Nigeria is presently going through a period of economic recession and this has made the chances of securing white collar jobs all the more slimmer. There has never been a better time to reiterate the importance of vocational and technical education in our national history.
Most people wrongfully categorize vocational and technical education as one and the same. Though they are similar, they are in fact distinct. In order for us to get a clear picture, we will begin by clearly defining both concepts.
According to the Princeton University WordNet dictionary, vocational education is defined as “a training for a specific vocation in industry or agriculture or trade”. From the definition, vocational education can either be formal or informal, and can be in any field of human endeavour. It is mainly focused on the acquisition of manual skills.
Vocational education equips an individual with the skills and abilities to meet a meet a particular need, hence it is an almost certain route to self-employment that must be encouraged, considering the present realities facing Nigeria today.
The list of skills that can be acquired through vocational education cannot be exhaustive. Some of the skills include hair dressing and barbing, fashion design, automotive repairs (electrical, mechanical and body works), electrical repairs, plumbing, masonry, carpentry, welding, glass cutting, aluminum works, etc.
On the other hand, technical education is defined by Encyclopaedia Britannica as “the academic and vocational training of students for jobs involving applied science and modern technology”.
While the vocational education focuses on the acquisition of manual skills, technical education focuses more on the understanding and practical application of the basic principles of science and mathematics.
Technical education is designed to equip students with the real life skills to enable them to apply the theoretical knowledge that they have acquired in the real world. Technical education trains people to acquire skills in diverse skill set, which include engineering, computing, agriculture, health care, law, business administration, environmental sciences, project management, and a host of other areas.
A look at the definition of both vocational and technical education will quickly highlight the following differences;
Despite the differences between vocational and technical education, they also have some striking similarities.
Prior to 1992 in Nigeria, vocational examinations and proficiency tests were conducted by City & Guilds, Pitman’s, and Royal Society of Arts. All these institutions are based in the United Kingdom.
Presently, vocational education is regulated by the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB). This institution was established in 1992 to conduct and regulate craft level examinations in Nigeria. Its headquarters is at Ikpoba Hill in Benin City, Edo State.
NABTEB conducts both O’ Level and A’ Level examinations.
Some of the PROBLEMS FACING VOCATIONAL AND TECHNICAL EDUCATION IN NIGERIA include;
Nigerians have since imbibed the culture of showing respect only to those with white collar jobs in the society. Most craftsmen and artisans who practice vocations are usually seen as school drop outs or never do wells. This attitude has discouraged a lot of young people from venturing into vocations.
The generally accepted pay package for artisans and craftsmen in Nigeria is quite low. This also does not encourage young people to desire to venture in this field. For example, bricklayers are paid between ₦ 3000 and ₦ 5000 per day, depending on the location (which is between $ 7 and $ 12). This figure is about the amount their counterparts earn per hour in the developed world.
3. Inadequate Training Facilities
Most of our technical colleges, monotechnics, polytechnics, and universities lack the necessary training facilities to train people in vocational and technical education. This mostly affects those involved in technical education. Most tertiary institutions lack the skilled manpower and equipment to impart knowledge into their students.
For example, some Nigerian students in fields like computer science and electronic engineering go through university and never have the experience of writing a workable computer program. The inadequate facilities makes it almost impossible for students to gain knowledge and skill in even the most basic practical application of their course of study.
4.Inadequate Funding of Regulatory Agencies
The regulatory agencies such as NABTEB have gone to town on several occasions to complain about poor funding from the federal government .They have argued that insufficient funds is primarily responsible for them not carrying out their statutory responsibilities as they ought to.
5.Lack of Standards
In developed climes, government agencies are usually set up to standardize the services rendered by artisans, crafts men, technicians, technologists, engineers, and all other vocational and technical practitioners. They are usually given licenses, without which they cannot practice their trade. This ensures that a uniform standard is maintained across board.
6.Unhealthy Business Environment
Most businesses set up by those who have learnt some vocational and technical skills are often suffocated by the unhealthy business environment in Nigeria. Challenges such as unstable power, multiple taxation and unavailability of affordable credit adversely affect most small business.
For example if an individual sets up a hair dressing saloon, such person is faced with the challenge of providing power, water, paying taxes to local and state government agencies.
Despite the avalanche of problems facing vocational and technical education in Nigeria, there are still some prospects attached to it. Some of these are;
There has been a remarkable change in the way people see and regard vocational and technical education in Nigeria, due to the shortage of white collar jobs. A significant number of graduates are now happy to be trained as artisans and craftsmen. Graduates in fields such as medicine, law, engineering and accounting have picked up roles in fashion design, carpentry, shoemaking, masonry and other vocations.
2.Improvement in the Awareness about Regulatory Agencies
Significant amount of Nigerians are now aware of the agencies that regulate vocational and technical education. This has enabled them to become certified in their chosen technical field, such their level of skill and proficiency can be ascertained and guaranteed.
3.Improved Government Participation
The government has come to the realization that encouraging vocational and technical education is a sure and sustainable way to pull citizens out of poverty, hence delivering on the dividends of democracy. This renewed belief has been displayed through government interventions using agencies like NABTEB, Bank of Industry and other small and medium scale funds which develops entrepreneurial skills.
The importance of vocational and technical education to the development of Nigeria cannot be over emphasized. Governments and all levels, corporate bodies and individuals must begin to take it more seriously in order to create a more prosperous and economically viable Nigeria.