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Stakeholders in the education space have expressed concerns over the increasing inability of the labour market in Nigeria to absorb fresh graduates and have called on tertiary institutions in the country to concentrate on delivering quality education with marketable skills and not just on expanding enrolment figures.
They observed that with national education policies and priorities geared towards enrolment increases, commensurate efforts are not being made to expand facilities. Enrolment challenges might thus easily eclipse others that face most educational institutions graduates in Nigeria.
Those familiar with the subject matter in the education sector told BusinessDay that for the achievement of Sustainable Development Goal Four, the provision of an inclusive and quality education for all systems must improve upon the quality of education and ensure that graduates attain measurable learning outcomes, including the acquisition of skills required by the labour market.
They maintain that a paradigm shift from increasing pupils’ basic skills at primary school, to expanding access to secondary and higher education, in order to ensure the skills attainment required by the labour market must be prioritised.
Reports show that the over 176 universities approved by the National Universities Commission (NUC) are annually under intense pressure to produce employable graduates with a broader set of both hard and soft skills.
Industry experts however, have observed that university curricula especially public universities are rarely reviewed or changed to incorporate current labour market requirements, adding that the high unemployment rate among Nigerian graduates is attributed to a widening gap between university curricula and industry requirements.
Abimbola Olashore, chairman board of governors, Olashore international school, Osun State said it is quite unfortunate that many Nigeria still experience a disconnect between her institutions of higher learning and the skills industry wants.
He said that the country needs graduates who are flexible, not fixated with formal employment, and who will “selflessly serve community and contribute to positive transformation.
Analysts opine that Universities are important institutions in that they teach graduates skills to meet economic demands adding that the link between a university and labour market can be explained by a university’s core function, which is teaching, in order to: transmit and advance knowledge; generate new knowledge and train skilled manpower for society.
Duru Chinedu, managing consultant, Hamilton Lloyd and Associates said that there is a skills shortage among university graduates, with most employers indicating that expertise in verbal and written communication is an important factor in employability.
“Apart from academic qualifications, employers also require applicants to have analytical, investigative, entrepreneurial, managerial, teamwork, time management and computer skills”, he said.
Industry experts are of the views that in a highly competitive labour market, emphasis is often placed on skills that university students acquire during their studies, beyond cognitive knowledge and academic proficiency.
They therefore insist that growing concern about the need to assess the impact of students acquiring broader skills and raises serious questions about the standards and skills offered by universities to students, with growing incompatibility between theoretical learning and employer skill requirements.