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Building Skilled Human Capacity in Engineering for Sustainable National Development

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Title: Building Skilled Human Capacity in Engineering for Sustainable National Development


1
Building Skilled Human Capacity in Engineering
for Sustainable National Development
  • Professor Augustine C Odinma, Ph.D.
  • Nwojo N Agwu, Ph.D.
  • and
  • Ago K M Quaye, Ph.D.
  • School of IT Communications, American
    University of Nigeria, Yola

2
Introduction (i)
  • The continent of Africa is experiencing
    unprecedented growth in many markets. It is
    speculated that investors in the advanced nations
    are increasingly looking to emerging markets for
    growth 1. In a recent Vodafone Report 2,
    Africa is said to be the fastest-growing mobile
    market in the world during the past five years,
    with Nigerias mobile market growing at over 100
    percent per year. The oil and the telecom sectors
    are the two dominant revenue generating sectors
    impacting national development in Nigeria.

3
Introduction (ii)
  • The Nigerian telecom market has been doubling
    each year since 2003 from under one million lines
    to over fourteen million lines in 2006. On the
    other hand, during the same period the price of
    oil per barrel has more than doubled from less
    than 30 to over 80. It is predicted that these
    sectors would continue to generate increasing
    business returns for many years to come. Hence,
    it is expedient that human capacity be built to
    match anticipated demand.

4
Introduction (iii)
  • The ability of a country to achieve sustainable
    development depends largely on its human capacity
    3. Although the two key wealth- generating
    sectors require effective management to thrive,
    skilled human engineering resources are
    inevitably required to sustain the development.
    It is insufficient to build human engineering
    capacity, but to sustain development the
    engineers must be skilled. Skilled is
    emphasized because Nigeria is not necessarily
    short of engineers, but it is a fact that quality
    and skilled engineers are currently in short
    supply.

5
Introduction (iv)
  • Apart from attracting skilled engineers, it has
    been argued that effective management and
    retention of staff is inevitable. We train our
    managers through a long process taking many
    years, just to lose them in a flash, through
    negligence, cutting corners, indiscipline, greed,
    corruption, etc 4. It has been opined that
    retention can be enhanced through proper
    information with regards to expectations relating
    to employee job assignment, opportunities, pay
    increases and incentives 5. Maslow 6 in his
    hierarchy of needs gives different scenarios that
    would impact employee retention. There are those
    who believe that there are needs to focus career
    development in population needs and thereby
    create job satisfaction through career
    development 7.

6
Introduction (v)
  • No sustainable national development is possible
    without human capacity building 3. Thus, this
    paper focuses on the various factors that
    influence the building of human capacity
    essential for sustainable national development.
    It also takes a snapshot of barriers that inhibit
    skilled capacity building and constructs a human
    resources model for sustaining national
    development. The telecom sector is used as a case
    study to drive home the points.

7
FACTORS IMPACTING HUMAN CAPACITY
  • In this paper, we identify six factors that
    impact human capacity for national development.

8
Government (i)
  • The role of government in human capacity building
    cannot be overemphasized. Government can
    formulate policies that affect culture, research
    and development, and science and technology.
    Policies and appointments into engineering-based
    parastatals must be void of nepotism. If
    engineers are appointed based on who they know
    and family ties, most of those making critical
    decisions would be mediocres and one cannot
    expect optimal results from people who are not
    knowledgeable 11 in the position they occupy.
    That means one cannot expect a government agency
    manned by such individuals to provide sufficient
    leadership that will help sustain development.

9
Government (ii)
  • It took several disasters in the airline industry
    for the government to realize that the core
    business of the industry should be managed by
    professionals. The privatization of NITEL was
    almost mission impossible because of
    incompetence in the body of planners. Even the
    first output for the privatization of NITEL, the
    advertisement for expression of interest, was
    faulty because the meaning of telecom companies
    in the advertisement was in error 12. Moreover,
    for the same reason, the privatization plans
    lacked social agenda 13.

