By Chukwudumebi Norbert Atta
Unemployment remains one of the many challenges facing Nigeria today. It is affecting the many formal-educated, skilled, and non-skilled Nigerians. Besides poor government policies, corruption and the likes, the increasing population of Nigerians (estimated to be nearing 200m) has made unemployment commonplace today. We note too inadequate preparation of students in schools – which in some or more cases bother on corruption, makes them (graduates)’s employability a difficult task for employers of labour.
Given the above scenario, a revitalizing of vocational and technical education would no doubt be a great step in Nigeria in helping her lamentable situation of unemployment and consequent poverty, in Nigeria. Vocational and technical education would reduce considerably or even eradicate completely, address the ugly incidence of unemployment in the country, via increasing the employability of school graduates, and developing the minds of students towards the many available prospects in the country outside the almost non-existent blue and white-collar jobs, aiding the graduates to not be mere job-seekers but job-creators right after graduating. It would thus contribute to the economic and social development of Nigeria.
But before we proceed, we may need to answer the question: what does Vocational and Technical Education mean?
Understanding vocational education
What is vocational education all about? There is no single exhaustive definition for vocation education, instead different yet often related, definitions and descriptions abound on the subject. We would like to highlight a few of such (meanings) as it would help our discourse. Hence, vocational and technical education (VE) according to the Eurostart (2016) is the training in skills and teaching of knowledge related to a specific trade, occupation or vocation in which the student wishes to participate. It is an education or training program that has both knowledge (theoretical understanding) and practical skills that are designed for and typically leading to a particular job or type of job. or type of Job (OECD, 2009:107).
Because the two terms – vocational and technical – are often used interchangedly or as synonymous by some scholars, we would use vocational-technical education in this essay, to refer to that branch of education that and equips the people or the learner, to take up jobs including trades and skilled works (outside the clerical, office and professional jobs), and could take place at post-primary, post-secondary, further or higher education levels. According to the National Policy on Education (2004:29) technical and vocational education is used as a comprehensive term referring to those aspects of the educational process involving, in addition to general education, the study of technologies and related sciences and the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge relating to occupations in various sectors of economic and social life.
On the necessity of Vocational-Technical Education
The necessity of vocational education that encourages the interplay of education and skill-acquisition in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. Notably, the World Bank (2019) argues that it is a vital aspect of education today that would help today’s workers to compete in present day labour market that require added skills and technology to operate or navigate.
The skills requirements needed today in a developing country (like Nigeria) occasioned especially by advancement in the sciences and technology, the increasing rate of unemployment and the alleged and real unemployability status of many graduates of Nigerian Universities today, the spike in Nigeria’s population, etc., are some of the indices that makes interest in, and revival of, vocational or technical schools crucial. Overall, the requirement revisit and reinvigorate vocational education agrees with Kumar (2007) that education prepare students for jobs that do not exist yet, for using technologies that have yet to be invented, and for solving problems that nobody has yet thought of.
Given the imperative of vocational education to the good and future of Nigeria, one is wont to ask: what is the status of vocational education in Nigeria and what could be done about it? In response, we would highlight shortly, and briefly too, the broad conception and practice of vocational education in Nigeria.
The rise and dearth of vocational education
Undeniably, Nigeria has interest in vocational or technical education, as other countries. At least this much one learns from the countries education policy. In fact, the National Policy on Education (NPE 2004) captures Nigeria’s care for Vocational or technical education itemizing its goals and objectives, as follows:
Provision of technical knowledge and vocational skill necessary for agriculture, industrial, commercial and economic development.
To give an introduction to professional studies in engineering and other technologies.
To give room for young men and women to have an intelligent understanding of the increasing complexion of technology.
Training and impacting of necessary skills leading to the production of craft man, technicians and other skilled personnel who will be enterprising and self-reliant.
Provision of trained manpower in applied sciences, technology and commerce, particularly at subprofessional levels.
