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SUPA: The new frontier for shared prosperity

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By Temitope Ajayi

With the increasing demand for blue collar workers in Europe, North America and Asia, the Federal Government, through the Industrial Training Fund, is now working to up the skills of artisans in Nigeria which, in turn, would boost the nation’s economy through skilled manpower and labour export.

Of recent, Denmark, Germany, UAE, Estonia, the United Kingdom, Ireland and many other countries are introducing various Visa categories to attract artisans from Africa.

To boost the pool of local artisans with proficiency in in-demand skills, President Bola Tinubu has mandated the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) to retrain and ensure 20 million artisans in Nigeria are properly certified over the next five years, so they can become competitive and be able to take full advantage of job openings locally and abroad.

The President also directed that the ugly trend of artisans from China, Philippines and neighbouring West African countries taking up jobs meant for artisans in Nigeria should be reversed.

In the last decade, many oil service companies and IOCs operating in Nigeria have struggled to get welders, plumbers, electricians, etc to work on their projects.

More disheartening, is that builders and construction firms in Nigeria have resulted in bringing in bricklayers, tilers, carpenters from Benin Republic, Mali, Togo, Ivory Coast to deliver on major projects.

As part of the Renewed Hope Agenda for inclusive and shared prosperity, a national framework, Skill-Up Artisans (SUPA) programme, has been designed to pivot a paradigm shift in technical know-how and service delivery for Nigerian artisans.

With the SUPA initiative, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Industry, Trade & Investment and the Industrial Training Fund now has a coordinated programme to standardise and licence artisans. SUPA will equally address outdated and skills deficiency in artisanal practice in the country.

Speaking on the importance of upskilling artisans for national development, Director General of ITF, Afiz Oluwatoyin, explained that the initiative is aimed at ensuring Nigerian artisans can compete globally.

“In the past, Nigerian artisans have been operating like illiterates and low-level people. When you go outside, you find out that artisans are well regarded contributors to economic growth. In some countries, artisans earn more than professors and other white-collar workers.

“In countries like the US and Europe, if you are not strong financially, you may not be able to pay them. They are well respected. When I came down here, I saw people from other countries taking up jobs. We don’t want quackery in Nigeria. We want standout artisans that can stand up anywhere in the world and measure. We want to upgrade Nigerian artisans to international standards,” the ITF DG said.

At the moment, the Nigerian government is collaborating with Abu Dhabi for the supply of 14,000 qualified artisans to work in the UAE. The overarching objective of the SUPA is to drive national development, ensure availability of skilled artisanal workforce for domestic industries and create a sustainable pipeline for labour export.

Ajayi is Senior Special Assistant to the President on Media and Publicity

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