10
Government (iii)
  • Today, most of the GSM services are performing
    poorly because competent telecom individuals are
    left out of the decision-making process.
    Appointment of telecom staff and consultants in
    most of the government agencies are based on who
    you know rather than what you know. Telecom is a
    major technical profession and only trained and
    experienced professionals can make informed
    decisions in this field. The poor quality of
    telecom services cannot be corrected by
    incompetent appointees co-opted by friends or
    affiliates. Incompetent planners would only
    exacerbate an already bad situation because of
    lack of technical know-how.

11
Government (iv)
  • Apart from some dubious acts of some of the
    operators, the actions of various organs of
    government contribute to the poor services. The
    appointment of consultants for the House
    Committee on Communications, the Senate Committee
    on Communications and the appointment of
    consultant by NCC must of necessity be filled by
    telecom experts. The credentials of appointees
    must be verified and the individuals must be
    clearly identified to be a telecom architects,
    designers and/or planners who possess substantial
    experience in a good telecom environment. Proper
    oversight functions would be very useful in
    redeeming an ailing telecom situation. Clearly,
    symptoms of poor quality will be easily
    identified and checked if regulatory roles are
    assigned to experienced telecom professionals.

12
Government (v)
  • If we are desirous to change the telecom industry
    for good it may be important to check the
    appointments made in the past and make
    appropriate changes.
  • In 2006, a presidential committee on
    Telecommunications was formed. A cursory review
    of the credentials of members would reveal that
    majority of them are not telecom professionals.
    It is recommended that in the future composition
    of such committees be professionals, if positive
    results are expected.

13
Culture (i)
  • Culture has a tremendous influence on the
    development of a country. A culture that
    recognizes and rewards talent and industry
    promotes economic and social development.
    However, a culture that promotes nepotism and
    sycophancy entraps a nation in the quicksand of
    intellectual decay, political upheaval and
    economic doom. A cursory look at the list of the
    major economic powers of the world reveals one
    common trend a culture that creates an
    environment in which every person takes pride in
    what they do. In such cultures, everyone
    recognizes the fact that their talent complements
    others.

14
Culture (ii)
  • In order to sustain national development, it is
    imperative to change the work attitude of
    Nigerians. Most people believe they can go in and
    out of their offices as they please. Some engage
    in other complementary businesses contrary to
    their employment contract. Furthermore, some
    believe that public fund is a national cake
    that should be shared and government appointment
    is therefore an opportunity to partake in the
    sharing. Some older government staff, because of
    their orientation and protracted dubious ways, do
    not even believe that any other Nigerian is good
    enough to competently and successfully accomplish
    an engineering assignment. This mindset must
    change. The government and private sector must
    embark upon programs to change this way of
    thinking in order to abate the ominous spread of
    these dangerous ways of thinking that can only
    inhibit sustained national development.

15
Technology (i)
  • Technology and transfer of technology are an
    indispensable factor in sustaining national
    development. Information is power and the world
    is becoming a global village and for companies to
    thrive management information systems (IS) are
    inevitable. IS can be defined as an organized
    collection of people, hardware, software,
    communication networks and data resources that
    collects, transforms and disseminates information
    within and among organizations 8. IS will be an
    essential tool in meeting the various government
    initiatives ranging from NEEDS to 2020 economic
    initiatives. Yet, majority of the populace have
    not touched or do not know how to operate a
    computer.

16
Technology (ii)
  • Most of the transfer of technology activities
    occur in virtual reality and through long
    distance learning. Sadly, Nigeria lacks
    appropriate infrastructure to create an enabling
    environment to bridge the digital divide.
    Moreover, communication services are still very
    slow and poor in quality. Although there are now
    many operators, the teledensity is still very
    low. There is a need for government to make
    communication services a priority and also create
    an enabling environment that would bridge the
    digital divide faster.

