Senate holds public hearing on bill to Amend Industrial Training Fund Act

The Chairman, Senate Committee on Industries and the Senator representing Lagos East Senatorial District, Mukhail Adetokunbo Abiru, on Tuesday chaired the public hearing on a bill for an Act to amend the Industrial Training Fund Act and related Matters (SB. 608) at the Senate New Building, National Assembly Complex, Abuja.

Abiru, a former banker and seasoned administrator in his remarks, explained that the ITF Act needed to be amended to reflect the realities of today’s industrial and allied matters.

“The proposed Amendments are largely aimed at curing a number of significant inadequacies in the present Act; which amongst other things, has led to non-adherence to the requirements of proof of up-to-date contributions to the Fund, by persons and corporate organizations covered by the Act.

“The Amendments also seek to address the challenge of inadequate deterrence or punishments for forgery of the Funds Certificate of Compliance and other official documents and the absence of concise interpretation of some key words and phrases used in the Act,” he said.

According to him, “This Amendment is thus expected to strengthen the Industrial Training Fund’s capacity to administer, supervise and enforce the industrial training reforms of Government at this critical phase in our country’s political and socio-economic

Journey; providing the desired training, skills acquisition and vocational know-how that will create jobs and bring our teeming youths out of joblessness and poverty, has become not only an imperative but non-optional.”

The Committee Chairman, who acknowledged the feats ITF had recorded in developing a vast pool of human capital for the public and private sectors of the economy particularly through Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) with the aim of equipping Nigerians with requisite skills for employability and entrepreneurship, argued that digital skills are essential for survival in the fourth industrial revolution workplace and as such the Fund should make accommodation for such training.

He also said: “The world is evolving, and so too are the competencies required to work and thrive in it. According to the World Economic Forum’s 2020 ‘The Future of Jobs Report’, businesses expect 44 percent of the skills that employees need to perform effectively in their roles to start to change by 2025. Most employers globally plan to swiftly digitalise work processes in the near future, with a fair number intending to use digital tools to connect employees and bridge divides caused by COVID-19.

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“There is no doubt that the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) is central to this major shift in sought-after skills. Alongside several other key trends, the rapid rise of innovations like artificial intelligence (AI), robotics, 3D printing, the Internet of Things (IoT), and cloud computing is driving widespread change in the workplace. And in many ways, the COVID-19 pandemic has only accelerated this transformation. In just a matter of years, certain jobs may cease to exist, many roles will be redefined, and several new occupations will surface and become the norm.

“The question is: is Technical and Vocational Education Training (TVET) alone enough to address the employment crisis of the present and the future. Are we developing skill sets aligned with the trends of the emerging workforce and the jobs of the future? The answer is NO. It is for this reason that the Fund must also focus on the acquisition and development of digital skills.”

He also noted that “Technology has been changing the landscape of the workforce globally at a rapid pace. The World Bank Group’s (WBG) World Development Report from 2019, The Changing Nature of Work, explored how work is evolving as a result of technological advancements, including how these advancements are changing the skills that employers seek. The report shows that investing in human capital to develop new skills that are increasingly in demand in the labor market will be key.

“This is in line with the World Bank Group’s Human Capital Project, which emphasises the need for economies to invest in human capital particularly digital skills to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape for jobs and skills.

A simple targeted workforce transformation analysis will confirm all that I have proposed.

“Considering the current pace of digital transformation and for the future, it is key to develop such competencies now to lay the foundation for optimal performance in the wholly different world that we’re likely to face as from 2025.”

The Director General of ITF, Joseph Ari, explained that the bill was sponsored by the agency to address the challenges hindering ITF in optimising its operations and deliver on its core mandates and objectives.

Stakeholders at the public hearing urged the Senate to increase the one percent statutory contributions Nigerian companies remit to ITF for better efficiency. They also highlighted the need to review the curriculum of our educational institutions starting from primary schools. Other stakeholders like Nigeria Union of Teachers NUT, and Nigerian Local Content Board requested to be included on the board while the NUC complained of being sidelined in the representation on the board despite being alternate members. All the stakeholders supported the bill and called for the Senate to expedite action for the passage of the bill.

The President of the Senate, Ahmad Ibrahim Lawan was represented at the well-attended public hearing by the Senate Deputy Chief Whip, Aliyu Sabi Abdullahi (Niger North).

The Vice Chairman, Senate Committee on Industries, Frank Ibezim (Imo North), and other members of the committee; Senator Ibrahim Oloriegbe (Kwara Central) and Senator Chris Ekpenyong (Akwa Ibom North West) also attended.

Stakeholders at the public hearing also included, Joseph Ari, director-general, Industrial Training Fund, ITF; top officials from National Pension Commission (PENCOM), Nigeria’s Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA) Nigerian Labour Congress (NLC), Nigeria Union of Teachers (NUT), Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB).

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