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Worries over declining training scheme for artisans

By Guardian Nigeria
21 December 2020   |   4:25 am
The challenge of adequate manpower has continued to worsen the woes of the housing sector due to declining state of technical schools and artisans’ certification process.

NIOB president, Mr. Kunle Awobodu

The challenge of adequate manpower has continued to worsen the woes of the housing sector due to declining state of technical schools and artisans’ certification process.

With the absence of skilled artisans, most property developers had been forced to rely on either the incompetent ones or cough out thousands of naira to hire foreigners from neighbouring countries like, Togo, Benin Republic and Ghana.

This development had increased the cost of housing delivery and affordability for majority of low-income earners. The artisans are one of the critical manpower required for the construction sector. They are specialists in masonry/bricklayers, fabrication/metal works, electrical work, carpentry and joinery, plumbing, and house painting and decoration.

While experts say the sector needs about 40 per cent of these group of artisans, investigations by The Guardian reveal that there is growing reduction in enrolment by pupils in technical colleges for the training of the needed manpower. What is now prevalent is the acute shortage of competent tilers, bricklayers, carpenters, electricians and plumbers.

In the past, the likes of ‘City and Guilds’ and other technical schools were reputed for producing the highly skilled artisans as programme certification from City and Guild of Nigeria, in particular became a yardstick to be engaged as competent artisan for housing development. However, with the passage of time, the reputation and recognition has waned.

Specifically, there were efforts by the then Federal Ministry of Power, Works and Housing in 2016, to establish Building Craft Training Schools in the six geo-political zones of the country for the training of artisans and craftsmen in addition to those in Abuja, Lagos and Imo State and over 100 of such college spread across the country.

Other private sector bodies like, Julius Berger Nigeria Plc, Dangote Group of Companies, Lafarge Cement Plc and Sparklight Group had embarked on the training of artisans but such moves haven’t transformed to the much desired result.

The President, Nigerian Institute of Building (NIOB), Kunle Awobodu, said the government had not provided adequate support for technical education. He observed that in most of the technical colleges, the machine devices that are supposed to be used for training the students are already obsolete.

Awobodu expressed concerns that the society has developed a negative attitude towards handiwork as some parents feel that handiworks are for children who are not academically brilliant, adding that the perception is that those who go to technical colleges won’t be opportune for white-collar jobs and are automatically relegated in life.

“Every student now strives to go to university and pursue academic work and so the technical colleges are not well patronised. Most of the machines that are used, consume a lot of energy but there is erratic power supply and low voltage.

He said there was the need to update the skill sets of those who are training the students in the technical schools.

According to him, the once popular ‘City and Guilds’ certification for artisans contributed to poor state of building artisans. He said the certification has now become too foreign, hence, the reason for its going into oblivion.

Awobodu stated that the examination, which is more like a trade test has been replaced with National Skills Qualification Framework (NSQF), developed by National Business and Technical Examination Board (NABTEB) as a way of assessing students’ level of knowledge, deficiency and areas for further development.

He told The Guardian that NIOB is one of the bodies for the certification of artisans while its regulation arm – Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) is a skill sector council for building construction.

The NIOB president said through such model, competent artisans and craftsmen would be produced for the country’s built sector. For him, it has become crucial for Nigerians, especially the youths to show more interest in technical education and for government to invest more on skill acquisition.

He observed that Lagos State Government plans to revive technical education in five of its technical colleges as skills acquisition is important for Small and Medium Scale businesses (SMEs).

The President, Association of Building Artisans of Nigeria (ASBAN), Mr. Jimi Oshinubi, told The Guardian that the influx of foreign artisans contributed to the sorry state of training for artisans and the technical colleges.

He noted that there is no perfect control in the nation’s borders, which gives room for people to come into the country and take up jobs that ordinarily should have been done by local artisans. This, Oshinubi said is unlike what was obtainable in Ghana, where artisanship jobs are strictly meant for their citizens.

He also stated that the world is changing, majority of the technical colleges that should train the manpower requirement, still rely on obsolete equipment amid the short supply of such tools.

“Those who are responsible for equipping the technical schools are not doing so. The monies are allocated but the schools are left as they were. Technical schools are 100 per cent practical but what we believe in Nigeria is the theoretical aspect of it. You don’t train an artisan with theory, it has to be practical but the equipment is not there.

“We need modern equipment in all our technical colleges and there should be control over influx of foreign artisans as well as substandard building materials.”

Speaking on the issue, a Verifier with the ‘City and Guilds’ of London in Nigeria, Dr. Adeshina Emmanuel Aladeloba, explained that the challenge is not absence of full fledge technical schools in the country, but appropriate policy and localisation of a system that fit the nation’s educational system.

Aladeloba, who is also the Head of Department of Building Technology, Yabatech, said, “The challenge is how are the technical schools been run? Do we have the right people there? If you have square peg in a round hole, it won’t fit in, it can never work.

“The situation now is adhering to what we are set out to do. Every period, we keep changing the educational system, at a time we had form five now we have the 6-3-3-4 and the 6-3-3-4 is not well practiced. Even the semester system in the university is not run in the appropriate way.”

“The focus in Nigeria now is different as everybody wants to go to the University. If not for ruggedness, by now polytechnics in Nigeria would have closed down. Even those who went to Polytechnics, there is discrimination before government removed that. Nobody wants to go into an area where they won’t be able to get to the peak.”

Adeshina said the problem with City and Guilds begun when it closed its offices in Nigeria, Ghana and now operates from South Africa. This, he stated made the administrative capacity not to be as open as it used to be.

Although, he said the body still accredit qualified programmes in Nigeria. He blamed the dwindling fortunes of artisan’s certification body on the society, which no longer shows interest in them.

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