Hands-on Skills: Call for revitalising Kwara technical schools

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Joke Adeniyi-Jackson

My attention was recently drawn to the sorry state of Technical College Ilorin; a school that was commissioned sometime in 1981. An avid reader of my column by the name Kolawole Fatai sent a mail to my box, detailing the challenges confronting the institution. Again, few days ago a Non Governmental Organisation also raised alarm over the present deplorable infrastructural status of Government Technical College Patigi in Patigi local government of the Kwara state. This can be said to be a sad narrative at a time when the world is embracing technical education for technological development vis-a-vis economic growth.
So also, it is common knowledge that many graduates of tertiary institutions in the country have not been able to secure gainful employment owing to lack of necessary occupational skills to be self employed and to effectively function in the contemporary world of work.
Therefore, for technological advancement to be achieved, technical/vocational education, designed to bring vocational and technical training to students, cannot be overlooked.
There is no doubt that these skills can be provided through vocational education in technical schools.
Technical education is that aspect of education that involves the acquisition of techniques and application of the knowledge of the science for the improvement of human environment.
This therefore emphasise the need for vocational training for the youths.  The words of Confucius: ” I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand,” further butress the importance of hands-on skills to learning.
However, one must applaud the Kwara State government for the establisment of International Vocational, Training and Entrepreneurship College (IVTEC), Ajasse-Ipo. The college is equipped with modern equipment and tools for the five pioneering departments of the institution, which are Masonry and Carpentry, Automotive, Electrical and Electronics, Welding, as well as Heating, Ventilation and Air-Conditioning.
The mission of the school it is believed is to bridge the widening gap between the demand and supply for skilled manpower across various industries in the state and beyond. Incontrovertibly, IVTEC is expected to produce skilled artisans and entrepreneurs that will contribute to the development of the state and country in general, as students would acquire market relevant skills that will make them productive.
But, it is pertinent for the state government to revitalise existing technical colleges to complement IVTEC, at a time when demand for vocational training is high. This becomes expedient as there  is a shift from  academic-based education that harps on credentials to skill-based training which is about  applying  relevant skills in the real work environment.  It is gladdening that parents now, unlike in the past are more receptive to the idea of technical/vocational training for their children. This was because in years back emphasis was more on white collar jobs until it became obvious that it cannot drive the economy. The erroneous belief that vocational training is for never-do-wells or those who cannot afford quality education also undermined importance of vocational training in the past.
It is known fact that establishing vocational Institutions is very expensive, so the state must not allow the huge investment on existing technical colleges go down the drain. This can be achieved by retooling the schools since most of the facilities are rotting away. The lack of sufficient and relevant facilities will make it difficult to provide high-quality vocational education.  There should be well-equipped laboratories and workshops in the technical colleges. By providing these facilities, the creativity skills of the students will be enhanced. Another area the state government must look at is staffing. Qualified teachers must be deployed to the teachnical schools for effective teaching and learning. Then, government must ensure retraining of the teachers for them to expand their knowledge.
Just as done in the case of IVTEC, the state government can facilitate affiliation of the technical schools with similar institutes overseas, as this will allow for diffusion of ideas and improve technology transfer, among other gains.
Nevertheless, given the inherent benefits of vocational education, one would suggest that the training must start from primary school. Government must ensure that skill acquistion training is included in school’s curriculum at all levels. It is not too early to teach young children vocational skills.Likewise, it is important for the undergraduates and graduates to have skills in innovation in technology education to be able to fit into global market place.
Like earlier stated, technical education will give students the opportunity to learn life skills that will help them in the future. It will also breed in them creative and innovative ideas. In the long run, this will impact on the economy and ensure personal financial freedom. Hence, the need for Kwara government to pay premium attention to vocational education by reviving technical colleges in the state.

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