The Association of Food and Agro Processors (AFAP) have called on the Federal government through the Industrial Training Fund to as a matter of priority strengthen their partnership with sectorial bodies in the area of developing practical skills and manpower development among students in professional courses in order to prepare them well for both self and paid employment.
Duro Kuteyi, AFAP national president, made the appeal in an exclusive interview with businessday while unfolding the agenda of the body in the area of skill and manpower development among students.
According to him, the easiest way to address massive unemployment level in Nigeria is for students in our tertiary institutions to be well equipped with practical knowledge and necessary skill set that will make them employable when out of school as well as enable the courageous ones among them to embrace entrepreneurial initiatives that will make them self-employed and employers of labour.
He disclosed that at inception when AFAP came into being in 2018, they entered into partnership with tertiary institutions that offer Food Science and Technology with the aim of absorbing their students for internship training.
He stated that the initiative started in 2018 by experimenting first with University of Calabar and three years down the line, over six tertiary institutions have plugged into the scheme.
“When I became the President of the association in 2018, and from my experience as the MD of an indigenous manufacturing company, Spectra Industries, I realized that a lot of students in Food Science and technology were applying for internship space but there was a limit to the number of people my company could take at a time and this was leaving a lot of the applicants frustrated.
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“I therefore took up the initiative at the level of the association and we brought in the University of Calabar. Three years down the line, Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife, Federal University of Agriculture, Abeokuta and federal University of Technology Owerri have also come on board.
“Other tertiary institutions that have also embraced the scheme are Yaba School of technology and federal polytechnic Ilaro.”
He further disclosed that apart from the department of Food Science and Technology, they have further expanded the scheme to include other essential departments that complement a typical food processing and manufacturing company such as Marketing, Accounting and Engineering.
“Because of the roles that these supporting departments play in a company, we have expanded the scheme to include those in the Marketing department, Accounting students as well as engineering students who handle industrial machines,” Kuteyi revealed.
He further stated that in the past three years, thousands of students have so far taken advantage of the scheme.
Mercy Adelegan, a 400 level student of Food and Science technology at Obafemi Awolowo University, Ife who went through five month industrial training through the scheme at Spectra Industries, spoke with BusinessDay.
“This is the best thing that has happened to me since I gained admission. You know at school, most of the things we were taught are mere theories. But I have the opportunity to relate with the reality of manufacturing from start to finish in the last 5 months and I can say that what I have experienced in the last 5 months have practically prepared me for life after school,” she said.
She, however, regretted that in the five months she spent there, Supervisors from her department never showed up as that was supposed to be a requirement.
BusinessDay tried to find out from her department why there was no follow up on supervision of students on internship and a reliable source from the department who pleaded for anonymity said they could not carry out the supervision because the department could not find the trips.
For a creative scheme like this that is capable of redefining employment opportunities among young Nigerian graduates, this is where the Federal Government through the Industrial Training Fund must strengthen their relationship and partnership with such a sectorial body to enable them expand the scope of the initiative.
The Industrial training Fund (ITF) is a parastatal of the Federal Government of Nigeria under the Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment and it was established in 1971 to promote and encourage the acquisition of skills in industry or commerce with a view to generating a pool of indigenously trained manpower
sufficient to meet the needs of the economy.
A scheme such as this one initiated by AFAP falls under the mandate of ITF to support and nurture in order to address unemployment among Nigerian graduates.
In Nigeria, there are about 25 million unemployed graduates and the two most common reasons for such high unemployment among Nigerian graduates are lack of employability skills among fresh graduates and lack of emphasis laid on entrepreneurship in school curriculum.
A collaboration between tertiary institutions and sectorial bodies such as AFAP and supported by federal Agencies such as ITF will go a long way in addressing the skill gap.