To provide people who apply scientific knowledge to the improvement and solution of environmental problems for the use and convenience of man.
restructuring the educational system at all levels to respond effectively to the challenges and managing the impact of the information age, and in particular the allocation of development fund to education at all levels.
What is obvious from the foregoing is that Nigeria, at least policy-wise, believes in the benefit and suitability of Vocational and Technical education, to the advancement of Nigeria and Nigerians. Hence, its National Policy on Education underscores the expected gains, and use of vocational and technical education to the development of the manpower and infrastructural need of the country.
In keeping with the tenets of its National Policy on Education, Nigeria had initially made efforts at embracing vocational and technical education, including opening of technical schools, encouragement and creating of vocational schools, including vocational and technical courses in post-secondary courses, and recently, a growing emphasis on entrepreneurship, among others. Nevertheless, vocational and technical education in Nigeria is subjected to untold neglects by the government and its agencies, and worse, now that we need more skilled hands to address the ugly incidence of unemployment and unemployability bedeviling Nigeria.
With reference to the apparent dearth of interest in vocational and technical education, one notes that at its root is a general disinterest in the area, by successive government. First of all, vocational and technical education has been made to look inferior, due more to inattention by government to skilled artisans and technicians, in place of emphasis on diplomas and degrees and quest for blue and white-collar jobs. The apparent inattention to vocational-technical education is seen in the utter or seeming neglect of formerly flourishing technical schools, including the conversion of some of them to regular secondary and degree-awarding universities, with little or no emphasis on skills acquisition.
Even in the post-secondary institutions, little or no emphasis is paid to the acquisition of requisite skills to help the students beyond the four walls of the schools, rather stress is laid on the theoretical knowledge. As a consequence of different factors, including especially the government’s attitude to Vocational-Technical education, most students view technical and vocational education as inferior, including some of them (and some parents too!) seeing vocational and technical education as meant for the never do wells (Nwachokor 2002). Unfortunately, the dire economic strait of the country has made unemployment rife, and not having skills for self-employment, most Nigerian graduates (of post-primary and post-secondary schools) walk around, unemployed, and in search of non-existent work; while available openings in the State and Federal workforce are alleged to be given, bought and sold along unaltruistic lines.
Addressing the lack and lapses in the VTE area of Nigeria’s education sector, especially inserting programs on it at the senior-secondary and tertiary or post-secondary levels, would bring about so much positive change. Such effort at given attention and improving the VTE aspect or part of education in Nigeria, should see the government invest more in training, hiring, retaining and retraining of teachers in that area of knowledge, in providing adequate facilities to fan into greater flame interests in VTE among Nigerians, continued and concerted efforts on the part of the government in funding vocational technical training schools, among other interventions, should be used, provided and devoted to such end.
The need for greater attention to vocational education is immense, including its utilitarian and pragmatic outcome, as encouraging vocational education whether as a work-integrated program or independent-from-normal-school program, would help create jobs, produce independent works, improve the economic status of individual Nigerians and the country at large. The prioritization of vocational education is thus supported by political, socio-cultural, and economic demands in Nigeria today. It behooves policy makers, in government and in the area of education, to highlight and implement greatly afresh the mandate of vocational technical education, as its results would be enormous for the country and its citizens.
-Nwoachokor, J.O (2002) Inhibiting Factors to Poverty Reduction Through Business Education. Business Education Journal, 3(5)
-Federal Republic of Nigeria (2004). National Policy on Education. Federal Government Press.
-World Bank World Development Report (2019), The Changing Nature of Work, International Bank of Reconstruction and Development/The World Bank, Washington, DC
-Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) (2009), Glossary of Terms Used in the International Survey of VET Systems
-European Union Commission, Education and training glossary, Education and training glossary (Online repository (Accessed in March 2021))
“Career and Technical Education” in edglossary.org., Retrieved 2021-03-03.