Experts at the joint National Universities Commission (NUC) and the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) Industry retreat, have advocated a better synergy between the town and gown in order to ensure Nigerian university graduates are better equipped and ready for the labour market with the requisite skills after graduating. They agreed that although the country is experiencing major socio-economic challenges, acquisition of the right skills will not only give the candidates comparative advantage but also ensure that they meaningfully contribute their quota to national development.
While calling for a symbiotic relationship along skills acquisition and development, the Organisation and Human Resources Director at Lafarge Africa, Fidelia Osime, stated that there must be sincerity of purpose among all stakeholders to ensure that they achieve a common goal, which is the development of the Nigerian education system.
“There must be synergy between universities and the industries that will potentially employ their products. Unfortunately, we have discovered that most times, we need to train and re-train graduates who we expect should have an appreciable level of knowledge suitable for the entry level. For example, we have the Lafarge Cement Professional Technician Program (CPTP), which is a technical programme, as well as the Lafarge Africa Technical Training School where we expose people to the demands of the industry. This is not just about the engineers; it's also about other fields. On an on-going basis, we have to make sure that we get people who can actually add value to what we do." Osime said.
On the implication of this situation on a general outlook, Osime noted that “this below average performance of some of our Nigerian university graduates has constantly put them at a disadvantage when compared with their foreign colleagues. We have observed that graduates from foreign universities need little training as they get to work. Among them, the required expertise to excel is usually above average. Majorly, the reason for this is because universities abroad, work closely with the private sector to understand the need in the industry. Their syllabus is tailored to cater to emerging trends in the workplace. For our Nigerian graduates to excel, the academia must adequately understand what the industry needs and take those needs into consideration while training students”.
In his remark, the Director of Accreditation at the NUC, Dr. Noel Saliu noted that the Nigerian government is adopting the triple helix of University-Industry-Government relationship model as proposed by the NESG. According to Saliu, “the implementation of the five-year plan is expected to cost N823 billion. The cost-sharing scheme proposed for carrying the funding burden is 75 per cent by the proprietor (government for public universities and owners for private universities), 20 per cent from internally-generated revenue of the university and five per cent from other sources including alumni, endowment and donor support.”
Expressing his satisfaction that stakeholders are showing interest in developing the education system, the Chief Executive Officer, NESG, Mr. Laoye Jaiyeola, assured that the outcome of the retreat will be pursued by the Group to ensure that they are significantly implemented. On the failures of past reforms, Jaiyeola said “skills gap among school leavers and graduates have become a major cause of youth unemployment in Nigeria as the country’s education system does not provide adequate training in skills fit for productive work.”
Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, Executive Secretary, NUC expressed his gratitude to the NESG for this collaboration. "I want to say a special thank you to our partners, the NESG. We have been challenged by them to think beyond the classroom into the real life challenges of industry that we need to be catering to in the Universities." he said.
The Policy Dialogue is jointly hosted by the Nigerian Economic Summit Group (NESG) and the Nigeria Universities Commission (NUC) as the first series of interactions and collaborations between the industry and academia to foster effective transition from higher education to employment for sustainable growth and development. The theme for this first policy dialogue “Making Higher Education Work for Nigeria” was aimed at discussing sustainable ways to close the skills gap among school leavers and graduates.
Other participants at the session include Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Education, Arc. Sonny Echono, representative of the Permanent Secretary, Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment, Mr. William Nwankwo Alo, Pro-Chancellor, Plateau State University, Bokkos, Prof. Attahiru Jega, Executive Chairman, Philips Consulting Limited, Folusho Philips, Executive Secretary TETFUND, Suleiman Elias Bogoro, President & Chairman of Council, Chartered Institute of Bankers of Nigeria, Uche Olowu, Dean, Lagos Business School, Enase Okonedo, Prof. Nimi Briggs, Academia and Mrs. Wonu Adetayo of Kainos Edge Consulting Ltd.