28 November 2013, Abuja – With the Power Holding Company of Nigeria (PHCN) now defunct, and its workers paid their severance entitlements to make way for a smooth transition to a private sector-led electricity industry, the need to build a set of new indigenous workforce for the sector cannot be overemphasised.
Part of the agreement reached with the new investors was that before jobs in the sector could be given to foreigners, the investors must have made certain that such skills could not be found locally, after which they were to obtain a permit from the Nigeria Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) to source for such skills outside the country.
Consequently, as part of deliberate efforts to ensure that employment opportunities which would result from the sectors’ privatisation are taken up, as much as possible, by Nigerians, the federal government, through the National Power Training Institute of Nigeria (NAPTIN) has resuscitated the hitherto dormant structured training to fill the huge skill gap in the sector. To this end, government has released the sum of N50 billion to NAPTIN to boost its operations.
It is estimated that the power sector needs a minimum of 17,000 skilled workers to generate the projected 40,000MW by 2020 with about 8,000 skilled workers needed in the short term. The huge skills gap, according to the director- general of NAPTIN, Engr. Reuben Okeke, resulted as a consequence of the absence of structured employment and training in the sector since 1998. Okeke said since that time, there has been no structured recruitment exercise in the sector needless to talk about structured training, as workers were being engaged on casual basis.
Okeke had warned that by 2015, there would be no structurally trained engineer left in the sector as all those who benefited from such training would have retired, thus necessitating the urgent need to reposition NAPTIN to conduct the much needed specialised training. Speaking during the first graduation ceremony of NAPTIN Graduate Skills Development Programme (NGSDP) recently, the minister of power, Prof. Chinedu Nebo, while stressing the importance of capacity building in driving the Nigerian economy forward, regretted that Nigeria unfortunately at a time started moving backwards in the area of capacity development for the sector’s workers.
Nebo, who lauded the training programme, described it as a step in the right direction and added that no country could develop without a reservoir of skilled workers in the technical field. A total of 243 engineers, comprising 9 generation company trainees, 79 transmission company trainees and 72 distribution company trainees passed through NAPTIN’s pioneer training programme and were recently awarded their certificates.