Addressing power sector’s skill gap challenges



The Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI) is expanding daily with increasing investments from both local and foreign investors. In spite of these investments, there appears to be a yearning gap in the sector that needs to be filled; TOPE SUNDAY writes.

Speaking on Nigeria’s power sector, a Senior Partner at PPP Consults Limited, Joseph Tsavsar, said capacity development and leadership remains critical in the sector. This development, Tsavsar submitted, is responsible for the dearth of protection engineers in the transmission sector of the sector.

“One of the problems of the skill gap in the power sector is poor leadership policies of hiring people based on federal character, nepotism, favouritism, this is what has contributed to the dearth of protection engineers in the transmission sector of the sector,” he said.

Also, Nigeria with a population of 200 million people generates just under 5,000 Megawatts of power and it is rated one of the poorest in the world. According to the World Bank, one out of every 10 persons globally without access to electricity lives in Nigeria.

The World Bank notes that 85 million Nigerians don’t have access to grid electricity making Nigeria the country with the largest energy access deficit in the world.

According to the 2020 World Bank Doing Business report, Nigeria ranks 171 out of 190 countries in getting electricity and electricity access is seen as one of the major constraints for the private sector.

NERC directive

Nigeria’s power sector has over the years witnessed various reforms across the value chain, spanning generation, distribution, and transmission. While there have been growing investments in capital and development projects in the sector as well as efforts to boost the human-capital workforce, however, there is a need for key players within the value chain to scale up these efforts.

To this end, the Nigerian Electricity Regulatory Commission (NERC) issued a regulation to ensure that indigenous companies also develop the capacity to benefit from the expanding sector.

“The regulation puts in place the legal and operational framework for the development of local content making it mandatory that first consideration is given to the use of Nigerian goods and services in the sector.”

More importantly, it seeks to encourage local content in all projects, operations, activities, and transactions in the NESI by utilising locally sourced human and material resources, goods, works, and services.

The Commission said the regulation is legally binding to all stakeholders across the value chain of the sector.

According to the regulator, it is to promote the deliberate use of Nigerian human and material resources, goods, and services in the NESI, open the industry at all levels to involve Nigerian experts, building capabilities in the country to support increased investment, and leverage existing and future investment in order to stimulate the growth of Nigerian and Nigeria-owned enterprise.

Also in  2019,  the federal government announced the commencement of implementation of the regulations, with then Minister of Power, Works and Housing, Babatunde Fashola, highlighting the necessity for the country to develop local capacity in the power sector to minimize its dependence on foreign equipment and services.

NDPHC’s intervention

Howeverto boost manpower capacity for the Nigerian Electricity Supply Industry (NESI), the Niger Delta Power Holding Company Limited (NDPHC), an intervention agency in the power sector co-owned by the federal, state, and local governments and funded from the Excess Crude Account (ECA), recently engaged 36 fresh engineering graduates for a one-year internship programme.

This, the company explained, would offer hands-on opportunity to young Nigerian engineering graduates for a possible career path in the power industry.

Speaking during an orientation ceremony for the interns, the Executive Director, Corporate Services, NDPHC, Ms. Nkechi Mba, explained that the 36 interns were selected from the six geopolitical zones across the country with each zone producing six.

Speaking on the concept of the internship programme, Mba said:  “It is to enable graduates of engineering to have practical experience because we found out over the years that we had the best resources in NDPHC in terms of power sector engineering knowledge and we wanted to pass that on. And also help young engineering graduates to be able to access that knowledge that would give them an advantage in trying to find jobs in the sector or finding a career path.


It is not really a recruitment exercise but because NDPHC has the largest power sector assets, the programme gives the graduates an advantage,” she added.

 On his part, the Executive Director, Generation, Engr. Kassim Abdullahi said the interns would be sent to Calabar, Benin, Sapele, and Omotosho power plants.

He noted that the plants are very efficient and have contributed a lot to the national grid, adding that the interns would “learn a lot from participating in the daily activities in the plants including generation, troubleshooting, maintenance and a lot of things from capable engineers we have at these stations”.

Speaking further, General Manager, Human Resources, NDPHC,  Mrs. Funke Nwankwo said the NDPHC graduate internship programme is a corporate social responsibility programme aimed at improving manpower capacity for the Nigerian power sector.

“It ensures that young engineering graduates get the right training from seasoned professionals across our power plants. They will get first-hand interaction with how our power plants work in real life,” she said.

A review of the company’s activities shows that NDPHC, through the National Integrated Power Project (NIPP), developed assets in gas, power generation, transmission, and distribution sections of the electricity value chain. It has also championed renewable energy after installing 20,000 Solar Home Systems (SHS) and an ongoing Light Up Naija (solar) programme.

Similarly, NDPHC, according to a document, built 10 NIPP generation plants with 8 already commissioned with an installed capacity of about 4,000 megawatts. With its intervention in the power value chain, NDPHC is responsible for providing about half of the generation and distribution infrastructure in Nigeria.

Beneficiaries

According to documents on the new NDPHC engineering internship scheme, the programme is a Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) initiative that focuses on career growth and development for Nigerian engineering graduates to work and learn for a period of twelve months.

According to the framework, participants are selected from the six geopolitical zones to take part in the programme during the 12 months.

A beneficiary of the training, Franklyn Ifegbo, a Mechanical Engineering graduate from the Federal University of Technology, Owerri, said it would allow him to be knowledgeable about the power sector, assuring that he would contribute his quota to its advancement.

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