Manpower development is at the core of industrialization which is a cardinal aspect of the present administration’s economic recovery agenda. The Director General/Chief Executive Officer, Industrial Training Fund, Sir Jeseph Ntung Ari in this exclusive interview outlines how the fund is equipping its trainees with the necessary skills for productive employment.
Our readers would like to know you, who is Sir Joseph Ari and what were you doing before your present appointment?
I have broad knowledge and professional experience in broadcast journalism, public service at state and federal levels spanning a period of three decades. My career trajectory started with the Plateau Broadcasting Corporation as Reporter/Presenter before my stint with the Federal Radio Corporation of Nigeria, Lagos as Newscaster. I latter moved to Nigeria Television Authority as a News Editor/Caster.
My service at the at the state level began as Director of Press and Public Affairs to two Governors of Plateau State before my appointment as Sole Administrator and later General Manager of Plateau Publishing Company, (PRC) Jos.
Thereafter, I was appointed the General Manager, Plateau Radio Television Corporation, (PRTVC). My service at the state level capped with my appointment as the permanent secretary in charge of government house administration, a position I held until I joined the federal service as the deputy director in the department of public relations, external affairs and publicity of industrial training fund.
I was at different times director of administration and human resources corporate planning, business training and development; also one – time chair of the fund’s training and research committee before my elevation as the director general of the organization.
I hold a postgraduate diploma in journalism, LLB and LLM in law and MBA in business administration. I am a member of Nigeria institute of management; advertising practitioner council of Nigeria (APCON); as well as a fellow of corporate institute of public relation, (NIPR).
What is the core mandate of ITF within the nation’s manpower development architecture?
The core mandate of fund as enshrined in its enabling decree No 47 of 1971 (now an act as amended to date) include the following: provide promote and encourage the acquisition of skills in industries and commerce with a view to generating a pool of indigenous trained manpower sufficient to meet the needs of the national economy; provide training for skills in management for technical and entrepreneurship development in the public and private sectors of the Nigerian economy and monitor adherence; evaluate and certify vocational skills acquired by apprentices, craftsmen and technicians in collaboration with relevant organization and administer the student industrial work experience scheme (IWES).
How far has ITF been able to deliver on its mandate?
The fund has been able to successfully actualize its mandate by training over 20 million Nigerians in the process since inception. To achieve these innovation strategies were put place in the form of quick wins, medium and long term
“…the fund embarked on advocacy and confidence building visit to several stake holders including, the media, the organized private sector and others critical of stakeholders.’’
goals under quick win for instance ITF have implemented strategies to boost jobs creation, reduction of poverty and wealth creation through agriculture service and construction sectors.
In line with these, the fund has initiated or expanded the following programmes: National industrial skills development programme (NISDP) womens skills empowerment programme (WOSEP), training on wheels, technical skills development programme (TSDP).
To all 80,000 Nigerians have been trained in one yea 25,000 of these were equipped with technical skills for employability and entrepreneurship and most have been supported with starter packs to start their businesses
The ITF enabling act envisages that it will collaborate with MD as and other private sectors organization at both federals state levels. how has your agency fared in managing these multiple partners and collaborators?
The ITF has entered into several collaborations with MDAs, private enterprises and even foreign concern aimed at accelerating the growth and development of the nation’s human resources. Notably among such collaboration include ITF/Nigeria employers consultative association ITF/dangote, ITF/nigerdock,etc. There is also the collaboration between ITF/Federal Ministry of Industrial Cluster Concept Curriculum Development for skills acquisition on the following trades: leather works, general carpentry, textiles and garment, metal work/welding and fabrication, agric/food processing and wood works/furniture making. The ITF/Shell/LNG is for internal capacity building for staff. Some of the foreign collaborations include the ITF/SENAI, Brazil which provided the assistance to establish a skills centre in Jos; ITF/Crown Agents for capacity building (local and overseas) for officers of ITF on effective skills development.
In a nutshell, the credible collaborations available have strengthened us in the discharge of our mandate. Above all, our parent ministry, Federal Ministry of Industry, Trade and Investment plays a very key role in the successes we have been according thus far. It has been a pillar of support to the ITF.
What have been the challenges faced by ITF over the year?
As a former Director I was aware of the problems on ground on assumption of duty. For me the need to review the vision of the fund in order to actualize the mandate was a major challenges. There is also the lack of confidence on the part of staff and stakeholders. I met on ground staff moral that was at its lowest ebb. The handling of Students’ Industrial Work Experience scheme (SIWES) almost tarnished the image of the fund as there was colossal amount of outstanding allowances. For this reason there was loss of confidence on the part of the public institutions on ITF’s capacity to handled and supervise the SIWES scheme. Furthermore, training contributors were not willing to remit their contributions as their reimbursement claims are not paid as when due. These have been some of the problems faced by the fund over the years.
How did you overcome them?
To address these problems the management constituted a committee that reviewed the vision of the fund and came up with a plan called ITF Reviewed Vision: Strategies for the actualization of the mandate’ This captured quick wins, medium and long term goals. For the seeming lack of confidence, the Fund embarked on advocacy and confidence building visits to several stakeholders including, the media, the organized private sector and other critical stakeholders.
On staff matters, their moral was boosted with the prioritization of their welfare as 2789 staff benefitted from staff development locally while 23 were sent overseas. Housing and vehicle loans were disbursed to the staff under my watch while promotion of exercise has been as at when due. The confidence in SIWES has been rekindled following the massive payment of N3billion Naira in 2016 and 2017 as students and supervisory allowances. 328 institutions of high learning across the federation benefitted from the payments. Federal confidence in the Fund has been regained, while training contributors are now more willing to remit their contributions as reimbursement claims are paid promptly.
Finally, how do you hope to reposition ITF for the future?
For the medium and long term goals, the Fund intends to aggressively tackle the issues of service challenges and infrastructural deficits impinging on the actualization of the Fund’s mandate. The Fund intends to establish ISTCs in a few more states of the federation and the FCT. It will also acquire more Mobile Training Units. Become a key enabler for all government initiatives as the relate to skills acquisition, job and wealth creation. Commence online training; fully automate business processes. Expand revenue streams by constructing multipurpose facilities in a few key cities.