The Industrial Training Fund is the foremost human resource development agency in Nigeria. What does the agency intend to achieve with its strategic policy direction?
The agency’s strategic policy direction that we have just unveiled is the third of such plans by the incumbent administration in the Industrial Training Fund (ITF).
You will recall that on assumption of office in 2016, we unveiled the ITF Reviewed Vision: Strategies for Mandate Actualisation. The plan, which was initially slated to terminate in 2022, was however reviewed in 2020 to address gaps that were identified in the course of its implementation. It was also to enable us respond appropriately to the negative impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on our numerous clients. While it lasted, the plan enabled the ITF to aggressively address service challenges by computerising our operations, tackling infrastructural challenges to expand access to Nigerians desirous of acquiring skills, and generally address a gamut of other strictures that were impinging on our ability to effectively discharge our mandate for national economic growth and development and the general good of the Nigerian people. However, despite the numerous achievements recorded by the fund on account of these initiatives, we have realised that more needs to be done if we must fully tackle the numerous socio-economic problems that are bedevilling us as a nation.
You know that unemployment in Nigeria today is at over 33 per cent as over 23 million Nigerians that are desirous to work cannot find jobs, mostly because of the absence of the requisite skills. Poverty is equally on the rise with some estimates placing the number of Nigerians that are living in poverty to be over 90 million.
Besides, in the face of all these, our population has continued to soar with the World Bank estimating that Nigeria might hit 216 million by the end of this year. Equally worrisome is the spectre of the out of school children, which according to the United Nations Children Fund (UNICEF) is projected to be over 18.5 million. Although the federal government and, indeed, governments at all levels have put in place measures to tackle these challenges, it has become increasingly obvious that efforts have to be redoubled by all and sundry for us to effectively rid the country of these challenges. It is based on the above and in line with our mandate of developing a vast pool of skilled manpower sufficient to meet the needs of the public and private sectors of the national economy coupled with resolutions at the recently concluded ITF National Skills Summit in Abuja that we found it imperative to review and refocus our strategies to address the above challenges and to meet the skills requirement of the nation in line with global best practices
How did you arrive at strategies to tackle unemployment in the country?
In arriving at our strategies, we considered the need to scale up our activities to address the soaring unemployment and other socio-economic challenges by leveraging on our three Es (Experience, Expertise and Expansive network), deployment of technology for wider coverage and more flexible service delivery. The new policy framework, which has as its theme: Re-engineering Skills for Sustainable Development, has external and internal components. The internal components of the plan, which entail value reorientation, industrial development, commercialisation of ITF facilities, alternative funding window, deployment and promotion, annual budget preparation as well as revenue generation are intended to drive the external components of the new policy direction, which covers standardisation and certification, technical and vocational skills training programmes, skills intervention proogrammes, electronic and virtual learning and, optimal utilisation of skills training centres (STCs) and vocational wings.
What has the agency done to ‘skill-up’ Nigerian youths?
I also want to announce that in our continuing efforts to skill-up Nigerian youths, we recently sponsored the prize for the best in leather works at