Skills acquisition and generation of employment have remained a constant factor in Nigerian Government policy. The National Youth Employment and Skill Acquisition Programme was initiated by Government to promote self-dependence and self-reliance in the generation of gainful self-employment. The following study was designed to evaluate the effectiveness of the programme. Data were gathered by a questionnaire, 200 beneficiaries and 80 trainers being interviewed. The authors, both of whom are employed in the Faculty of Education, University of Benin in Nigeria, present and discuss the results.
The lack of acquisition of vocational skills on the part of individuals has been considered the bane of the economy of many African societies, particularly Nigeria. This is so because, in Nigeria for instance, the educational system operated at post-independence placed emphasis on academic excellence rather than acquisition of vocational skills which prepare the individual for a more useful and fulfilling life within the society. In other words, the system focused on and emphased subjects in the humanities or arts at the expense of vocational which can facilitate practical skills acquisition that is generally believed to be more relevant to the development of the nation. The system for so many years was carried on entirely like that without any conscious or deliberate effort to adapt it to the cultural, social and ethical values of our society. It is now a well-known fact that the system failed to achieve the desired objectives that were expected from the education of this country. Since education is considered the most effective means of bringing about total change that would ensure accelerated economic growth and national development for the country, there was a need to tailor the educational system to suit the local existential situation of Nigerians. This need culminated in the new national policy on education promulgated in 1977 and revised recently in 1998.
A fundamental change brought about by the new national policy on education was the recognition and introduction of vocational courses in the educational curriculum. The policy therefore marked a deliberate shift in emphasis from literary to science-oriented education and training. The policy was considered laudable because it was capable of promoting the appropriate skills at various levels of our educational system and thus promoting individual and national efficiency. It was also hoped that the system would help check the high rate of unemployment and bring about economic and social revolution in the country by producing self-reliant citizens if carefully pursued and implemented to the letter.
Unfortunately, the Nigerian experience fell short of what was expected. The problem then was over-production of persons with little or no relevant vocational ability. The education and training of people in the country remained lopsided. The adverse consequence was that the unemployment rate assumed an alarming proportion. In its frantic effort to seek a way out of the problem, the Federal Government constituted a committee known as the Chukwuma Committee on the 26th of March 1986 to consider appropriate strategies for dealing with the mass unemployment problem in the country under the aegis of the Ministry of Employment Labour and Productivity. The report of the committee led to the institution of the National Directorate of Employment on November 1986, which in turn instituted the National Employment and Vocational Skill Training and Development Programme. The scheme was specifically designed to promote acquisition of vocational skills and facilitate the spirit of creativity, self-reliance and independence. It sought to inculcate in the beneficiaries the knowledge of vocational skills in order to promote gainful self-employment. To date vocational skills training and acquisition have continued to receive greater attention. Many centres today have been established.
The programme has continued to gather momentum in view of the expressed desire and need to provide Nigerians with vocational skills that would make them self-reliant and able to cope with the technologically fast changing world. In the last two decades the skills training and development programme has blossomed, and emphatically unbridled enthusiasm has continued to accompany its development and operation.
In spite of this, it is not quite certain whether the programme has adequately promoted the skills desired for the Nigerian populace. There are strong indications or evidence to suggest that the problem of appropriate skills acquisition by the Nigerian populace, particularly youth, has remained intractable. Besides, skills training and development require facilities and resources, which must be made available in the appropriate quantity in order to ensure success. It would also appear that there are certain inherent problems within the operational framework or implementation of the programme. In the circumstances therefore, it was necessary to conduct a study to appraise the state of the art of the programme in terms of its operation. Objectively the problem of this study was: has the national youth employment and vocational skills acquisition programme been effective?
Based on the focus of the study, the following research questions were formulated.
1. How do the trainees and trainers rate the state of facilities available for the implementation of the programme?
2. Is there any significant difference in the perceptions of the trainees and trainers on the adequacy of the duration of the time allowed for training in the programme?
3. Are the young people adequately motivated for the programme? In addition the following hypothesis was also tested.
H0: The overall rating by trainers and trainees on the adequacy of the facilities for the implementation of the programme will not be significantly less than an obtainable mean of 40.
The ex-post facto research design was employed for the study. This design was employed because the researchers were not involved in the manipulation of any of the independent variables. The population for this study comprised trainees and master trainers of the vocational skills training programme in Midwestern states of Nigeria. The master trainers are those who provide vocational training for participants at the various designated centres scattered all over the states.
The sample consisted of two hundred and eighty (280) respondents made up of two hundred (200) trainees and eighty (80) master trainers randomly selected from twenty training centres in Midwestern states of Nigeria using a simple random sampling technique.
The questionnaire was designed to gather information on the facilities available, the objectives of the programme, training needs, duration of training and overall perception of its operation. The respondents were expected to react to the questionnaire by either agreeing or disagreeing with the items where appropriate as well as rating some of the items in order of importance, with 4 as the most important and I as the least important. Copies of the questionnaire were administered during the researchers’ visit to the sampled centres. The two sets of questionnaire, namely Master Trainers Assessment Questionnaire (MTAQ) and Trainees Assessment Questionnaire (TAQ) were made up of 60 items each. The content validity of the instruments was determined by some of the researchers’ colleagues at the Faculty of Education, University of Benin. A reliability coefficient of 0.62 was obtained. The data collected were analysed using frequency count, percentages, rank order, correlation statistics and t-test.
Table 1: Rating of facilities by trainees and trainers
The data in Table 1 indicate that a total of 140 (70%) trainees out of the 200 used for the evaluation stated that the facilities were inadequate. On the other hand, 75 (93.75%) master trainers indicated that the available facilities were inadequate. 60 or 30% of trainees were of the opinion that the facilities were adequate whereas only 5 or 6.25% of master trainers said the facilities were adequate. It is therefore obvious that the facilities were inadequate.
