Professor Idris Bugaje, the Executive Secretary, National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), has advocated a mandatory 50 percent skills acquisition for every secondary school students.

He said it would help the students to better understand their interests and abilities, improve them in decision making, thereby leading to their personal and professional development.

Bugaje said this in an interaction with the News Agency of Nigeria on the board’s newly launched top-up programme for HND holders to acquire a Bachelor of Science (BSc) in their choice course.

He said repositioning the Technical Education and Vocational Training (TVET) of Nigerian students at the secondary levels would greatly assist in identifying talents that would be nurtured to become profitable enterprises.

He added that the country should expose students to skills at their early stage, to be able to develop them.

“If you go to Germany that operates a dual system, right from basic education, they expose their children to skills and at the secondary school, students spend three days in schools and three days in the industries.

“By the time they are ready for higher education, three quarter of them go to the polytechnics and less than one quarter only goes to the university because they have already been exposed within the training received under the dual system.

“In Nigeria, when students come out from tertiary institutions, they have no jobs because they are not fit for the industries.

“So government must change the direction and insist that 50 per cent of our secondary school leavers should go for skills training in polytechnics, maybe 30 per cent can go to the university and 20 per cent to the College of Education (COE),” he said.

The executive secretary added that this step would enable the government to reposition the polytechnics so we can have experts to deliver on our projects.

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He expressed concern over the rate at which the country engaged the services of foreign technicians when we had expertise to handle the various projects in the country.

“If you look at the Abuja railway track, it was delivered by the Chinese technicians and we should not allow that to continue because this is leading to capital flight and our youths are there unemployed. Why not give our own people the job and the good thing about skills training is that within six months you can finish one level and within four years you can cover eight levels.

“That is why we say the days of degrees are over. In the past degrees were important. In the 19th century, the polytechnics was the best mode of training, it was after the First World War that university began centre stage.

“All the innovations we are talking about, most of them never came from the universities, electricity that was discovered in the 19th century was not from the university, and inventions were from artisans and craftsmen.

“So let us develop our own, train them to acquire skills because you can have the degree but have no job,” he said.

He said the board had already taken steps to unbundle the curriculum to include skills qualification, saying polytechnic students would now be made to learn a skill relating to the course of study before such a student could graduate.

“From this October, we are adding a skill qualification to every curriculum in the NBTE and if you do not acquire the skills qualification you will not graduate.

“We are starting with HND computer science, we have unbundled the course into four. Students will now have to go to Cisco, Microsoft or any of these big players and get a skills certificate on a particular skill.

“So we call this dual certification and this will create employment for Nigerians and as well provide a market for Nigerian youths. Indians are taking advantage of that, Bangladesh that has the same population with Nigeria has 11,500 youths working in different part of the world. Morocco export almost half a million youths in the Middle East.

“So we are saying that Nigerians should not be left behind. They must take advantage of the skills opportunity they have around them,” he said.