The working relationship existing between the National Universities Commission (NUC) and Industrial Training Fund (ITF) have been quite cordial as both organization share a lot in common, especially in the area of Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES), the Executive Secretary, NUC, Professor Abubakar Adamu Rasheed, MFR, mni, FNAL, has said.

Professor Rasheed made this assertion when he received the delegation of ITF officials led by the Director General, Sir Joseph Ari in the Commission’s conference room last Thursday.

On the issue of SIWES, he noted the Commission had collaboration with the Nigeria Economic Summit Group (NESG) and a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) had been signed to strengthen the Academia and Industry.

He informed the delegation that Nigeria today, has 43 Federal Universities, 47 State Universities and 79 Private Universities. The NUC scribe acknowledged that part of the problem with the Ivory Tower was that most of the lecturers rose up to become Professors without going through practical experience and practical knowledge in private organizations.

He said that Polytechnics should be given its due recognition and place to produce the needed skilled-middle manpower required in the country. Prof. Rasheed said the issue of skills development which encompasses several sectors of the economy must include entrepreneurship into the curriculum for students to be useful to the society after graduation.  To strengthen and execute this resolution, Prof. Rasheed announced that a new Directorate of Skills Development and Entrepreneurship would soon emerge in NUC.

The NUC scribe described ITF as a relevant partner, explaining that the major economies of the world revolve around industry, academia and government. As a follow up, he said, that a technical team from NUC and ITF would be put together to work out the modalities on how SIWES operation would be strengthened to reap the maximum results.

He therefore urged the ITF delegation to bring forward proposals to NUC which would be forwarded to Vice-chancellors for their inputs as well as seek collaboration with NESG for a robust partnership to thrive.

In his address, the Director General of ITF, Sir Joseph Ari said that they came to NUC to see how both organizations could synergize to make Nigeria great. He said that ITF needed to align with the Socio-Economic Programme of Nigeria and to do that ITF came up with a blue print on vision 2050. “We drew up programmes that captured short and medium term goals, a lot of items were reviewed including SIWES. SIWES was a fantastic scheme fashioned after the German System of skills development which had helped in their rapid development after the Second World War”, he said.

Sir Ari said that National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) and National Commission for Colleges of Education (NCCE), were among the stakeholders in the training and skills development of students. As part of strategy to deliver its mandate, an E-payment was adopted to help students access their SIWES payment and that ITF target made effort to translate learning experiences into practice.

For any country to develop, the ITF boss said that skills development must be embraced for the survival of Nigeria’s economy and government needs to re-focus over some issues relating to skill acquisition and development. He made it clear that the jobs were available but the right people to fill the spaces were in short supply especially in the construction industry.

The Director-General noted that by the year 2050, Nigerian population might have risen to five hundred (500) million and without our graduates acquiring the necessary skills the country would be sitting on a keg of gun powder.

According to him, over the years ITF had demonstrated that it can overcome the challenges facing graduates by undertaking training programmes on plumbing, sewing and other skills acquisition programmes to help the youths, women and the physically challenged for self empowerment.

He however opined that if NUC and ITF collaborate to gather, lot of progress could be achieved. “Our universities, polytechnics and colleges of education are not functioning the way they should in terms of SIWES”, he said.

Officials in the ITF delegation were Director, Information and Communication Technology, Onuoha Dickson; Director, Finance and Account, Gbadamosi Josephine; Director, Field Service Department, Adesola Taiwo; Head SIWES, Barrister Ifeoma Ihazue, among others ITF officials.

Present at the meeting were NUC Deputy Executive Secretary, Barrister Victor Onuoha; Directors in the Directorates of Executive Secretary’s Office, Mr. Christopher Maiyaki; Resercah Innovations and Information Technology, Dr. Suleiman Ramon-Yusuf; Accreditation, Dr. Biodun Saliu; Open and Distance Education, Dr. Esther Adesina; International Cooperation and  Liaison Services, Mrs. Constance Goddy-Nnadi;  Students Support Services, Dr. Maryam Sali; Inspection and Monitoring, Mr. Boniface C. Odum. Also present were the Deputy Directors of Information, Mr. Haruna LAwal Ajo; Legal Division, Mr. Moses Awe and Corporate Services, Mr. John Mairafi.