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Curtailing unemployment through vocational education and training

By Omiko Awa
05 March 2017   |   2:51 am
Worried by the sprawling unemployment that has almost capsulated many countries, especially developing ones such as Nigeria, Ganiyu G. Oke, a professor of Adult Education...

Prof. Oke

Worried by the sprawling unemployment that has almost capsulated many countries, especially developing ones such as Nigeria, Ganiyu G. Oke, a professor of Adult Education in the Department of Adult Education, Faculty of Education, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Akoka, in his inaugural lecture called for prompt attention to be given to vocational education and training, as a way of creating more jobs and sustaining existing ones for our teeming youths, putting an end to unemployment and to grow the economy.

In the lecture delivered in January, at the UNILAG Main Auditorium and titled, ‘Work For All: New Frontiers In Vocational Education And Training,’ Professor Oke stressed that everyone in the country, irrespective of educational status, can be gainfully employed, either engaging in small scale cottage productive activities, as an employer or employee, if he/she has the required vocational skills.

The data of top 10 countries across the globe with the highest population and their unemployment rate as of 2015 and December 11, 2016 stated that China with 1.4 billion people has 4.1 per cent unemployment rate; India 1.3 billion has no figure to show for it; United States of America with 325 million people has 6.0 per cent unemployment rate, while Indonesia with 261.9 million has 5.8.

Others he noted include, Brazil with 210.3 has 6.1 per cent rate of unemployment; Pakistain 194.6 million has 6.6; Nigeria with 189.2 million has13.3; Bangladesh with 163.8 has no figure to show for it; Russia Federation with143.4 million citizens has 6.5 and Mexico with 129.3 has 4.5 per cent unemployment rate.

The don observed that while other countries in this league unemployment rate is in a single digit, Nigeria has a double digit of 13.3 per cent, stressing that China with the highest population in the world has been able to maintain a stable single digit of 4.1 per cent, which goes contrary to the theoretical expectations of the higher of a country’s population the higher the unemployment rate.

Oke observed that Nigeria’s unemployment and un-employability is biting harder now as a result of the economic downturn, which has made many companies to close shops or downsize their workers. He called on policymakers to take pragmatic actions to ameliorate the situation by boosting the number of decent and green jobs, create sustainable employment for all or risk growing social tension, disruption, disintegration and increase in crime rate.

The erudite scholar noted that creating jobs for all is key to the successful actualisation of Nigeria Vision 20-2020 and the Goal 8 of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) adopted on September 25, 2015 by United Nations member states.

Highlighting the causes of this problem that is fast dislocating families and societies, Oke noted that misplaced disdain for decent work –– work that earns high level of social and cultural recognition and acceptability in the society; apparent disdain for dignity of labour among young people; inability of the education and training system to adequately prepare recipients for wider options; lack of skills diversification in the job market and others have contributed to the growing rate of unemployment.

He called for vocational skills to be added alongside the assumed normal secondary and tertiary education, saying a narrowly trained people tend to have limited job options, job mobility and gainful employment unless if retrained.

Oke highlighted that this problem would remain with us for long if Nigeria, as a nation fails to adapt to the paradigm shift from an economy that is predominantly driven by production of commodities and services to the one driven by application of knowledge, creativity and innovation.

According to him, in a knowledge-driven economy, there is a shift from the traditional concept of ‘what you can do with what you get.’ Knowledge-driven economy calls for improvisation, invention and being able to create or manufacture things through critical thinking, analytical reasoning.

He inferred that the greatest challenge that could face education and training institutions in knowledge-driven economy is the ability to strive to promote acquisition of global skills and global work force. He added that Vocational Education and Training (VET) would not only equip an individual to fend for him/herself, but would also encourage global mobility of labour; provide the right work force that would fit into any given job.

In using VET as catalyst to propel job creation, Oke urged governments –– Federal, state and local councils –– as well as stakeholders in vocational education and training institutions to strategise by ensuring greater accessibility and social integration by using psychological and aptitude tests to guide the prospective trainees into the type of training programmes they are interested in or would be interested in and have the ability to bring out their best.

Another form of strategy according to him, is the Open Distance Learning (ODL) project such that ICT infrastructure can be jointly provided and shared. He noted that this would make VET programmes become increasingly mobile and grassroots-oriented. Oke believes that this delivery mode would enable community centres and halls, markets places, covered sheds, mobile homes, places of worship, the palaces and others to be reached. He pointed out that this flexible delivery mode is capable of forestalling the depletion of less urbanized areas and check rural-urban migration, which will also encourage rural development.

He also pointed out that through resource sharing secondary schools, industrial training institutes, colleges of education, polytechnics and monotechnics, as well as other tertiary institutions would embrace VET programmes.

To further encourage vocational education and training, Oke calls for the pulling down of all barriers –– cultural, curricular, gender biases and myths –– militating against the participation of women in VET. Some of the means to achieve this, he stated, is to encourage the use of sex-fair, gender free and gender balanced terms and occupational titles rather than gender specific ones, e.g. doctor, not female or male doctor; lawyer, not female nor male lawyer; carpenter, not female or male carpenter and so on.

Other ways are by assisting both female and male learners to recognise that their adult roles in the economy will certainly include production work in all the facets of the national and global economies; by advocating for the introduction of life skills education and training for both female and male learners at all levels of education and training in Nigeria. This is to enable learners perform non-traditional gender roles as means of surviving in challenging situations they may find themselves in the world. He stressed that this cannot be achieved until parents and educators begin to model and remodel both female and male learners in non-traditional gender roles.

Another area Professor Oke wants policy makers and stakeholders in education to start thinking of, is in diversification of skills, making learners to embrace two or muti-skills at a time. According to him, the global challenges in the global markets are moving us towards sustainable employment and preparation of present and future generations of workers who are multi-skilled in their chosen occupations. He noted that this new direction in the global labour market poses a new responsibility for VET to train for skills diversification, as it would forestall unemployment.

Oke opines that the new direction requires developing job titles within an occupational cluster. In this arrangement, he stated, trainees will be required to train in two or more jobs within the same occupational cluster, so that in the event of loss of one within the same occupational cluster, they would be able to lay their hands on the other jobs without having to re-train for another vocation.

To make ‘work for all’ achievable through VET, Oke recommends that government at all levels should create a database for all categories of unemployed graduates and out-of-school youths and adults in Nigeria as this will aid planning; create career and vocational counseling centres to address vocational career aspirations and training needs of individual; establish a dedicated fund for VET similar to Tertiary Education Training Fund (TETFUND) to drive all VET project initiatives that are accredited; ensure full-scale implementation of the curricula on the new 35 trade/vocational subjects for Senior Secondary Schools (SSS) in Nigeria. In this regard, he suggested that trade vocational subjects should be included in the Unified Tertiary Matriculation Examination (UTME) requirements for admission to relevant disciplines in the colleges and universities. He also noted that this would widen career progression from VET to higher education.

Others include allowing Federal Colleges of Education (technical) to award associate diplomas and degrees as bridge programmes for accelerating vertical and lateral mobility into the mainstream of higher education and training in Nigeria and to create parity of esteem for technical and vocational certificates and academic qualifications of the same number of years of schooling experiences.

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