Table 2: The mean rank order of the view of the programme objectives as perceived by the trainees and master trainers
|S/N||Programme objectives||Trainees´ mean response||Rank||Trainers´ mean Rank||Rank||AV|
|1.||Enable youth to acquire vocational skills that would promote gainful self-employment||19.25||1||7.25||2||13.25||1st|
|2.||Make Trainees self-reliant||18.75||3.5||7.50||1||13.13||2nd|
|3.||Raise trainees´ general standard of living||19.00||2||5.75||4||12.38||4th|
|4.||Help the trainees cope with technological changes||18.50||5||5.25||5||11.88||5th|
|5.||Enable trainees to become productive and useful citizens||18.75||3.5||6.25||3||12.50||3rd|
The responses analyzed in Table 2 showed that the most important objective of the programme as perceived by the trainees and master trainers was to enable the trainees or participants to acquire vocational skills that would make them gainfully self-employed as a means of ensuring or promoting self-reliance and making them more productive and useful citizens. The marginal objectives of the programme were to raise the general standard of living of the participants or beneficiaries, and to help them also to cope with technological changes. These ranked as 4th and 5th respectively.
Table 3: t-test differences in the perception of trainees and trainers on adequacy of the duration of time allowed for training
|Cal. Value||Table value|
Significant at P<0.05
From the result presented in Table 3, it could be seen that the calculated t-value is 40.32, which is greater than the table or critical value of 2.02 at .05 alpha level of significance. The null hypothesis tested was rejected. It was thus concluded that the trainees and master trainers differed in their perception on the adequacy of the duration of time allowed for training and acquisition of the desired skills in the programme.
It was also found that the youths for whom the programme was originally planned were not adequately motivated for the programme (see Table 4 below).
The data presented in Table 4 revealed that 20 of those interviewed indicated that youth were adequately motivated for the programme. This represents 10 percent. On the other hand 180 or 90 percent of them stated that youth were not motivated for the programme. This shows that the young people for whom the programme was designed were not adequately motivated for the programme.
Table 4: Data on the level of youth motivation for the programme
The overall rating of the adequacy of the facilities available was found not to be significantly less than an obtainable mean of 40. This implies that the facilities were considered adequate for promoting the skills desired. This is shown in Table 5 below:
Table 5: t-test of significant difference of the overall rating on the adequacy of facilities for the programme
|Adequacy of facilities resources||34||40||4.67||12.0||1.499||N.S|
* N.S = Not significant at 0.05
The result as shown in the table above reveals that the calculated t is 1.499, which is less than the critical or table value of 2.101 at 0.05 alpha level. The null hypothesis tested was then accepted. The overall rating of the adequacy of the facilities available was not significantly less than an obtainable mean of 40.
The results obtained from the analysis indicate that the most important and strongest objectives of the vocational skills acquisition training programme are to enable the participants or trainees to acquire vocational skills that would make them self-reliant as well as become more productive and useful citizens in the country. They ranked first and second respectively in the ranking order. Raising the general standard of living and helping the beneficiaries cope with technological changes were also identified as major objectives of the programme.
Besides, significant difference or variation was observed in the opinion of the trainees and trainers on the training needs of the programme. The variations in their opinion or views can be explained by the fact that while the trainers see the needs for the training programme from the point of view of the prevailing circumstances, the trainees are more likely to see the training needs for the programme from the perspective of what motivated them to enlist in the programme or the compelling force for supporting the programme.
However, it was interesting to note that the available facilities were rated as adequate. This is likely to enhance programme performance and enhance the attitude of the trainees towards the programme. This probably explains the enthusiasm of the young people and the unemployed for the programme at inception. The duration of training was also considered worthwhile or adequate. This means that the people agreed that the three years maximum training period was sufficient for the participants to acquire the desired skills. Even then the trainees and trainers differed on this. This is attributable to the fact that trainees are likely to express the desire not to stay too long on programme so that they can leave on time and be on their own, whereas the trainers may desire a longer period to enable the trainees adequately to master the skills and knowledge meant to be learnt. Unfortunately and unexpectedly too, the young people for whom the programme is meant were found not to be adequately motivated for the programme. This situation probably explains the dwindling interest being shown by this target audience in the programme in recent time. The programme, laudable as it seems, has recently become less popular among youth.
There is no doubt that the programme is a laudable one and a welcome development in view of its anticipated benefits. It is capable of promoting vocational skills acquisition among the clientele and thereby ensuring gainful self-employment and creation of more em ployment opportunities for other members of the society. The success and effectiveness of the programme rest squarely on adequate funding and a high level of accountability on the part of the administrative staff charged with the responsibility of managing and coordinating the programme. The number of participants in the programme was small, which indicates a vacuum in policy implementation. In view of the foregoing the following recommendations are hereby proffered.
Most importantly, regular monitoring of the programme should be embarked upon. A high level of accountability should be encouraged to ensure judicious use of available scarce resources and also guarantee prudent management. In addition, regular evaluation should be made to provide immediate feedback, and sport areas will require modifications in order to continue to sustain the programme.
The pattern of administering the programme, particularly the disbursement of training funds to trainers, should be validated and reviewed on a continuous basis. Adequate provision of facilities and equipment should be maintained, and this should be coupled with increased funding of the programme.
Mental transformation (i.e. a kind of enlightenment drive) should be pursued vigorously to enable more people to participate and benefit from the programme. Young people should be adequately motivated and encouraged to enlist in the programme. This can be achieved by enlightening the people on the benefit derivable from the programme.
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