17
Technology (iii)
  • Moreover, there is an urgent need to create
    conducive atmosphere for effectively removing
    communication bottlenecks. Odinma 9, 10 has
    suggested that the communication services in the
    country would continue to deteriorate unless
    necessary effort is made to address the lack of
    sufficient communication bandwidth in the
    country. He further suggested what the government
    and private sector must do to urgently address
    the bandwidth problems.

18
Human Retention (i)
  • Retention of engineers is another major area of
    concern. Many firms complain that they spend a
    lot of resources to train staff only to lose them
    to other companies. This complaint is misplaced
    for two reasons. First, work place training is
    not firmly entrenched in the system of
    governance, so most employers rather than feeling
    that they are investing in their business,
    erroneously feel that they did the trained staff
    a favour. This is because most employers do not
    see their employee as a valuable asset vital for
    their success.

19
Human Retention (ii)
  • Second, if an employee is treated very well, he
    will be difficult to be enticed. It is important
    to make employees feel as part owners of a
    business with appropriate incentives and
    remunerations. Engineers should get salaries
    commensurate with their profession. There is
    nothing wrong in giving engineers a special
    salary scale as in the medical profession after
    all, in many institutions of higher learning
    engineering students pay comparatively higher
    fees.

20
Human Retention (iii)
  • There is a brain in the country. Most of the
    competent engineers find it difficult to return
    to Nigeria because the atmosphere is not
    conducive to do so. The government must do what
    is necessary to attract competent Nigerian
    engineers living abroad to come back and support
    the national development initiative, which will
    obviously help the 2020 government initiative.

21
Research and Development (i)
  • Nigeria and most developing nations rely on RD
    performed abroad, without any concerted effort to
    reverse this trend. However, it has been said
    that domestic RD performance is an important
    indicator of a nation's innovative capacity and
    its prospects for future growth, productivity,
    and ST competitiveness. 14. In 2000, global
    Research and Development performance was
    estimated 14 to be 729 billion. Of this
    amount, the United States of America and Japan,
    the two largest economies, are said to have
    accounted for half of this total. Others are
    Germany (50.9 billion), China (48.9 billion),
    India (20 billion), and Brazil (13.6).

22
Research and Development (ii)
  • In fact, Chinas performance jumped to 72
    billion in 2002. The same report indicates that
    Research and Development funds by China and India
    are increasing at a faster rate than in other
    countries. This, of course, explains the rate at
    which their economies are growing. This also
    accounts for the growing skilled labor
    scientists, engineers, etc that these countries
    are turning out from their educational
    institutions each year. These large and buoyant
    economies are sustained by the human capacity in
    science and engineering that these countries have
    built over the years and continue to plan for and
    build.

23
Research and Development (iii)
  • For Nigeria to join the ranks of developed
    countries as speculated in its 2020 initiative,
    it is imperative that research be adequately
    funded and research results developed and
    transformed into useful products. Research
    activities, academic or industrial, directly
    build human capacity for any country. It is
    through these activities that new technologies
    are born and existing ones adapted. How can a
    country like Nigeria invest in research? Nigeria
    has invested in some form of research. The
    problem is that what it has invested in research
    is well below what it should be.

24
Training (i)
  • Nigeria has many engineers, but, sadly, most of
    them know just the engineering theory, but not
    necessarily the dynamics of its application.
    Private companies should imbibe the culture of
    retraining its staff for specialization.
    Moreover, in the telecom industry, developments
    are occurring at a rapid pace. It is imperative
    that engineers undergo periodic training to keep
    abreast of current technologies because that
    knowledge would be essential in sustaining
    national development.

25
Training (ii)
  • In Nigeria, there are currently many unemployed
    engineering graduates, who also lack proper and
    competent knowledge in the chosen field. There
    are key engineering areas that are vital at this
    point in time for national development and
    sustenance. It is the contention of the authors
    that the government can invest in these engineers
    by providing them with additional professional
    training either within Nigeria or abroad to
    become competent practitioners.

