The Director General of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), Joseph Ari, yesterday disclosed that a total sum of N965.22 million was paid to 79,852 students from 136 tertiary institutions across the country under the Student Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) between October and December 2016.
He also said 277 companies were paid in a total of N2.20 billion as training re-imbursement claims with the period.
Speaking at a media briefing in Abuja, Ari, who was appointed the ITF boss in September last year said as part of the ITF Reviewed Vision: Strategies for Mandate Actualisation, which he launched on assumption of office, the Batch A of the fifth phase of the National Industrial Skills Development Programme (NISDP), an offshoot of the Nigerian Enterprise Development Programme (NEDEP) had been completed.
He added that 10,100 youths had been graduated with employable skills under the scheme.
He said under the quick wins strategy (January-March 2017), the batch B of the fifth phase of NISDP, involving 9,500 youths from 18 states of the federation would commence in February while the sixth phase of 18,000 youths including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) would also begin with 250 youths from each state.
Ari said the fund was ready to provide dynamic and proactive services aimed at achieving its mandate in line of the present administration’s agenda.
As a result, he said the fund had also reviewed it’s vision and came up with policy and implementation strategies to enable it assume a leading role in human capital development to strengthen government policy on diversification and industrialisation.
He lamented a situation where empirical evidence from skills gap survey showed that despite soaring unemployment among youths in particular, existing vacancies are filled by expatriates because Nigerians lacked requisite skills to take up the appointments-adding that the fund would seek to reverse the trend.
He said the functions of the fund would be aligned with the federal government policy thrust on economic diversification and industrialisation.
Nevertheless, the ITF boss had said the all important SIWES project, which is expected to complement the theoretical aspect of classroom learning with real work situation in companies-was grossly underfunded.
He said: “It doesn’t speak well of our country, it doesn’t speak well of the system and it doesn’t speak well of our handling of the education of our children which to our minds at ITF is the key and licence to the world. Because with education, you prepare the life long experience and survival of individuals.”
He said: “So, we cannot handle this very sensitive scheme with levity and management in its wisdom felt that they’ll be need for us to have a regulators meeting. These are the challenges associated with this scheme- what are the ways forward?”
He added that ITF had often suffered image denting from those who do not appear to understand the nature of its funding and associated problems.
“Many people don’t understand; they say ITF has billions of its naira it’s not been paid, not knowing that the amount it gets for SIWES is not even adequate to handle,” he lamented.