Towards Resolving SIWES Payment Issues, Ensuring Seamless Operations

By Sir Joseph N. Ari (KSM)

The Students Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) remains one of the Industrial Training Fund’s most enduring contributions to human capacity development in Nigeria.

The  Scheme  emerged  in  1973  out  of  a  study  by  the Industrial  Training  Fund  (ITF),  which  indicated  a  gap between  knowledge  imparted  to  students  of  tertiary Institutions and obtainable practices in industries.

 Prior to its  commencement,  most  graduates,  especially  of Engineering,  Technical  and  allied  disciplines  from Nigerian  tertiary  institutions  were  perceived  to  lack Adequate  practical  skills  and  technical  knowledge Required for employment in industries as the theoretical knowledge taught in tertiary institutions was clearly not responsive  to  the  prevailing  needs  of  employers  of labour.

The primary objectives of the Scheme, which fully came on stream in 1974, was to provide an avenue for students in institutions of higher learning to acquire industrial skills and experience in their course of study, prepare them for the  industrial  work  situation  they  are  to  meet  after graduation,  and  expose  them  to  work  methods  and techniques  in  handling  equipment  and  machinery  that may not be available in their institutions.

Other  objectives  of  the  Scheme  included  to  make  the transition  to  the  world  of  work  easier  and  enhance students’  contacts  for  later  job  placement,  provide students with an opportunity to apply their knowledge in real  work  situations  thereby  bridging  the  gap  between theory  and  practice,  and  to  enlist  and  strengthen employers’ involvement in the entire educational process as  well  as  to  prepare  students  for  employment  after graduation.

Until 1978, the ITF was solely responsible for funding and managing the Scheme.  However,  soaring  operational costs  owing  largely  to  the  increasing  number  of participants  compelled  the  handover  of  the  Scheme  to the  Federal  Government,  which  then  handed  its management  to  the  National  Universities  Commission (NUC)  and  the  National  Board  for  Technical  Education (NBTE).

Due to some challenges, the management of the scheme was again reverted to the ITF, this time in liaison with the National  Universities  Commission  (NUC),  the  National Board  for  Technical  Education  (NBTE)  and  later  the National  Commission  for  Colleges  of  Education  (NCCE).

Funding was, however, to be the sole responsibility of the Federal Government. At  inception,  SIWES  had  784  students  of  accredited disciplines  from  11  participating  institutions,  which gradually  increased  as  the  Scheme  gained  more popularity and acceptance as it became a prerequisite for graduation.

In  addition,  a  combination  of  the Establishment  of  more  public  and  private  Universities, Polytechnics/Monotechnics  and  Colleges  of  Education; accreditation  of  disciplines  other  than  the  technical engineering  and  allied  courses  that  the  Scheme  was initially  intended  for,  and  the  increase  of  admission quotas  of  most  tertiary  institutions  by  the  Regulatory agencies ensured that participation in the Scheme soared astronomically.

Along with the increasing number of participants came other challenges. Whereas participants continued to rise unabated,  budgetary  appropriations  for  the  Scheme, especially  in  the  last  ten  years,  occasionally  did  not reflect  such  soaring  participation.

Rather  than  a commensurate  increase  in  budgetary  allocations  to accommodate the increasing numbers, appropriations for some years fell short of what was required to completely offset  students/supervisory  allowances.

Occasionally, even these inadequate appropriations were frequently not fully released. Coupled with this, was the late release of budget allocations, which occasioned a situation where appropriations for a particular year were used to offset the allowances for previous years.

This inconsistent and delayed release of funds meant that participants were paid in arrears. But beyond this, the unique management arrangement of SIWES, which involves the ITF, the Supervisory agencies-the NUC, NBTE and the NCCE- and tertiary institutions, is fraught with its own difficulties.

This  complex Management  structure  has  ensured  that  any  failure  or tardiness  along  the  chain  severely  impacts  the management process, including payment of students and supervisors allowances.

For instance, before payments are made to participating Students, several laid down processes have to be followed.

