Technical education and a nation at developmental crossroads by Prof. Ayobami Salami

The rising concerns among stakeholders on the quality of graduates being churned out by Nigeria’s tertiary education institutions makes inevitable the need for a paradigm shift in our current teaching and learning model. The subsisting approach is certainly too weak, uninspiring and theory-suffused; this is why one should look no further for why we are ostensibly perpetuating the regime of ‘educated illiterates’ – lacking in functional skills for impact and societal development.

Now is the time to think and act differently. Ideally, serious efforts in this regard should now be devoted to the making of youths armed with critical thinking skills, developmental and solution-focused orientation. The goal of this will be to equip them with requisite competencies to clinically interrogate the myriad of problems bedeviling the nation and provide disruptive but creative, and cutting-edge solutions. Achieving this requires a sharper focus of efforts on developing capacities in technical and vocational educational training and by extension, the STEM paradigm.

To join the nations that will attain the global resolution as enshrined in the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, Nigeria must focus on developing essential skills for work and life among its teeming youth population. This, perhaps, is the only way that the nation can salvage itself from the looming explosion arising from consistently escalating acute youth unemployment. There is, therefore, a national imperative to articulate policies and programmes specifically designed for the skilling of our young people at all levels of education – including both formal and informal educational settings.

Beyond paying lip service to the review of our curriculum, government must do the needful by ensuring that courses undertaken in our institutions of higher learning conform to a set of measurable developmental goals. It is not just enough to establish universities and faculties for courses that are neither filling a knowledge gap nor tailored to developing specific critical human resource capacities that will propel the nation towards economic prosperity and independence.

As the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of Nigeria’s first technical university, The Technical University, Ibadan, it is gratifying to champion the evolution of a TVET-based template that is poised to becoming a national standard ultimately. Whereas the technical university, only made its foray into the nation’s burgeoning tertiary education space one year ago, it has nonetheless created a niche for itself to say the least. Though established at a time the Nigerian economy is at its lowest ebb, our job at the Tech-U is clearly cut-out, having set out to address the daunting challenges of disturbing youth unemployment and skills gap. Tech-U seeks to produce a new generation of innovative graduates who are fully equipped with technical, vocational and entrepreneurial skills.

As elaborated in the UNESCO Strategy for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (2016-2021), TVET encapsulates such education, training and skills development relating to a wide range of occupational fields, production, services and livelihoods. It provides the kind of education that helps youths and adults develop the technical and vocational skills they need for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.

It is particularly sad that in Nigeria TVET has been largely restricted to the informal sector and lower educational levels. The direct consequence of this is that it is unable to keep up with rapid global technological growth and consequently, resulted in the sheer irrelevance of the curricula taught. Added to this, is the challenge of a negative perception of TVET as education of the last resort. This principally accounts for the reason TVET has remained unattractive in our tertiary institutions. Rather than benefit from the well-rounded education the adoption of TVET brings in promoting entrepreneurship, self-employment and creation and growth of new businesses, students have been limited as half-baked intellectuals, deficient in critical thinking and innovation skills.

At the Tech-U, we are already moving towards this direction, deploying TVET and STEM paradigms in developing the minds and training the hands of our students. Just recently, the university brought together a host of key industry regulators and employers to contribute to the review of curriculum and to give informed feedbacks on its relevance to industry needs and trends. The reason for this is clear enough. Since the Tech-U has been established with the bold and daring ambition of changing the narrative about employability and entrepreneurial deficiencies skills among our youths; the least that could be done as a serious institution is to ensure that such an exercise was done in tandem with the expectations of the market.

Tech-U intends to advocate the mainstreaming of TVET into university curricula as a means of nurturing self-reliant graduates. Recognizing that regular weekly scheduled practical classes will be inadequate for the acquisition of the required skills, the university established a Centre for Entrepreneurship and Vocational Studies to offer all students a range of skills development opportunities attuned to national and local contexts. This will give students complimentary exposure to different forms of work-based learning like attachments, apprenticeship and internships.

