Over the past years, the dearth of local artisans in the country’s construction sector has been a major issue as the skills gap continues to be filled by workers from neighbouring countries like Ghana, Togo and Benin Republic, among others.
In 2015, it was estimated that the country lost over 9bn to foreign artisans and tradesmen as the local built environment did not have enough manpower.
According to experts, more than 80 per cent of masons, carpenters, steel fabricators, plumbers, electrician, painters and tillers found on construction sites across the country are foreigners with some firms going as far as China to employ artisans.
However, following several calls on the government to bridge the skills gap, the Lagos State Government has inaugurated a training programme in conjunction with the Nigerian Institute of Building and other relevant professionals.
The initiative, which is known as the ‘Lagos State Master Craftsman Project’, involves the Lagos State Technical and Vocational Education Board, whose centres will be used for teaching the participants, while developers and contractors will take on the craftsmen for on-the-job training.
After the training, the craftsmen are expected to be attached to reputable construction companies or the housing projects of the state government.
The Commissioner for Housing, Prince Gbolahan Lawal, stated at the inauguration of the programme that 4,000 craftsmen would be targeted for training in the next four years, and they would be provided with basic tools afterwards.
Lawal noted that the Nigerian construction sector had become more dependent on foreigners to fill the skills gap as trained artisans aged and the younger ones were not sufficiently groomed to take over from them.
He said, “The situation has been compounded by the absence of a well-structured training and apprenticeship system for workmen.
“Lack of adequately trained artisans has been discovered to be a major contributor to the problems of housing delivery and this industry plays an important role in the economy.”
The commissioner said the programme would enhance employability, improve productivity and stem the influx of foreign artisans as well as craftsmen into the country.
A Professor of Building at the University of Lagos and Vice Chairman, Council of Registered Builders of Nigeria, Martin Dada, noted that some of the houses built several years ago by the older artisans were far better than the recently built ones, most of which are prone to collapse.
“We are looking forward to a time when Nigeria will begin to export skills in construction, beginning with this initiative,” he said.
The President, NIOB, Mr. Tijjani Shuaib, stated that the institute was fully prepared to train artisans and equip them with the necessary construction skills.
Shuaib, who was represented by the institute’s second vice president, Mr. Kunle Awobodu, at the inauguration of the programme, added that all artisans in the state and the country at large needed to improve on their knowledge.
The Chairman, Nigerian Institute of Quantity Surveyors, Lagos Chapter, Mrs. Adenike Ayanda, said the dearth of artisans was a major contributor to the increasing cases of building collapse in the country, with its attendant loss of lives and resources.
According to Ayanda, the collaboration between the government and the private sector is long overdue as a crucial aspect of growing the nation’s construction industry.
The Chief Executive Officer, First World Communities Limited, Big.-Gen. Olatunde Reis (retd), stated that the training should not be limited to the uneducated artisans alone as it would help to tackle unemployment even among the educated ones.