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Human capital is best asset for any country –ITF boss

What role is ITF playing in national economic development?The ITF is one of the major parastatals of the federal government. It is one of the…

What role is ITF playing in national economic development?
The ITF is one of the major parastatals of the federal government. It is one of the organizations being used by the federal government to achieve the transformation agenda of this administration. If you look at the ITF, and the act establishing it, you realize it has the responsibility to provide, promote and encourage the acquisition of skills in commerce and industry, with a view to generating the manpower sufficient to meet the needs of the Nigerian economy. And you are aware that, over time, the fund has been performing this function.
Human capital development is a sine qua non of the economy of any country. And you can see that most of our activities are geared towards this noble objective. So, you cannot say the ITF has lost its relevance, no! In fact, the ITF has rather become even more relevant in the light of the federal government’s aspiration to meet up with the leading economies of the world.
 So far how have you been able to achieve your mandate?
 Since I assumed office as the chief executive of the Industrial Training Fund, we have scaled up the training of our staff, both locally and abroad, with the objective of enhancing their professional competence. We train members of our staff internationally, particularly, in the area of technical vocational education. The objective here is for them to come back and impart knowledge to those who are here at home, so that we would be able to build a core of highly trained technical manpower. At the home level, we have organized short courses for our staff.
Consequently, the ITF has created a crop of well-trained development officers, some of whom are certified and recognised internationally in their areas of specialisation. For instance, we’re very good in the areas of occupational safety, health and environment. Also, we are involved in productivity and efficiency improvement training.
 I believe the organisation has achieved its aim. The ITF was little known before I took over as the chief executive.
We have problem of poor funding. The budget of the organization was around N3.6 billion, which is far too small to achieve all what we want to achieve. Also, the staff are not happy, there is no motivation and the salary was so poor. The relationship between ITF and organized body was not good. My management was also dissolved. These and many more are some of the challenges.
How equipped are your training centres?
The ITF training centre, particularly our model skill training centre, which is located in this compound, has become a ‘Mecca’ for technical vocational education. We have centres in Lagos, Jos, Kano. We have a modern one in Abuja. We have been able to complete the one in Lokoja. When people come around we start to showcase our centre, which we built with technical support from the Institute of Technical Education Services of Singapore. The ITF also is always at the cutting edge of technical vocational skills training in Nigeria. In addition to bringing people to training, the ITF takes training to the people, particularly, in the nooks and crannies of Nigeria by deploying a number of mobile training workshops decked with state-of-the-art equipment, tools and facilities in 11 trade areas.
So when we have the mobile workshops we would be able to take training to the doorsteps of our people. All these attest to our technology driven processes, functions and programmes in the ITF. And definitely with all these efforts of offering direct intervention in industrial and commercial skills training and development with competent staff, we believe that we will be doing a good service to our country.
We also proposed something to government which we presented to stakeholders known as National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP) which is an aspect of the national industrial development plan for the Federal Ministry of Trade and Investment.
How much does it take to establish each of these centres?
The skill centres are very costly to establish because some equipment can cost up to N15 million. We have estimated that the Industrial Skills Centres in the 36 states and Abuja will have provision for 24 trades and will cost about N3.5 billion, while the bigger ones, the advanced skills centres in the six geo-political zones, will cost about N5.5 billion. So, if you cost it, you will realize it is a lot of money. But we have envisaged that with our amended act, we will be able to generate the required money over time to help us establish the centres.
 How long you have been at the helms of affairs of the ITF and your experience?
Well, I was appointed specifically on August 2006. This means that I’m slightly above seven years in the organisation now.
When I came on board, many companies at the time particularly the foreign companies were not interested in training in the Industrial Training Fund, thinking that our staff were not very competent. We addressed this problem by training many of our people overseas. And today, in Lagos you find out that we have so many training programmes given to us to implement by the major companies.
A proof of the rise in training consciousness, on account of ITF intervention, is the increasing requests for reimbursement by employers of labour registered and the remitting of training contributions to the fund. Reimbursement of training contributions is done on condition that ITF’s guidelines on training are met. Therefore, the more employers of labour request for and get reimbursed indicates that training consciousness has really increased and is daily increasing in the economy.
What are your challenges and how are you addressing them?
As at now, the ITF is a household name. First of all, I took a trip to Lagos. I met with the organized sector stakeholders and discussed on the way forward. This of course, enhanced our relationship. Like I said, my management was dissolved, so I have to set up a new management. Restructuring and re-organisation took place and today we have about six vibrant departments in the organization, I was able to get new, improved salary structure for the staff and all the outstanding promotions took place.
 How have you addressed the issue of poor funding?
Yes, we found out that over the years, the money available for training has been very low and we thought that there was the need to improve the level of funding. When I came, I started by soliciting for money from government. I drew up a plan and followed it up by going to the supervising ministry, the Education Trust Fund (ETF) and many other places and found out that I could not generate any revenue from my efforts.
So I decided to look inwards to see areas of generating revenue if we are to function properly as provided for in the law setting us up. I found out that in the so many countries I visited, they have similar laws but there is no reimbursement clause because they use all the money to train. But in our own case we reimburse 60 per cent to the industry and 40 per cent is left for us to pay our salaries and to do the training.
On assumption of office as the director general, I found out that there was a law establishing a fund and, in this law, there was provision for collection of some money to sustain the activities of the ITF. And when I came in, the level of fund generation was very low as I said earlier. Apart from the fact that the budget of the ITF was around N3.6 billion, the law stipulates that ITF should collect 1 per cent of firms and government agencies annual staff salary.
You know, ITF is sustained by contributions from the organized private sector. But, when they contribute this money, ITF does not keep all the money. We require them to train their own staff; so part of this training is done by them. When they train, in accordance with our new law, we refund 50 per cent of what we collected from them; so, we do not keep all the money. What is left is not enough to fund us, and to equip our centres, that is why of recent, you see that we have been making a lot of effort to collect revenue.
 Have you started collecting the money (one per cent), and what is the level of compliance?
Yes, we have started collecting the money but the money we have collected so far is not much. This is because we are just implementing the legislation and there are so many things in the amended act; if you look at section six of the law for instance.
The level of compliance is not high, but it has improved. For instance, the number of companies has improved from 5,000 to 20, 000. Our revenue has increased to about N18 billion now. Mind you, about 800,000 companies are registered with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC). So, you can imagine 20,000 companies out of about 867,000 companies.  If we can get hold of at least 300,000 companies, it will solve most of our problems. We still have a long way to go, but I know we will get there.

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