The incorporation of entrepreneurial skills into the curricula is intended to strategically prepare our graduates for the transition from education to the world of work in a seamless manner – more like in a ‘plug and play manner’. This is one cardinal mission we are committed to. We are not just interested in imparting our students with theoretical knowledge only, but also in motivating and supporting them to acquire skills and competences that deepen their understanding of scientific and technological basis of issues.

We are convinced that to achieve our vision, we need close collaboration between the academia and labour market stakeholders as well as strong linkages with employment agencies and employers. This is the reason for locating the university on a 200 hectares expanse of land along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, in the Free Trade Zone Area designated as the industrial hub of the state and in which about 175 manufacturing companies under the Pacesetter-Polaris (Chinese) Consortium will establish full presence and carry out their operations.

For us, the future is here.
Prof. Salami is the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of The Technical University, IbadanTechnical education and a nation at developmental crossroads by Prof. Ayobami Salami
The rising concerns among stakeholders on the quality of graduates being churned out by Nigeria’s tertiary education institutions makes inevitable the need for a paradigm shift in our current teaching and learning model. The subsisting approach is certainly too weak, uninspiring and theory-suffused; this is why one should look no further for why we are ostensibly perpetuating the regime of ‘educated illiterates’ – lacking in functional skills for impact and societal development.

Now is the time to think and act differently. Ideally, serious efforts in this regard should now be devoted to the making of youths armed with critical thinking skills, developmental and solution-focused orientation. The goal of this will be to equip them with requisite competencies to clinically interrogate the myriad of problems bedeviling the nation and provide disruptive but creative, and cutting-edge solutions. Achieving this requires a sharper focus of efforts on developing capacities in technical and vocational educational training and by extension, the STEM paradigm.

To join the nations that will attain the global resolution as enshrined in the Agenda 2030 for Sustainable Development, Nigeria must focus on developing essential skills for work and life among its teeming youth population. This, perhaps, is the only way that the nation can salvage itself from the looming explosion arising from consistently escalating acute youth unemployment. There is, therefore, a national imperative to articulate policies and programmes specifically designed for the skilling of our young people at all levels of education – including both formal and informal educational settings.

Beyond paying lip service to the review of our curriculum, government must do the needful by ensuring that courses undertaken in our institutions of higher learning conform to a set of measurable developmental goals. It is not just enough to establish universities and faculties for courses that are neither filling a knowledge gap nor tailored to developing specific critical human resource capacities that will propel the nation towards economic prosperity and independence.

As the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of Nigeria’s first technical university, The Technical University, Ibadan, it is gratifying to champion the evolution of a TVET-based template that is poised to becoming a national standard ultimately. Whereas the technical university, only made its foray into the nation’s burgeoning tertiary education space one year ago, it has nonetheless created a niche for itself to say the least. Though established at a time the Nigerian economy is at its lowest ebb, our job at the Tech-U is clearly cut-out, having set out to address the daunting challenges of disturbing youth unemployment and skills gap. Tech-U seeks to produce a new generation of innovative graduates who are fully equipped with technical, vocational and entrepreneurial skills.

As elaborated in the UNESCO Strategy for Technical and Vocational Education and Training (2016-2021), TVET encapsulates such education, training and skills development relating to a wide range of occupational fields, production, services and livelihoods. It provides the kind of education that helps youths and adults develop the technical and vocational skills they need for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.

It is particularly sad that in Nigeria TVET has been largely restricted to the informal sector and lower educational levels. The direct consequence of this is that it is unable to keep up with rapid global technological growth and consequently, resulted in the sheer irrelevance of the curricula taught. Added to this, is the challenge of a negative perception of TVET as education of the last resort. This principally accounts for the reason TVET has remained unattractive in our tertiary institutions. Rather than benefit from the well-rounded education the adoption of TVET brings in promoting entrepreneurship, self-employment and creation and growth of new businesses, students have been limited as half-baked intellectuals, deficient in critical thinking and innovation skills.

