Over the years, Nigerian artisans have demonstrated high level of professional incompetence over the years compared to their counterparts from some West African and Asian countries, including Ghana, Benin Republic ,Togo, China and India.
Lack of capacity in terms of quality of jobs they churn out has become the weak point that has not only put their jobs on the line but led led to foreign artisans virtually taking over jobs, hitherto, done by Nigerians.
This has in turn worsened the unemployment situation in the country.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the country’s unemployment rate worsened in the third quarter of 2018, rising from 18.8 per cent in Q3 2017 to 23.1 per cent in the third quarter of 2018.
It has also been estimated that far more than N10 billion is being lost annually to immigrant artisans, who have displaced Nigerians in construction sector.
To halt this trend, the Nigerian government has taken it upon itself to boost the capacity of local artisans in order to make them relevant and competitive for jobs in the construction industry.
Blazing the trail is the Lagos State Government in collaboration with stakeholders in the industry to build the capacity of artisans for the construction sector under the Master Craftsman Project.
Having graduated 170 artisans in the first batch, the state government has rolled out another set of 350 trained personnel.
The Master Craftsman Project is aimed at addressing skill gap in housing sector in Lagos State.
Explaining the rationale behind the project, the Commissioner for Housing, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, said the scheme was aimed at scaling up professionalism of artisans in the state in order to meet up with current global trends.
Lawal said that the platform created an opportunity for artisans and workers in the construction industry to receive certificates after being trained to acquire 21st Century skills.
According to him, issues of quackery, quality of service, inappropriate charges, and unethical conduct leading to building collapse were considered and built into the curriculum to produce world class artisans.
Permanent Secretary in the Deputy Governor’s office, Mrs Yetunde Odejayi, who represented Dr. Oluranti Adebule, said that government had the vision of training 4,000 artisans. She disclosed that the state government was involved in PPP on affordable housing development, where 20,000 units are ongoing already. Through the project, she said that 60,000 bricklayers, 40,000 masons, 20,000 carpenters, 20,000 plumbers, 60,000 tilers, 40,000 painters would be required. Artisans to be engaged in the project, she assured, would come from the trained craftmen and women. According to the deputy governor, the Master Craftsman Project is an initiative of the state government to bridge the skills gap, in order to prevent foreigners from taking over jobs of technicians in the built industry.
Adebule stated that government was “determined to reverse the trend’’ of influx of foreign artisans, to ensure local artisans take back their pride of place in the built industry.
Speaking with New Telegraph, one of the trainees, Mrs Folasayo Anjorin, a welder, said her skills on welding had been sharpened through the training programme.
Another trainee, Olubunmi Erinle, promised to make use of everything she learnt during the course of the training, appealing to government to give them jobs now that the training has ended.
Another participant, Mr. Orire james, a carpenter, said he had learnt more about the dictates of his job through the training.
He said: “They trained us very well and updated our knowledge about the latest innovations in the industry for about three to four weeks. We really gained a lot and this will really impact positively on our jobs.”
One of the tutors and retired lecturer at Yaba College of Education, Suraj Kolawole, said the artisans were taught many things that have to do with their jobs.
“We taught them most of the things they lost in the course of the job such as estimation, procedures, dealing with clients, team work, reality of the job they want to do and the risks involved,” the tutor said.
At the end of the programme, Kolawole said the trainees were asked to execute a project with the training centre. He said: “ We believed that these people would be able to achieve delivery of quality buildings.” Through the training, he said the nation would be able to reduce the number of foreign artisans and also boost morale of workers, adding that it would also prevent failure in building.
At the federal level, Director General, C-STEmp Construction Skills Training and Empowerment Project Limited, Anthony Okwa, told New Telegraph that about 6,000 artisans had been trained directly, while more than 24,000 have been facilitated. He stated that the training programmes for the artisans in the construction industry have been going on very well especially with the recent support from the Presidency through the Npower Build Program involving the Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON), which has encouraged more school leavers and girls to participate.
Okwa stated that the Npower job creation programme of the Buhari administration was being delivered in about 400 centers across the country under the auspices of Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria (CORBON) with his agency’s active support. He disclosed that the agency through the training was trying to change the attitude and disposition of beneficiaries, and current low regard for artisans. To this end, he said the agency had instituted artisans awards “which aims at according them due recognition and rewarding excellence.” On the prospects of artisans after the training, Okwa said: “In all spheres of human endeavor, Nigerians have been known to excel, and with the training gaining international attention, we are beginning to receive enquiries for supply of Artisans to employers from outside the country.”
President, Nigerian Institute of Building, Kenneth Nduka, said since technology has ever been dynamic, it would amount begging the question “if one accepts the current quality of artisans as being satisfactory.”
He warned that the present situation where foreign artisans dominated Nigeria’s construction sector spelt doom for the economy.
According to him, the implications meant loss of jobs for Nigeria’s nationals and loss of revenue through capital flights. Besides, he said other implications included security challenges, near absence of indigenous capacity to deliver on projects, and dependence on foreign dictates for the implementation of infrastructural development initiatives.
On what must be done to change the narrative, the NIOB president stated that it would require responsive investments on all diverse human capacity and skills development initiatives.
Aside, he said it would involve the creation of motivating opportunities and convenient inclusive environment that will serve the desired stimulus for constructive engagements and deployment.
Nduka stated that funds in terms of transferred earnings that should have otherwise been invested in Nigeria, as well as the multiplier economic opportunities that would attract values to the GDP of the country, were being lost as capital flight to foreign countries.
He disclosed that NIOB had collaborated with Nigerian Board of Technical Education (NBTE) and CORBON to establish the National Occupation Standards for relevant skills for the building industry.
He said: “NIOB having been granted an awarding body status by the Federal Ministry of Education,through the NBTE, is currently on a country wide quality assessment exercise to evaluate all the N-Power build artisans.
“Registration of training centers for Building construction skills are on going. Above all the institute is mobilizing and encouragng her members nationwide to key into the training for Quality Assurance Assessors currency being driven the National Board for Technical Education so that the objectives for quality skills standardisation in the building construction Industry could rightly realised.” Quality craftsmen in any nation, Nduka said, guaranteed safe built environment, populated with cost effective, quality radiating, image enhancing, productivity promoting, elements protecting, secure, aesthetic and needs satisfying building infrastructures.
“Above all, the political, economic and social potentials of the country would enjoy a positive boost since the skill we have could massage our infrastructure development strides and accordingly excited diverse opportunities for developments and growth maximisation,” he said.
Commissioner for Physical Planning and Urban Development, Rotimi Ogunleye, urged the grandaunts to uphold construction ethics to stem incidence of building collapse.
Through training and retraining programmes, Nigerian artisans in the construction sector stand the chance of competing very well, if not better, with their counterparts all over the world.