By Adebayo Obajemu
Apart from challenges arising from lack of enough resources, the most pressing needs of some of the Distribution Companies, DisCos have to do with capacity building, lack of enough qualified technical manpower to drive their goals , especially as technical challenges arise.
As part of efforts to address this challenge, recently, Nigeria’s largest Electricity Distribution Company, Ikeja Electric (IE), inducted 20 young Engineers into a 12 months comprehensive developmental programme targeted at young, dynamic, self-motivated and highly driven young talent to improve their capacity and practical field practice experience.
Recall that the programme, which is in its sixth year, tagged Young Engineers’ Programme (YEP) is uniquely designed to be an immersive and experiential learning platform for selected young engineers, focusing on processes, procedures and operations of the Nigerian Electricity Supply industry.
Said to involve a blend of learning approaches; instructor-led classroom sessions, virtual sessions, Field and On-the-job practical sessions to ensure effective learning transfer, has come to stay as this year’s own was the sixth edition.
Speaking at the induction ceremony, which took place on July 1, 2021 in Lagos, the Chief Executive Officer of Ikeja Electric, Mrs. Folake Soetan, noted that the goal of the program is to build capacity of technical manpower with requisite skills, with key interest in infrastructural and human capital development of the power sector.
“The key is in ensuring proper knowledge transfer from our very experienced technical workforce to the engineers coming on board; that is the one way to ensure that we remain relevant to the needs of our customers, guaranteeing our esteemed customers who depend on us for power, a reliable and qualitative service”, she said.
Mrs. Soetan said that Ikeja Electric would continue to reinvest in its human capital to create a pipeline for the kind of leadership needed for future growth and development of the industry.
“This strategy is part of the company’s objective of infusing and developing the next generation of competent and reliable professionals who are expected to be groomed with a broader perspective and exposed to the entire Energy Value Chain as well as driving the company’s vision of being the provider of choice wherever energy is consumed” she explained.
She stated that “the programme has been running for six years now and we have had several success stories. We expect that this set will even have more stories especially in this era when our mantra in Ikeja Electric is Customer First, Technology Now.”
The Distribution company had earlier rolled out a public invitation, seeking interested applicants (especially fresh graduates or persons with nothing more than two years of experience in the engineering field) to submit their applications for the programme.
According to her, only 20 applicants eventually made it into the induction, out of over 2000 people who applied.
She said the programme has been around for over 6 years, with several success stories of previous inductees.
“You were carefully selected based on the process that was put in place, with regards this programme. Over 2000 people applied; there were different processes that were adopted.
“There were interview sessions, there were sessions, and you happened to be among the few people that made it through that rigorous exercise.” she said.
She disclosed that facilitators will be deployed to train the new workforce and help them apply their acquired knowledge.
“There are several approaches we are going to adopt during this your 12-month training. One of the approaches is the use of facilitators to help train you.
“You will have on-the-job learning, you will have practical experiences where you will be working in the field and implementing the trainings that you have been taught in the past, over the 12-month period.
“There will be rotation. You will be rotated among the departments of Ikeja Electric, which will give you a rounded and rich experience as to what it is you are doing in Ikeja Electric.
“It will be very rigorous, but after the 12-month period, you will be glad you were part of this programme,” she said.
Mrs.IbieneOkereke, Managing Director of Energy Training Center, ETC (the company in charge of the training), bemoaned the low number of females among the inductees, she challenged all of the four (4) females among them to go back and inspire other females in their alma maters, to join programmes like this, in the energy sector.
The Chief H.R.O of the IkejaDisCo, Mr. Henry Abiola, told the young engineers to get prepared to learn different terminologies as the company is known for acronyms.
He equally advised them to be hard-working if they aspire to achieve success in the field.
During a brief interview with BusinessHallmark immediately after the programme, Ikwuegbu Chioma, one of the newly inducted engineers, told our reporter that the programme will enable her explore more opportunities in the power sector as she had worked with the Enugu DisCo, before now.
“I feel really fulfilled as this will provide me with the opportunity to contribute more to the power sector.
“I have worked with the Enugu Electricity Distribution Company before, and I will be glad to improve my knowledge and experience here at Ikeja Electric.” Chioma said.
Another inductee, David Omokwe, a graduate of the Michael Okpara University of Agriculture, said he is looking forward to applying the knowledge he has gathered to contribute to the growth of not only the I.E, but the entire Nigerian power sector.
“It’s an honour being among the selected few. I am prepared to give my best to this company and the power sector. I will be implementing all that I have learnt to achieve this,” he said.
With the recent launch of its internal mentorship program, the Engineers will also enjoy the privilege of mentorship from highly trained and experienced engineers the industry who will act as mentors; offering variety of professional experiences within a structure that provides opportunities to learn, grow, and ultimately succeed.
Ikeja Electric has continued to invest heavily in training and capacity building programs targeted at advancing the aspiration of youths by providing them with the opportunity of to be self-reliant as well as empowering them for a better life.
The Young Engineers program was launched in July, 2017.
The class sessions holds at her Learning Center in Ikeja Business Unit. Trainees will then be posted across the IE network where they will undergo practical field On-The-Job experience. Organized by Talent Development Unit, the programme comprises an intense and robust evaluation mechanism which will be used to progressively assess the participants’ performance.
Nigeria’s electricity problem is in the transmission and distribution of electricity, the power minister, SalehMamman, has repeatedly said.
As of November 2020, Sale told Federal Executive Council, FEC, that “Nigeria is currently able to generate 13,000 megawatts (MW) of electricity but can only transmit about 7,000MW and can only distribute about 3,000 MW.
“Nigeria can generate up to 13,000 megawatts of electricity but we cannot transmit all,” he said.
So today, we presented to the council the solution to the problem of our generation. It is mainly distribution. We can generate 13,000 megawatts; we can transmit 7,000 megawatts but can only distribute 3,000.”
Reacting to this claim, Professor Dotun Famariwa, of the Department of Electrical Engineering, Kogi State University said most of the problem has to do with distribution.” The problem is technical one, the DISCOs do not have enough technical knowledge, no expertise; they need to train more engineers to do the work.”
After Nigeria’s electricity privatisation programme, the government privatised the generation and distribution companies with government only manning the Transmission Company of Nigeria (TCN).
Famariwa said the “distribution companies are a major hindrance to the success of the electricity sector and must sit up or ‘give way.
“We cannot continue like that,” he said. “So, if they are ready to continue, fine. But if they are not ready to continue, maybe they should give way to whoever that is ready to come and invest.”
Mr. Mamman is not the first power minister to accuse the distribution companies of inefficiency. His predecessor, Babatunde Fashola, repeatedly had clashes with the DisCos while in office. The DisCos have, however, mentioned inadequate infrastructure and poor pricing of electricity as hinderances to their performance, but many analysts also add lack of technical knowledge.
“On this score, we need to commend Ikeja Electric for prioritising human capacity development”, Famariwa said.