26
Training (iii)
  • Training at Nigerian universities lack proper
    laboratory equipment. This impacts the
    competencies of the products of the universities.
    As a requirement for accreditation, COREN and NUC
    must increase the minimum standards of
    requirements in the various engineering
    laboratories.

27
Conclusions (i)
  • The Government of Nigeria has set 2020 as the
    year it expects Nigeria to be ranked among the 20
    strongest economies in the world. While it is
    quite ambitious, it is also achievable if
    government takes the relevant steps to address
    human capacity resource requirements. This paper
    has considered human capacity in engineering as
    an essential ingredient for sustainable national
    development, a key for the achievement of the
    2020 initiative. Six factors have been considered
    by the authors, which, in their judgment,
    influence human capacity. The six factors are
    technology, government, research, retention,
    culture and training.

28
Conclusions (ii)
  • It is essential that government takes cognizance
    of the fact that engineering appointments must be
    void of nepotism. Appointments should be based on
    competency. Ethnicity, quota system or social
    affiliation should not be applicable to
    engineering appointments.

29
Conclusions (iii)
  • Culture has a tremendous influence on the
    development of a country. The work ethics of most
    Nigerians, particularly most civil servants must
    change. There must be government and private
    sector programs to change the mindset of the
    populace. There should be a concerted effort by
    both government and the private sector to retain
    engineers through differential salary payments
    and incentives.

30
Conclusions (iv)
  • Another major factor that is pivotal to
    sustainable development is Research and
    Development. For Nigeria to join the ranks of the
    developed countries as speculated in its 2020
    initiative, it is imperative that research be
    adequately funded. Government should support
    university research and researchers. The private
    sector must be encouraged to engage in research
    as is done in developed countries. As a rule,
    companies should apply a portion of their
    earnings to research.

31
Conclusions (v)
  • Finally, training of employees and potential
    employee is a major investment in the future of
    the country and must be seen as such by all.
    Government should invest to make our engineering
    graduates competent practitioners of their
    profession. The private sector must be encouraged
    to train their engineering staff periodically.

32
REFERENCES
  • 1 Khanna, T., Palepu, K. G. Sinha, J.,
    Strategies That Fit Emerging Markets, Harvard
    Business Review, Vol. 83, No. 6, June 2005.
  • 2 Waverman, Meschi and Fuss, Vodafone Report
    Africa The Impact of Mobile Phones, Vodafone
    policy Paper Series 2, March, 2005.
    http//www.vodaphone.com/assets/files/en/AIMP_0903
    2005.pdf
  • 3 Ajayi, J. J., Capacity Building Building
    Quality Manpower for Sustainable Development,
    Magm in Nigeria, Vol.42, No.1, Jan-March, 2006.
    P28-33.
  • 4 Abubakar, M., Management of our tomorrow
    must begin today, Management in Nigeria Journal,
    Vol 43, No1, Jan-Mar, 2007.

33
REFERENCES
  • 5 London, M. and Mone E.M., Career Management
    and Survival in the Work Place Helping Employees
    Make Tough Career Decision, Stay Motivated and
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  • 6 Maslow, A.H., The Theory of Human
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  • 7 Ogbimi, R., Career Development The
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34
REFERENCES
  • 9 Odinma, A.C., Optimization of ICT Backbone
    Infrastructure for Enhanced Services, 5th
    International Telecom Forum, International
    Conference Centre, Abuja, 19-20 Sept. 2006.
  • 10 Odinma, A.C., ICT Infrastructure
    Technological Development An Essential Tool for
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    Devaluation of NITEL, The BusinessDay, August
    19, 2002 Vanguard, September 4, 2002.
  • 12 Odinma, A C, NITEL Privatisation Ambiguity
    in the Pre-Qualification Criteria, The Nigerian
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    5,2002 ThisDay, August 22, 2002.

35
REFERENCES
  • 13 Odinma, A C, The Social Agenda Entrenched
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    August 27, 2002.
  • 14 Science and Engineering Indicators 2006,
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    GSM Services in Nigeria, July 2007.
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