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Bells University’s Skills Development Centre

Posted: May 13, 2015 at 12:50 am   /   by   /   comments (0)

Ayo Oyoze Baje, 0805 797 1776

When in 2010 both the World Bank and the International Labour Organisation (ILO) raised alarm over the escalating wave of youth unemployment in Nigeria, described as a time bomb, policy makers never thought it could worsen. But now it has. According to the Bureau for National Statistics, the unemployment scourge currently stands at a rate of 23.9 per cent. That is, comparable to what obtained in both Greece and Spain back in 2011 that sparked off mass protests across their countries. We cannot afford that scary scenario. Something urgent must be done to reverse the drift to anarchy.

That precisely is where the intervention measure called BELLSTECH Skills Development and Resource Centre (SDRC) comes in. But what is it all about? It is a pragmatic synergy between Nigeria’s premier private university of Technology at Ota and some progressive Nigerian industry icons. After series of brainstorming the proposal for training people (including undergraduates) to fill the yawning gap in the technical manpower sector in the country got the final nod from the Governing Board in September, 2014. The salutary aim of course, is to position the classroom out there in the industry. The situation shows how the academia should work with the industry to deliver quality service tailored to national needs. So, what lessons should we learn from this?

According to Professor Isaac Adeyemi, the highly resourceful Vice Chancellor, the initiative is a fulfillment of the promise the university made to the parents at the Convocation ceremony last year, to the effect that their children would graduate from the citadel of learning to be job creators instead of job seekers. For instance, the youths, in the age bracket of 15 to 34 years make up some 50 per cent of the national population of 176 million people. Besides, youth unemployment rate is conservatively put at 50 per cent! Amongst the causative factors are poor infrastructural facilities, lack of vibrant industries to absorb competent graduates and high dependence on importation. The critical issue which the SDRC stands to solve is the lack of appropriate skills to have our youths get employable.

That underscores the thorough thinking through the project involved right from the outset. The role of the industry partners includes the provision of access to the relevant training machines and equipment. These would complement the classroom instructions. At the end of each course, internationally recognized Certificates and Professional Diplomas would be issued to the successful trainees. Thereby, their confidence level would be bolstered to go into the field and express their technical expertise.

What indeed, makes one delighted at the solution-seeking programme to the national malaise of youth unemployment include the caliber of the brilliant minds behind it and the timing. With the erudite Emeritus Prof.Sikiru Sanni, the past President, Nigerian Academy of Engineering as the Chairman of SDFRC there is much to cheer about. A graduate of the University College, Ibadan, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, with B.Sc and M.Sc in Chemical Engineering(1964) and PHD from the University of Cambridge, England(1967),Sani brings his immense wealth of experience to bear as a Fellow of the Nigerian Chemical Engineers.

Also significant is having Engineer, Dr.Adeoye Ojo as the Director of SDRC. He has been actively involved in the education and training of middle to high level technical manpower for the offshore industry in Nigeria since 1962. Another catalyst for this viable platform is the Retired Rear Admiral Emeraku Ijioma. With 35 years of engineering accomplishments in the Nigerian Navy, Ijioma has extensive experience in superintending new ship construction, development of technical details for construction negotiation and project implementation. He is joined by another Marine Engineer in the person of Mr. Richard Owolabi who obtained a 1st Class Certificate of Competency in Marine Engineering in the United Kingdom and obtained his Masters Degree from the World Maritime University, Malmoe, Sweden.

Participants are therefore, guaranteed of having value for money and precious time spent to acquire Basic(4 months) or Advanced(6 months) Certificates in Automotive Mechatronics; Quality, Health and Safety of the Environment; Non-Destructive Testing Offshore Structures and Welding and Fabrication Techniques. Others include Naval Architectural Draftsmanship, Internal Ship and Port Security; Crane, Forklift and Heavy Lift Operation and Maintenance. Some other interesting courses available are Computer-aided Fashion Technology and Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) Skills.

Amongst some notable proposed industry associates are Society of Automotive Engineers (SAE), Phoenix Automobile Garage, Dort Technologies Ltd, Hull Engineering and Inspections Ltd. Others include: Bureau Veritas (Norway) Doret Technologies (Nig) Ltd, Indomarine Ltd, NIMASA, SGS(UK) and One Stop Celebration.

With the Vision to become the model industrial research centre for identifying those technical skills to match business strategies for the 21st Century Nigeria, one would admonish the National University Commission (NUC) to take a closer look at how to replicate this innovative idea to other universities across the country. There would of course, be the need to identify the most pressing challenges peculiar to the geographical location and find means to meeting them.

In its distilled essence therefore, the BELLSTECH SDRC has come to fill a great industrial need at a most auspicious time and it should be embraced. Soon, we would no longer be out there looking for skilled manpower in the increasingly relevant sub sectors of the economy such as marine engineering, the automotive industry and even Fashion design for mass production.

It is noteworthy, that Bells University of Technology, which got accreditation for 18 courses by the NUC in one fell sweep, only last year, has taken another giant step in the right direction. All hands must therefore, be on deck to sustain this beautiful dream to the habour of our collective hope..