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SUPA as new frontier for shared prosperity in Nigeria, by Temitope Ajayi

Dr. Doris Uzoka-Anite, Honourable Minister for Industry, Trade and Investment

*The overarching objective of the Skill-Up Artisans (SUPA) programme is to drive national development, ensure availability of skilled artisanal workforce for domestic industries and create a sustainable pipeline for labour export

Temitope Ajayi

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

Of recent, Denmark, Germany, UAE, Estonia, 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 Ahmed Tinubu has mandated the Industrial Training Fund to retrain and ensure 20million 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 the country have struggled to get welders, plumbers, electricians, etc., to work on their projects.

More disheartening is that builders and construction firms in Nigeria have resorted to bringing in bricklayers, tilers, carpenters from Benin Republic, Mali, Togo and 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 know-how and service delivery for the Nigerian artisans.

With SUPA initiative, the Federal Government through the Ministry of Industry, Trade and  Investment (ITI) and the Industrial Training Fund, now has a coordinated programme to standardise and license 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SUPA will equally address outdated and skills deficiency in artisanal practice in the country.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, Afiz Oluwatoyin, Director-General of ITF, explained that the initiative is aimed at ensuring Nigerian artisans can compete globally.

Oluwatoyin said: “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.”

The Director-General of ITF also stated: “In countries like 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.”

He equally noted: “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 standard.”

At the moment, the Nigerian Government is collaborating with Abu Dhabi for the supply of 14,000 qualified artisans to work in 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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