The current disorderly nature of Industrial Training (IT) in Nigeria is sure to delay if not abort the country’s attainment of technological takeoff. To expect that Nigerians will wake up soon to find themselves in a technology-inclined country is a bad dream.
Industrial training or attachment, as it is popularly known, is designed to bring students face to face with the practical aspects of the theories they learn in the class, a practice which is aimed at exposing students to the realities of their discipline and perhaps challenging the students to innovate.
More so, it is supposed to be a source of labour to industrial outfits whilst also helping to bridge the infrastructure deficiency in the tertiary institutions, after all, we all know or at least can imagine the level of deficiency that exists in technical and science education in Nigerian tertiary institutions.
In most cases, the laboratories are decrepit, bare and lacking in basic tools and equipment for any meaningful training for this time. Workshops are nothing short of “packing stores” filled with all manner of obsolete and disused garbage that have lost their usefulness.
The bigger irony in this national drama is what has become of what is called Industrial Attachment for our students. Ordinarily, attaching students to companies is an extension of their learning process, which is designed to give them practical experience in their chosen fields. So, engineering students, for instance, should be attached to firms that provide an engineering environment, with relevant tools and experienced professionals to guide and direct them in a way that inspires them towards building a successful career and extending the frontiers of knowledge in their chosen field. They are assigned practical assignments that help them connect with the theories they have been taught in the classrooms.
So, whether in the workshop or on the fields with their supervisors, they connect with the equipment and the functionalities of those machines; and if need be, they can dissect engines, understand the internal workings, and couple them back.
The above scenario seems to be a thing of the past, an idea that has eluded industrial training programmes in the country. There is no coherent plan for placing students in companies for industrial attachment. The universities have not developed patterns for when and how students can be matched with relevant organisations that best suit them in respect of each student’s course of study.
Rather, what they do is to hand the young men and women letters introducing them to “Whom It May Concern” who are asked to consider offering the bearers of such documents places for attachment. Like most other things in our national life, this marks a chaotic phase of the student’s life, who for the next several weeks may have to roam the streets, moving from one office to another asking for a place.
This is a clear sign of weakness or even failure of our technical and science education. If the institutions offering such cases do not have a relationship with the industry that they purport to serve, then they have failed ab initio. There should be links between universities and organisations in the various fields or sectors of the economy that need the products of their research, and such relationships ought to enable academic institutions to send students to the industry. No wonder there is a total disconnect between the research done in Nigerian universities and the realities of the problem of Nigerian companies.
Thus, by a certain time of the school’s academic programme, those of its engineering students due for industrial attachment for the year should know they are going to companies A, B, and C. The computer students, as well as their counterparts from pharmacy, mining, etc., should know where they are going for their industrial attachment. It should be the same for all schools, all departments.
Where is the synergy between the universities, as research centres, and organisations through which such research are ultimately operationalised by the products of the institutions? Where things work the right way, the industry should be scouting for students, whether those on an industrial attachment or fresh graduates, who ultimately would flow into their workforce to ensure, not just continuity but the possibility of innovation which should be the hallmark of a dynamic economy.
Instead, students are sent to scout for companies that can accommodate them for the programme and sometimes many of the students end up frustrated and at best work in an enterprise that has no relationship with their course of study. For a young fellow who probably had roamed for a couple of weeks before luck shines on him or her, any offer becomes acceptable, even with the first disclaimer from such a good man: We do not pay those on industrial attachment!
The last point perhaps explains the deliberate adulteration of what could have contributed to solving Nigeria’s biggest youth problem: unemployment. While most of the students on attachments end up not being paid a dime by the companies they stumble upon and who take them in on a “sympathy basis” a few lucky ones are able to secure places in government establishments where they are handsomely remunerated throughout the period they are there. Indeed, in some of such parastatals where there are no payments, students from anywhere are accepted. But for parastatals who pay stipends, getting in there for the students is like getting the camel to pass through the eye of the needle.
Is that a national policy on technological development? Is that the way to turn university students into employers of labour when they graduate? Is that how our young men and women could be empowered to drive our quest for development?
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