First, the tertiary institutions have to compile and forward list of prospective students to the Supervisory agencies. The Agencies, in turn forward the list to the ITF for verification to ensure that among other things,  all  the  participants  are  from  SIWES  accredited disciplines,  confirm  that  the  names  on  the  list  are  not duplicated  and  ascertain  the  accuracy  of  the  account details.

This verification exercise is conducted by the Fund, in collaboration with tertiary institutions. Any failure or delay at any stage of this process negatively impacts the Scheme especially the payment of allowances.

ITF’s Model Skills Training Center, Abuja

It is also noteworthy that even where all the processes have been  followed  and  despite  all  efforts  at  enlightening prospective  participants,  some  students  still  submit account  details  of  parents  and  other  relatives  thereby further complicating the payment process.

Despite efforts at  awareness  by  the  ITF  through  orientation  seminars before  students  proceed  to  their  places  of  attachment and other stakeholders’ inputs, this problem still persists.

Another challenge is the misconceived notion by students of tertiary institutions that any student on any form of attachment is entitled to payment under SIWES. It will be recalled that when the Scheme commenced, it was restricted to particular disciplines.

Though the number of accredited  courses  and  disciplines  have  increased  over the  years,  most  students  are  unaware  that  not  all disciplines are accredited under the Scheme.

Any student on attachment outside of accredited disciplines is therefore, not entitled to the stipend. Complaints of non-payment of allowances have mostly come from this group.

 Other challenges include irregularities in the calendar of tertiary  institutions  which  has  resulted  into  a  situation where participants are unable to fully  complete the six-month  period  expected  of  students  of  universities  and four  months  for  those  of  Polytechnics  and  Colleges  of Education,  late  submission  or  failure  to  submit  master and placement lists of students going on attachment to supervisory  agencies  for  approval  and  subsequent verification  by  the  ITF,  lukewarm  attitude  of  some students  to  participation  in  the  Scheme,  rejection  of students  by  some  employers  of  labour  and  improper placement of students in line with their course of study amongst others.

In  the  face  of  these  challenges,  the  ITF  has  strived  to meet all its commitments in the Scheme, particularly with payments  of  students  and  supervisors  allowances, especially  under  the  leadership  of  the  incumbent Director-General, Sir Joseph N. Ari.

Records between 2012 and  2018  indicate  that  a  total  of  N11,734,560,723.00 was paid as students and supervisory allowances of 2,122institutions.

Of the figure paid, N4, 177,177,232 was paid-by the current Management. Apart from the payments, the ITF has expanded avenues and platforms for greater interaction with stakeholders. For example, the SIWES Conference, which is an avenue for  all  stakeholders  to  brainstorm  on  the  Scheme,  and which  has  over  the  years  generated  remarkable recommendations towards the effective management of the Scheme, are held more frequently.

Furthermore, to ensure that employers of labour accept Students  on  attachment,  the  Fund  has  included acceptance of students as one of the pre-conditions for payment  of  reimbursement  to  contributing  employers. This has greatly improved acceptance of students on SIWES by employers of labour.

Despite the Fund’s efforts, there is a greater need for all stakeholders  to  chip  in  their  bit  for  SIWES  to  function seamlessly  given  the  multifarious  challenges  that currently  assail  the  Scheme.  From  the  Federal Government,  the  Supervisory  agencies,  tertiary institutions  to  the  students,  every  stakeholder  should show  greater  responsibility  and  play  their  roles.

The Federal Government, for instance, should ensure full and timely release of funds allocated to the Scheme.  The tertiary institutions and the students should on the other hand ensure prompt submission of master and placement lists of students and the provision of accurate personal bank details respectively, as cases of account names not corresponding with students’ names lead to non-payment of allowances.

In  addition,  tertiary  institutions  should  ensure  regular Calendar to enable their students spend the required six-months of the training for Universities and four months for Polytechnics, Monotechnics and Colleges of Education, while employers  of labour should  also show  a sense of patriotism by accepting students on attachment.8

It should be noted that when all stakeholders play their roles, the Scheme will continue to serve as a veritable vehicle for the provision of practical experience for students of our tertiary institutions.

Sir Joseph N. Ari (KSM) is the Director General/Chief Executive of the Industrial Training Fund (ITF)

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