The Director of Studies, Centre for International and Advanced Professional Studies, Prof. Anthony Kila, speaks about the link between professional training and economic development among other issues in this interview with IFE OGUNFUWA
What is the place of professional development?
It is very essential; without continuous learning, a professional dies. That is why a lot of people and organisations are lagging behind. The world moves quickly and things change. When you use your computer, it is always telling you of updates. The only way to catch up is to continue to develop oneself. In other places, continuous professional development is very mandatory whether as a lawyer, banker or even a doctor. But for every profession, you are supposed to have a minimum number of hours for professional development in a year, that is if you have the common sense to see the need. That is why we do three programmes: postgraduate studies, professional courses and some open programmes targeted at some sectors or professionals for a few days.
If you want to be competitive, you have to keep upgrading your skills because the system changes, people change and the consumer who was able to afford your products three years ago may change today. For instance, people who spend so much money on phone are so young that you have to speak their language.
Is there a link between professional development and the state of the country’s economy?
There is a link because we have talked so much in this country about various kinds of development but we have not really acted on human development. I was talking to the manufacturers’ association some weeks ago, and one thing I said to them was that if we look at the new mantra, ‘Made in Nigeria’ ‘Buy made in Nigeria,’ it is because of the dwindling revenue from oil and the challenges with access to foreign exchange. We tend to change our attitude to buy made-in-Nigeria products. Although people are talking about this, nobody has thought about how to train producers.
Even when we talk about farming, nobody has said let us train 1,000 producers. We talk about entrepreneurship, but we don’t talk about the technology and science of production management that people should know, whether they produce fish or ceramics or electronics. There should be a manager that understands production and operation but no one is talking about that.
Based on that, we are starting a professional certificate in production and operation management. That is in response to the needs of a developing country. The problem is that we haven’t been able to train people to do things. We should know that when we say we want to achieve something, our people are involved and the first step is to train them. We admire the Asian countries as an example and what we don’t know is that it didn’t happen by chance. They decided that every year, they were going to train 1,000 people in a specific area and it was continuous. Unfortunately, good things don’t happen naturally, it is bad things that happen naturally.
Good things have to be planned, sustained and monitored. It is a shame that it does not happen in the public sector and states; in reality, it is the individual that takes care of themselves. People have to wake up to it.
What informed the establishment of this centre?
I was in Cambridge and the idea of CIAPS was an international idea rather than a Nigerian idea. There was a lot of problems for international education for non-United Kingdom-based people. We thought about it and we said instead of getting thousands of people to go to foreign countries because they could not get some kind of education in their country, why don’t we get foreigners to go to their country. Hence, centres like this came up in Asia, Africa and in the far East. It is a kind of commonwealth project.
In Nigeria, what we thought about is to try and establish an academic and research centre that goes beyond certification. It is a graduate school because you have to be a graduate to come here. Our idea is to be a factory of professionals; a place where we take people and train them for specific types of professions. What we try to do is to mix the best of theory and practice. We have adopted various kinds of approach. We have a unique method of learning and teaching called OBE, which stands for Outcome-Based Education. The idea is to track how to do things. When we plan our curriculum, we speak to businesses and employers to look at what they want in the next set of people they will employ. Our curriculum is shaped around that so that people who come to us will be job-ready wherever they go.
Whether they are starting their own business, which we encourage a lot, or they are going to work somewhere, they are trained to solve those problems and they gain experience by learning through the curriculum and executing projects.
Do you have international affiliation?
We have international affiliation with the European Academy of Higher Education and other ones. Something makes me laugh about affiliation in Nigeria; the way we are fixated about it. Presenting yourself as affiliated to an international institution means that you live in the boys’ quarters of a big mansion. But we don’t see it that way. We are just very proud of it. We have gone directly to get the centre accredited. We have accredited each programme because we see ourselves (maybe because I have taught in Cambridge and because some of our people are part of faculties from Havard, Cambridge and Oxford) as partners. We relate and do programmes with them. And also, because the things we try to do are based on this environment but can compete with international world. If you take business studies, there is no textbook that teaches business plan and factor in necessity for a generator because things are done in theory, not practical.
What informed the choice of courses you offer?
We looked at the areas which we call essentials for developing countries. We look at courses in education which we think a lot of good practitioners need. We look at courses in business management which we think the country need. We look at areas of project management, finance, stockbroking, Information and Communications Technology and many more.