By Mohammed Mohammed
In a bid to address skills gap, curb capital flight and shortage of skilled manpower out of the country, the National Agency for Science and Engineering Infrastructure (NASENI) on Monday commenced the training of over 100 youths in Nasarawa State, modern in methods of casting Plaster of Paris (POP).
Speaking during the opening ceremony of a five-day NASENI Skills Acquisition training and youth empowerment programme themed “Modern Methods of Casting Plaster of Paris (POP) and its applications in Nasarawa State” billed for November 14 to 18, in the state, the Executive Vice Chairman of NASENI, Prof. Mohammed Haruna, said the application of POP in Nigeria’s built environment – probably introduced by the Togolese who came for greener pastures in Nigeria – cost the nation dearly in terms of capital flight.
According to him, Nigerians depend on the expertise of these experts from neighbouring countries that specialise in casting and moulding PoP into beautiful, appealing designs for ceilings, pillars, exterior and interior decorations.
“The absence of appropriate tools and equipment for design, preparation, moulding and casting made POP labour-intensive, with attendant inconsistency or non-uniformity were such pattern would have added beauty and utility. The extra manpower needed in manual handling of the designs translates to extra expenses and time-wasting.
“The advancement in portable electric power tools and computer-aided design and mould-making is not only beneficial in terms of profitability but also in terms of beauty and safety. This advancement that the trainers will be exposed to will also benefit traditional bone-setting practitioners in accuracy, precision and optimal utilisation of material,” he said.
The NASENI boss posited that the programme – the first-phase of the north-central region skill development for young people in various trades – will ensure the acquisition of skills for jobs’ creation and self-employment.
Haruna, pointed out that the ongoing skill development training and youth empowerment programme of the agency across the country is aimed at introducing modern and technological ways of carrying out already existing occupations and trades, to make practitioners more efficient and enhance growth and sustainability.
He averred that the specific training selected for each state and location is based on training need analysis and feasibility.
He highlighted that a component workforce domiciled in Nasarawa State has huge employment opportunities, for contract services and businesses in Abuja, the fastest growing capital city in Africa.
Haruna added that this and similar training sessions will equip the youth to compete favourably with those coming from neighbouring countries.
In his keynote address, the Nasarawa State Governor, Engr. Abdullahi Sule, harped on the prospect of wealth creation in the POP vocation if the right expertise is developed, adding that this is a development that will not only bring youth empowerment but job satisfaction.
Represented by the Nasarawa State Commissioner for Science, Technology and Innovation, Prof. Umar Gurku, Sule said this hope sponsors the state’s continual partnership with NASENI and similar organisations to carry out skills acquisition training for youths in the state.
Sule maintained that his administration is keen on creating and enabling an environment for the artisans to thrive in the state, to facilitate professionalism and innovation.
Earlier in his remarks, the former deputy governor of Nasarawa State, Sen. Solomon Ewuga, lamented the dearth of vital artisanal development agencies and called this development “the bane of skills development for skilled workers in Nigeria”.
Ewuga, who is also a former Minister of State for the Federal Capital Territory (FCT), lauded the Haruna-led NASENI for the skills acquisition programme, saying it will help in easing off the high level of difficulty in the built industry by strengthening the skills of youths in the state.
He further urged the trainees to put their best into the training, stressing they should pay attention to what they will be getting from the training as no knowledge is a loss.
Earlier the vice chancellor, Nasarawa State University, Prof. Suleiman Mohammed congratulated the trainees for the opportunity. “It is, indeed, the training that will transform and give you the necessary skills and make you expert in the field of POP.
“It is an area that was rightly pointed out that we lack skilled manpower in this very vital sector of our society.
“Our hope and expectation are that at the end of the training you will become skilled, serve our society and the country will no longer have to go to Cotonou or Benin Republic to get people to come and do POP and other finishings in the country.
“We hope that you will not only acquire the skills but the values associated with artisans and this type of skilled work. These values will embolden honesty, commitment, integrity and transparency in the course of your work,” he said.
He commended the NASENI EVC for the transformation he has brought to NASENI by moving the agency from unknown to a household name in Nigeria. NASENI’s presence has been well established in all six geopolitical zones of the country.
In his goodwill message, chairman of the Keffi Local Government Area (LGA), Mr. Muhammad Baba Shehu, stated that the importance of the training cannot be overemphasized, seeing as it has the potential to spur economic growth, reduce poverty, create employment opportunities and ensure self-sufficiency among the teeming youths, bearing in mind that this will raise the economic well-being of youths and expose them to available opportunities they could not access before now, due to their lack of expertise.
“Let me, at this juncture, congratulate our teeming youths that are direct beneficiaries of the skills acquisition training and youth empowerment on modern methods of casting POP and its applications in Nasarawa State. [You must know] that to whom much is given, much is equally expected. Accordingly, I charge you to take advantage of this ample opportunity and key into the viable programmes,” he added.
Responding on behalf of the beneficiaries, Mr. Yusuf Audu, thanked the organisers and President Muhammadu Buhari for the honour, promising the beneficiaries will put the knowledge gained into good use.