By: Engr Jide Soyemi PhD
May I join millions of Nigerians to wish you a very impactful tenure as the 16th President of our dear Nation, Nigeria.
With the barrage of challenges that confront our nation today and the giant strides you have taken since assuming office, let me add my voice to the issue of Youth unemployment and Technical Education.
I am a product of the Great Yaba College of Technology, Yaba and I am proud to have passed through Yabatech, where my technical skills were sharpened. In the same vein, I have been working in the sector for close to three decades. I am an advocate of Technical Education and on the premise of this I write this open letter.
Having had my postgraduate studies in the United Kingdom, I came to the conclusion that for any country to develop technologically, good attention must be given to technical education [this can be visibly seen in China].
The way our education is presently fashioned, which has placed certificates above skills is not healthy for the nation and has largely contributed to the saga of “unemployable graduates” and youth unemployment. The entire system needs rejigging for better performance and all inclusivity.
These are my suggestions:
- The Federal Government should be in the forefront of skill acquisition among the youth with a target of 40% of the youth in this first term and additional 20% in the second term.
- The State Governments should be encouraged to also invest in the skill acquisition programme in their respective states.
- The skill focus should be those that will contribute meaningfully to National Development.
- Establishment of Technical Schools [TS] in every Local Government Area in the country
- In the first year, establish TS in each Senatorial District.
- In the second and third year, establish TS in Federal Constituencies.
- In the fourth year, establish TS in the remaining LGAs not yet covered.
- Each TS will have a core course based on the need of the area and the natural resources available within the locality.
- 40% of Admission into the Polytechnics should be reserved for TS graduates.
- TS graduates should be given special route by JAMB to enter the Polytechnics.
- Polytechnics and Industries should adopt the TS closer to them for inspection, collaboration, training and supports [Guidelines to be drawn for this engagement]. Industries should be encouraged to set up training schools within their companies or fully adopt a nearby TS.
- The informal apprenticeship programmes should be formalised, moderated, encouraged, and accepted officially by the Federal Government.
- The FG should employ skilled workforce from TS and the informal sector.
- Rules for the engagement of these special workforce should be in place and encouraging.
- A Commission for Skills Acquisition and Apprenticeship should be considered with the industries playing a major role.
Presently, there is an unhealthy relationship between the Polytechnics and Universities in Nigeria with one looking down on the other. Being a product of this system, these are my advice:
- Polytechnics should not be converted to Universities [You don’t say because you need more artillery soldiers, you now convert all Navy personnel to Army. What you will do is to equip the Navy to be able to work like artillery soldiers on the water and riverbanks e.g. US Navy Seal]. This is what we ask for in the Polytechnics.
- In world universities rankings, you have Colleges, Institutes, Polytechnics, Academy and Universities [all post-secondary schools fall under these ranking]. So, no need to change names.
- The focus of Polytechnic Education is hands-on-training at the tertiary level which leads to, and enhance technological advancement, create employment opportunities, and drastically reduce unemployment.
- The Polytechnics have a unique identity to cater for the needs of the industries and because Nigeria still needs more industries, then more attention should be given to Polytechnics.
- Some may cite UK converting their Polytechnics to Universities about three decades ago, but they will not say what UK is passing through now for shortages of skilled manpower. And the most recent one was China converting 600 universities back to Polytechnics; this clearly shows that the world is moving towards skills and blue-collar jobs.
- In accordance with the Polytechnic Act as amended 2019, which empower the Polytechnics to train Middle and High-Level Manpower, Government should allow Polytechnics to train and award BTech, MTech and PhD [there are so many PhD holders in the Polytechnics who can supervise postgraduate courses]
- Expand the regulatory work of National Board for Technical Education [NBTE] to include these higher degrees.
- Academic Staff nomenclature should change from Principal Lecturer to Associate Professor and Chief Lecturer to Professor and follow the would be established guidelines of the regulatory body [sir, let the Polytechnics grow on their own]. The Chief Executive Officer should be known as Vice Chancellor [all these are in line with global practice]. Rwanda Polytechnic is headed by a Vice Chancellor.
- Do not bring a professor from the university to head any of the Polytechnics. Our philosophy and mindset differ. [in all honesty, Mr President sir, the highest academic qualification is a PhD and equivalent and we have plenty of it in the Polytechnics, with many trained with the state fund like me]
- The Polytechnic Act and NBTE Act should be amended to accommodate these changes.
I want to appreciate you for taking time to read this small contribution towards our National Development. Thank you, sir.
Engr Jide Soyemi PhD
Yabatech Alumnus 
Director, Innovation Centre,
The Federal Polytechnic, Ilaro