Ensuring that the engineering sector develops through nurturing of expertise and students to become entrepreneurs; providing sustainable solution in infrastructure development; and equipping professionals with requisite skills and ethics to measure up with
Engineering technologist, technicians and craftsmen for two days converged on the International Conference Centre (ICC), Abuja for the 26th Council for the Regulation of Engineering in Nigeria (COREN) assembly with the theme, ‘Entrepreneurship and Manufacturing in Nigeria: Challenges and Opportunities for a Better Future’.
The programme, aside providing an opportunity for members and stakeholders to network and reflect on topical issues impacting and challenging the practice; and the contribution of engineering personnel to national development, was also aimed at informing members of the need to ensure that only registered engineers can head engineering departments and units in higher institutions in the country and even undertake engineering jobs, among others.
In his welcome remarks, the President of the council, Mr. Kashim Abdul Ali said it has reviewed the Benchmark Academic Standard (BMAS) to make it outcome-based in conformity with the global trend in engineering education.
“Our accreditation will now be based on Outcome Based Engineering Education (OBE) criteria and the protocols have become more robust,” he said, adding that admitting too many students with inadequate existing facilities must not be done at the expense of quality education.
“COREN will not hesitate to apply necessary sanctions on institutions found to have flouted recommended carrying capacities for these programmes. This is particularly important since we are on the verge of being admitted into the highest competence class of engineering practice and our processes would be subjected to the group oversight.”
Ali stressed that for the country to realise its full potential technologically, the capacity of technicians and craftsmen must be fully developed, adding that the council will continue to advocate for the revival of technical education as a panacea to technical manpower shortage in Nigeria. “The council hosted a stakeholders meeting in May this year on the ‘Dearth of Indigenous Technical Education in Nigeria’, where all stakeholders agreed that an efficient national educational programme on technical professional training is indispensable to the promotion of the economy and overall development,” he said, while highlighting the importance of engineering in nurturing local expertise.
The Governor of Nasarawa State, Umaru Tanko Al-makura appealed to the council to be flexible in evolving mechanisms for short-term training, orientation on the job, enlightenment, workshops and seminars, which may provide certification, trade placement for artisans, this he said would ensure that they are recognised as certain category of members.
“There are important role played by the artisans such as mechanics, electricians, plumbers, masons, among others who will not want to be called quacks, but populate the nooks and crannies of our towns and cities, providing the necessary gap of engineering services to the people. Their activities could be integrated and regulated in line with best practices at that level.” He said the effort will help in ensuring that the country does not become a dumping ground for all kinds of engineers as expatriate engineers, as well as address the critical challenges affecting the sector.
As a way of preventing capital flight of indigenous engineers in search of greener pastures, the governor said the council should develop a stringent regulatory framework and evolve more attractive conditions of service to retain Nigerian engineers for diligent services.
Al-makura opined that attachment of academic qualification of engineers and others should be subjected to rigorous professional examination before registration, noting that it would address the lingering trends of irregular certification and deficiency in ICT which have continued to affect best practice in the profession. “This is the only way we can boast of engineers that will be reliable and self-sufficient entrepreneurs.”
The Executive Secretary of Nigerian Content Development and Monitoring Board (NCDMB), Mr. Simbi Wabote, emphasised on entrepreneurship development, which plays a prominent role in creating employment and prosperity for Nigerians and as a prime mover of the economy. The Registrar of COREN, Mr. Kamila Malik, who harped on the Benchmark Academic Standard, said the council is in charge of quality control of its engineering personnel, adding that before universities are accredited, they need to do a self-study of themselves by drawing up a benchmark minimum standard for requirements.
“In 2014 when we came in, we noticed that the benchmark minimum academic standard was just a document that was discretional, so we brought all the deans who are in charge of all engineering faculties to draw up a minimum standard for all the requirements so that by the time we come to accredit them, they will have an idea of what to do in having such benchmarked minimum, including having a scoring criteria.” He said with this, the council is able to keep track of quality engineers produced in the country and also issue license and permit. “It is the benchmarking that we did with other international bodies including UNESCO that earned us a member of the Federation of Engineering Institutions in Asia and Pacific.
“You can only do a professional job with a license and permit. Every year, an engineer is supposed to submit himself for licensing, a license expires within one year and after which you must tell us what you have done to improve your practice. That is why we monitor.”
Asked how the council guards the profession against quacks, Malik said: “We require that any engineering professional who wants to practice must endeavour to practice within the region of his permit and license. If you are a mechanical engineer and you practice as chemical engineer, you are a quack. In COREN, we issue license within a particular programme and if anybody says he is an engineer, you can ask him what type of engineering he studied. If he does anything outside that, he is a quack and there are some who are not even registered.”
The Chief Executive Officer of Nenis Engineering, Mrs. Oduwa Agboneni, who delivered a paper titled ‘Women Entrepreneurship: Setting Agenda for the Future’, said there is need to have more mentorship from COREN, adding that entrepreneurship should be emphasised in schools. She told THISDAY that schools are not armed with enough information concerning entrepreneurship, noting that it is more than inventing. “You need to know how to manage a business and finance. We are looking at how to invent in the university, but we noticed that after our invention, it ends in the laboratory. We should be able to take it from the laboratory to the market place.
“So with courses like mechanical engineering taught in the university, entrepreneurship should be embedded in all engineering disciplines, not just mechanical engineering because as an engineer, you are an inventor. Engineers are born entrepreneurs, but we have to really utilise our capacity and make our products and services commercial.”
Agboneni, who has been training graduates of mechanical engineering for the past three years, expressed delight in training women who are ready to learn and know more about cars in the field. “Most of them are passionate about it because they realise that there are few mentors to guide them. That tends to kill their dream and so if they see someone like me doing well in that field that will drive their dreams. I am not just bringing them up as my staff but as entrepreneurs so that they can set up their own businesses tomorrow.”
The programme witnessed the launch of Produce, Buy and Use Certified Nigerian Engineering Products and Services; as well as Committee of Deans of Engineering and Technology of Nigerian Universities (CODET) awards for first class engineering students of various institutions who had participated in and won COREN’s competition designed to use the knowledge they have gained to solve societal problems.
The Chairman of (CODET) and Vice-President of COREN, Professor Emmanuel Ajav, expressed concern that the country lacks enough industries to accommodate engineering graduates who want to go into practice, while stressing the need for the government to enact a policy that would make it mandatory for industries to work with universities.
“The students know the engineering principles very well and they are top of their class anywhere they find themselves even abroad, no one of them is looked down upon. For the industry, many of them don’t allow students to come in for training because they are looking for workers. They don’t know that these workers are not made overnight. “The government can made it mandatory for industries to work with universities which will open up a whole lot of things. It will ease the flow of students and staff to them and also the curriculum will be tailored to suit it.” Highlighting the role of the industry in engineering training, he said, “it is to provide funding for the faculties which would expose and encourage both staff and students to solve their problems. It is for the graduates to have hands-on experience in the industries and get supervised engineering training.”
On certification policy for COREN, Ajav said once a student graduates, the council insists that one must go through four years of practice and afterwards one becomes registered.
“What COREN expects to see is certificate of practice from where you have worked. It is on this basis that you are registered; your certificate and the certificate of experience where an engineering firm will attest to that.”