The Nigerian Institute of Builders (NIOB), developers and other stakeholders, last week, flagged-off a project, known as “Master Craftsman” Initiative.
Specifically, the project, which was conceived by the Lagos state Ministry for Housing is meant to train and develop artisans plying their trade in the state. Under the programme, a craftsman will be trained and attached to a reputable building construction company or assigned to the numerous housing projects of the state government for a specified period to undertake skill capacity building, acquire work ethics and discipline.
Each batch of craftsmen is to be trained for six weeks, subjected to appropriate examinations and eventually registered as a Master Craftsman if successful.
Government is expected to provide basic tools and equipment to the trainees with a total of 4,000 craftsmen targeted over a period of four years, while a database of all certified craftsmen will be maintained by the government. The database will identify and categorize trained craftsmen from this programme with a unique identification number that will be verifiable online from anywhere in the world.
Speaking at the event at the weekend, the Commissioner for Housing, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, said the initiative became imperative in view of the embarrassing situation Nigeria’s construction industry found itself.
Lawal, who lamented the continuous reliance on foreign craftsmen to carry out construction activities, in the country, said the project was intended to expose the craftsmen and artisans in the building construction industry to the training needed to offer suitable services”.
He noted that the dearth of skilled workers made up of masons, carpenters, steel fabricators, plumbers, electricians, painters, joiners, tillers and the likes has now been discovered as a major contributor to the challenges of housing delivery.
He said: “Apparently, the Nigerian housing and construction industry is becoming more and more dependent on foreigners to fill the skill gap created as our trained artisans gradually age out and not sufficient new ones are being trained to replace them. The situation has been compounded by the absence of a well-structured training and apprenticeship system for workmen.
“Therefore, Lagos State Ministry of Housing, as the organ of government performing the major regulatory role in the housing sector has come to the conclusion that State intervention is required to create a platform through which artisans and workers in the building industry could be trained and retrained to acquire necessary skills and certified before being permitted to work.”
“It is envisaged that on the long run they will also provide the required skills not only for government projects, but for the construction industry in general.
“This project is intended to enhance employability, improve productivity and stem the influx of foreign artisans as well as craftsmen into the country. The training is also in line with the government agenda of inclusive growth, while availability of highly skilled workforce will enhance the competitiveness of Lagos State as a destination for local and foreign investments”, said Dipe, noting that nature abhors vacuum and that anywhere there is a gap, it must be filled.
To fill this gap, he said developers resorted to importing artisans from the neighbouring countries of Benin Republic, Togo, Ghana and so on, noting that it is a general belief in the industry today that if one want good quality work done particularly when it comes to finishes, these foreigners are the ones to patronise.
“We have them in large number as bricklayers, tillers, painters, pop workers, among others, but this is a dangerous trend that we must not allow to continue. Firstly, it is not good for our economic development both as a nation and as individuals who engage in these trades. The sector is too important be left in the hands of foreigners while many of our youths are jobless.
“Secondly, it is also not good for our security as the influx of foreign artisans not only exposes us unduly but the army of employed youths being built in the process is as rightly described by some as a time bomb wanting to explode”.
One of the representatives of the artisans, Mr. Shefiu Adeyemi, said the move was a welcome development, capable of not only helping the craftsmen but also to boost their personal income. “We are very happy and we will exploit the opportunity to the greatest advantage. It is a welcome development”.