientation flaws. The gap is a simple mindset and takes a lot to fix.
Laolu: As Bankole mentioned, we need Data to prove some of this issues. We need to know how many graduates leave University every year, we need to know the ‘degree split’. Which industry seems to have more graduates, we need to know how many are working with what they studied, we need to know how many studied what they wanted. But the issue of Data is another big problem in this our society. If the moderator allows me, I will post a short write up I did on the ‘Data gap’. I’m sure we all would identify with it.
Bankole: Laolu you are right, can we start with collating data? Can we start with knowing what the numbers are and how critical these issues are? Could this our growing youth bulge be a huge risk that we are underestimating. I heard the average age in Nigeria is 18! We need to start re-orienting the youth before they take to the streets
Akor: I don’t agree with the notion that people need to start businesses. Or better yet, I partially disagree with it. There is evidence that societies that have a disproportionate amount of ‘entrepreneurs’ are not economically strong. There is need for a very conscious balance. Also the reason people would not want to be plumbers is because we are not really willing to pay a plumber a living wage. If I study plumbing at a University (or rightly, a polytechnic ) would anyone be willing to pay be the rates a I deserve? This skill gap we are complaining about in inadvertently and partially caused by our unwillingness to pay for the service we claim to desire.
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