At the Tech-U, we are already moving towards this direction, deploying TVET and STEM paradigms in developing the minds and training the hands of our students. Just recently, the university brought together a host of key industry regulators and employers to contribute to the review of curriculum and to give informed feedbacks on its relevance to industry needs and trends. The reason for this is clear enough. Since the Tech-U has been established with the bold and daring ambition of changing the narrative about employability and entrepreneurial deficiencies skills among our youths; the least that could be done as a serious institution is to ensure that such an exercise was done in tandem with the expectations of the market.

Tech-U intends to advocate the mainstreaming of TVET into university curricula as a means of nurturing self-reliant graduates. Recognizing that regular weekly scheduled practical classes will be inadequate for the acquisition of the required skills, the university established a Centre for Entrepreneurship and Vocational Studies to offer all students a range of skills development opportunities attuned to national and local contexts. This will give students complimentary exposure to different forms of work-based learning like attachments, apprenticeship and internships.

The incorporation of entrepreneurial skills into the curricula is intended to strategically prepare our graduates for the transition from education to the world of work in a seamless manner – more like in a ‘plug and play manner’. This is one cardinal mission we are committed to. We are not just interested in imparting our students with theoretical knowledge only, but also in motivating and supporting them to acquire skills and competences that deepen their understanding of scientific and technological basis of issues.

We are convinced that to achieve our vision, we need close collaboration between the academia and labour market stakeholders as well as strong linkages with employment agencies and employers. This is the reason for locating the university on a 200 hectares expanse of land along the Lagos-Ibadan expressway, in the Free Trade Zone Area designated as the industrial hub of the state and in which about 175 manufacturing companies under the Pacesetter-Polaris (Chinese) Consortium will establish full presence and carry out their operations.

For us, the future is here.\

Prof. Salami is the pioneer Vice-Chancellor of The Technical University, Ibadan

1 COMMENT

  1. Technical University is thought-provoking and worthy of every needed attention. I appreciate the fact that this is a presentation by a Professor, however, let’s disect the subject in the sense of it.
    A University is an institution mandated to increase the theory and literature in all logos. This would involve learning more than 500 years of knowledge and experiences in a limited academic period. Students aspiring for such knowledge must display aptitude of creating pictorial appreciation from verbal rendition. This must be so because the volume of knowledge is wider than the time available to pass it. If all the practicals necessary for obviating such knowledge must come to bear, it would then require hundreds of years to attain. As a result, only generic practicals and/or case studies are actually done. The Lecturer as well as the student must be conscious of this fact and prepare psychologically to face it. Most issues of malpractices in our Ivory Towers is due to the ignorance of this fact.
    Selling of marks or sex for marks will lose their place if we know their implication. Students in such pursuit are said to reason in degrees because they were capable of attaining such expanse of knowledge within a short period. It is also to prepare them for the reality outside where they are required to create a big picture from sketchy and scarce or dearth of information. As a result, they are called degree holders on graduation. It would then be laughable if a person is called degree holder but neither reason in degrees nor need to.
    Technical University would then imply where hundreds of years’ of knowledge and experience in various techniques are studied in limited time. In Heat Transfer, for instance, there are so many techniques used in the evacuation or supply of heat. Some include Vapour Compression, Magnetic Cooling, Sound Refrigeration, Absorption, etc. Each of these techniques would have to be studied in degrees. The question then follows. Are each of these wide enough to warrant that? Is/are there need for such indepth studies? Thus far, one can comfortably say their depth and need do not necessitate such. There is neither time nor space as well as need for such. A Tech.B/Btech/B.Te. (or what else should it be called?) in Mechanical Engineering Techniques would really entail that such students were given a demonstration of all the variations in each of the different techniques.
    The quantity and quality of needed expertise would make it nearly impossible due to cost in specialized equipment and faculty.
    The current situation at the workplace would not encourage such investment. Those who were not specifically exposed to each of those techniques can reproduce them if duty calls for it and real-life situations don’t involve demonstration of such techniques as an end but means to an end. I wouldn’t need to deploy all of them in every situation of it but one, or two – highest, at a time and some may actually be antithetical in certain applications.
    Those not deploying such techniques currently is not because they were not specifically taught but because no demand to deploy such on large (economic and profittable) scales.

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