Recently, a one-day stakeholders meeting on the state of technical colleges in Nigeria was held in Abuja at the instance of the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) to brainstorm on how to revamp technical education in the country. ABAH ADAH who was there write on the imperative of revamping technical education.
Years ago, the Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN), raised the alarm, over what it called the dearth of technologists, technicians and craftsmen in the engineering sector in the country.
The body said technologists, technicians and craftsmen ought to outnumber the engineers for the right proportions that would facilitate smooth and effective engineering to be attained in the country.
Hence, the body of engineers had set up a committee to look into the worrisome development and proffer solutions on the way forward.
The discovery, according to the outcome of the committee set up by COREN, was that technical colleges which used to be the hub of educational activities in the country have over time become shadows of themselves because attention had been shifted to Bachelors degree from the universities.
The president of COREN, Engr Kashim Ali, while recalling the steps the council had taken till date to remedy the impasse, at a one-day stakeholders meeting in Abuja, explained, “Driven by our concern, the council, in 2010, carried a technical audit of over 300 technical colleges nationwide. It was found that 98 per cent of the technical colleges visited were in deplorable and abandoned conditions.
“Based on this report, the council held a retreat in Calabar, Cross River State in 2013 to examine the status of technical education, and discovered that it was the dearth of Technical Colleges that was responsible for the imbalance in the ratio of engineers to technicians and craftsmen.
‘Then three action plans-short, medium and long term plans were advanced following which it was decided that this stakeholders meeting be convened to strategise on the implementation of the plans towards making technical education a pride of the country.”
According to Ali, artisans and technicians constitute a very important component of the value chain in the engineering service delivery, but, unfortunately, it seems like the country is in an era where it is a ‘curse’ to be a technician or craftsman.
He said even those skilled in those areas do all they can to become engineers, while a few who still believe in those trades, there are no institutions to train them.
He said this has resulted in a situation where the sector is witnessing an era of the inverted pyramid in composition with more engineers than technicians instead of the normal ratio.
“As the skills gap continues to widen, there has been huge capital flight as expatriates come in to fill it to the detriment of the country economically and other wise. It was estimated that the country loses over N900 billion annually to foreign artisans and technicians as the local environment fail to generate the required manpower.
“And experts have said more than 80 per cent of masons, carpenters, steel fabricators, plumbers, electricians, painters and tilers are foreigners from neighbouring countries of Cameroon, Niger, Togo and Ghana while some go as far as China to employ them even as we groan under the burden of youth unemployment in the country. This calls for drastic corrective measures as we as a people cannot continue like this, and the time is now,” the president of COREN stated.
While briefing the gathering on the imperativeness of the meeting earlier, the chairman, Planning Committee, Engr (Mrs) Idiat Amusu, disclosed that there were currently 32, 376 registered engineers to 6, 093 technologists, technicians and craftsmen, noting that “there is an imbalance which has caused the tremendous ripple effect we experience in the technical profession now”.
In his remark, the minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, SAN, who was represented by his special adviser on Works, Obafemi Hamzat, stated that current realities require that the country, in her quest for industrialisation, focuses on vocational and technical manpower development and embrace infrastructural management and maintenance culture.
“We need to accept the fact that many career paths do not require a bachelors degree; in fact all around the world vocational and technical education contributes to the economy immensely and provides a genuinely high paying and rewarding career for many individuals,” the minister said.
He noted that because of the shortage of trained technologists, technicians and craftsmen, there are so many untrained Nigerians, apart from the expatriates alleged to be doing the works, who have taken over and doing such works at the unskilled level.
He challenged COREN to work towards ensuring that it has the record of all practitioners irrespective of their levels as well as ensuring proper training where necessary.
In his goodwill message, the minister of Education, Mallam Adamu Adamu, who expressed delight over the opportunity provided by COREN to address the challenges facing Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) in general, assured of his ministry’s readiness to continue to collaborate with stakeholders and render support in all spheres of endeavour in the educational sector, especially where it is in line with the goals and aspirations of the current government.
The event which was held at the Nixon Luxury had in person or proxy concerned ministers, including the minister of Power, Works and Housing, who was the Special Guest of Honour, and some state governors and the chairman, House Committee on Works in attendance, who equally made their own contributions on revamping technical education in Nigeria.