ADVISORY

Skills Gap Decelerating Indigenous Telecommunications Development

PIAFo Convener
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By Kingsley I. Ilechukwu, Bureau Chief, South West

With emerging technologies such as 5G and fibre connectivity onboarding more users and making the internet speedier than ever, telecommunications is at an exciting stage of development but these also increase pressure on the sector. The human resources with the right skills set required to drive the digital evolution process is inadequate, and that is why today, we have the issue of skills gap to contend with. Skills gap refers to the disparity between the skills a company or industry requires and expects its employees to have for a specific role and the actual skills they possess.  Today, skill gap has become a major challenge in the Nigerian telecoms sector.  Nigeria is not alone, the challenge is global. Similarly, skill gap poses challenges to virtually all other sectors, not telecoms alone.

Apt diagnosis. Right? These were the exact words spoken by Convener, Policy Implementation Assisted Forum(PIAFo) Omobayo Azeez  at the Second Edition Of Nigerian Telecommunications Indigenous Content Expo(NTICE) August 22, 2023, organised by telecommunications sector regulator, the Nigerian Communications Commission(NCC) in Lagos, south west Nigeria.

Mr. Azeez made a 12-slide powerpoint presentation captured in a five-part outline listing:

  • Introduction
  • Causes of Skills Gap
  • Facing the Future
  • Recommendations (Bridging the Skills Gap)
  • Conclusion

Indeed, the first paragraph of this narrative is a reflection of Azeez’s Introduction to his presentation titled:  Bridging Skills Gap to Accelerate the Indigenous Telecoms Sector Development.

Causes of the Skills Gap               

“Finding the solution begins with the complete understanding of the problem and its cause,” stated Azeez. According to him, some of the factors responsible for the prevailing skills and capacity gaps in the ICT  and Telecoms sector include, but are not limited to the followings:

*Defective educational system

*Inadequate training programmes

*Poor remuneration

*Government Policies

*Japa Syndrome

*Local and Global high demand for skilled workers

*Technological advancements

Azeez noted that there were disparities between curriculum vitae of prospective workers and their skills set leading to as it were, a situation where what was ordered was not delivered.  He stated that operators were willing to employ more hands, but sadly, prospective employees lacked the requisite knowledge and skills set, inspite and despite skills in demand namely in Networking skills, Bespoke software development, network security cloud computing structured cabling standard skills and radio access engineering, among others.

Solutions: Facing the future

As a prelude to unmasking the solutions, going forward, PIAFO’s Convener  identified three sets of  stakeholders (“change agents”) that are critical in changing the narrative of the skills gulf currently plaguing the ICT ecosystem development as follow-private sector players, educational institutions and training & research institutes and the government: ministries, agencies and departments(MDAs).  Azeez would state a negative consequence of the persistent skills gap in telecoms foreign exchange(Forex) outflow  which stood at US$2.16billion, broken down as follow:

  • Capex programmes                   (US$750million)
  • Network software licensing     (US$250million)
  • Management  Fees -37%          (US$800million)
  • Managed Services                     (US$157million)
  • Others                                          (US$200million)

But, in all this, he would put the gift that Nigeria boasted at 60 per cent and justified this by stating: “60 per cent of Nigeria’s population is under the age of 25, making it the youngest country in Africa.”

Recommendations

  1. Skills-guaranteed educational system
  2. Constant internship programmes by operators
  3. Investments in personnel training to maximize talents
  4. Good remuneration and welfare package to retain talents
  5. Expatriate quota requirement and succession plan
  6. Inter-agency collaborations between and among: NCC,NOTAP, NITDA, CBN, et cetera.
  7. Public Private Partnerships(PPPs)
  8. Industry-academia collaborations.

Conclusion

In concluding, Azeez said: “It would be gross injustice not to acknowledge young Nigerians for their ingenuity, skills and entrepreneurial spirit, but the skills gap in the ICT and the telecoms sector must be jointly tackled before it escalates from an operating threat to an existential one. Therefore, we should commit to grooming and retaining talents to secure the digital future of the country.”

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