Nigeria’s sole administrator of education tax proceeds for educational institutions of higher learning in the country, the Tertiary Education Trust Fund (TETFund), has reaffirmed its readiness to partner with the Innovation Start Ups centre of excellence, otherwise known as Innov8 Hub, in Abuja for practical training and mentorship for Nigerian youth with a view to producing employable graduates.

The Executive Secretary (ES), TETFund, Arc. Sunday Echono disclosed this Tuesday when he paid a courtesy visit to the centre.

He said, “For TETFund, in our new paradigm, we will collaborate with you a great deal, and then try to get all our institutions to buy into this, so you can spread it across all our campuses.

“The idea is that the future graduates we will produce are not just those that will memorise scripts and pass examination, and when employers come looking for them, after taking them they still have to take them for training to acquire practical knowledge of skills, get acquainted with the equipment, and have direct interaction with what they would be doing in the work place. This bridges that gap.”

He said the partnership would provide the opportunity for TETFund to organise train-the-trainers programme “for some of our scholars to come down here. And even in a wider sense we will encourage them to scale down to the level of students at technical schools, those are the promising ones, to come and experience this, where they can conceive an idea and transform same into production within a short time frame.

“Once we can replicate this in our country, then we are on the path to greatness. That is the model the Chinese used, so also Singapore and Malaisyia. So we need more effort in this direction so that we can employ our unemployed youths”.

The ES who was of the view that with public-private-partnership (PPP) as being entered into with Innov8 Hub is the way to go if Nigeria must overcome the challenges currently facing the sector, adding that with the modern trend globally, practical knowledge acquisition is the only thing that can put Nigeria on the path to enduring prosperity.

“This is the future of education. You all realise that one of the challenges we face is producing graduates that can fit into the work place, graduates that can readily get employment or on their own become entrepreneurs and employers of labour,” he noted.

He said collaboration between our tertiary institutions, especially the universities and polytechnics, and the private sector is a welcome development as such would create the favourable atmosphere for innovation and invention to thrive.

He said an innovation hub is where “the ideas you have , you have to translate those ideas into production.”

Speaking further, the ES said everything possible would be done to fast-tract the process and modernise the training programmes here in Nigeria, to bring them in tune with the needs of the labour market, stressing the need for all hands to be on deck to ensure that Nigeria becomes the hub of practical knowledge acquisition within the ECOWAS sub-region and Africa as a whole.

“Africa must become competitive; we cannot be receivers of aides and centres of conflict, and so on. Ultimately, we have shown in different spheres, and our products, our scholars, when they go out there use to show it, that we have a lot to contribute to the body of knowledge out there; that we have a lot contribute to the global economy.

“Currently Africa is contributing less 0.5% to the global economy; that is unacceptable. If we play in this knowledge space, bcos right now it’s knowledge economy that is driving the world, and we have the comparative advantage, we can mould the character of our young people, give them this kind of opportunity so that they won’t be operating on the internet and commiting crime, but rather use that talent to do productive things, then Nigeria is on the right path.

Commending the Founder of Innov8 Hub, Chancellor Prof. Gregory Ibe, and his team for their selfless service to the nation and to humanity in general, Arc. Echono said, “And when you have people who commit themselves to this kind of course and are sacrificing so much, they have to be encouraged.”

Speaking earlier, Prof. Ibe who welcomed the ES and his entourage on the visit, urged TETFund to be allocating responsibilities to products from the centre or other institutions who have received the requisite training by challenging them, after they have been given the right equipment, to develop different things such as refrigerator, solar car, etc. depending on their area of specialisation so that can produce locally.

“What has happened is that we have trained in beneficiaries 4 technology driven polytechnics and universities, and most of them have finished; they have all gone, and the few that is left have been helping students to come up with new development ideas.

“Go to Kazaure you see them producing a lot of things; in Imo, solar panel, their solar panels in Umuagbon tilts; in the morning it tilts this way; in the evening, that way; it follows the direction of the sun. We thought them all those things.

“So we see that our people have the potentials but they cannot make production. And we want TETFund to do allocation. We’ve given you the equipment, we want you to produce on research and development, refrigerator, solar car, etc.; allocate them what the will do. The only thing is the equipment that you have to send to all of them. And the only group that doesn’t have that now is the new universities, but the old ones are fully equipped.

“They come with these ideas, professors are dying, they don’t know where to start. So TETFund can decide to say, ok, research for impact, bring all those ones in your centre of excellence, let all the professors now come, and lets show them how we can start from ground zero and make products, and bring international expert to buy your products,” Prof. Ibe said.

The founder and chancellor of Gregory University Uturu in Abia State also told his guest that he was consulting for the National Universities Commission (NUC) on medical simulation as a strategy to overcome the challenge of very limited space for aspiring medical students in Nigerian Universities.

“Carrying capacity is the greatest problem we have. Even the oldest universities are still on 200 per session, so I now did medical simulation for the whole country, and we moving to about 800 to 1,000 persons with the simulation,” he said.

According to him, many universities in the country are willing to key into the simulation programme.

“This is good so that we will not be going outside to train our medical students, rather we talk about how to increase capacity within,” he said.

After the brief interactive session, the ES was conducted round the facility to see first-hand some of the innovations and inventions of past enrollees, and he expressed satisfaction at the end of it all.

Innov8 Hub specialises in grooming its enrollees into innovators, inventors, researchers, entrepreneurs and the like through impartation of requisite practical skills.

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