Today, I watched as students in their fourth year in my university (Federal University of Technology Akure, Nigeria) picked up their log book for the six month SIWES program. This is generated some thoughts in my head as it relates to the development and sustainability of agriculture among young people especially those studying courses related to agriculture. The Student Industrial Working Experience Scheme (SIWES) was established by the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) in 1973 to solve the problem of adequate practical skill, preparatory for employment in industries by Nigerian Undergraduate and Diploma students of tertiary institutions. The scheme was designed for duration of six months for university undergraduates. During this period, every student is expected to acquire all necessary practical skill and orientation, as well as technical knowledge needed to adequately develop national man-power and human resources. Based on these facts, I proffer the following suggestion to boost Agricultural Research and Development:
- Partnership With the Government: The universities can partner with the government by having an agreement with them that they would accept a certain number of students to intern with the Ministries of Agriculture, Ministries of Environment and Agricultural Research Bodies owned by the government. This would afford the students the opportunity to learn new things, practice what they have learnt over the years and get exposure. They could also engage in ongoing projects and be of help to the facilitators.
- Full Usage of University Farms and Research Centre: Oftentimes, universities have farms, the university could expand these farms and take in some students to work during the SIWES program. The farm can initiate various mini-project and research works under proper supervision that would engage the students, thus promoting skill acquisition and capacity building in ARD.
- Partnership with Privately Owned Agro-based Industry: Most times, student battle with getting placement in companies and industries to carry out their internship. Some even spend as much as three to four months out of the six months before getting a placement. Another set of students, even go ahead to work in places having little or no relation to their course of study. Considering these fact, the university can partner with industries and farms privately owned to take in the student during the SIWES program as part of their Corporate Social Responsibility.
- Payment of Monthly Stipend: In Nigeria, a stipend of about 100Dollars (15,000 Naira) is paid after the entire six months. Sadly, for the past four years it has not even been paid. Arrangement should be made to make sure it is paid and can also be reviewed that something is paid monthly rather than at the end of the whole program.
- Proper Documentation of Activities: The Universities should take in proper and well detailed reports of the student’s activities during the SIWES program. Their report can be a base for further research work or re-modeling of existing agricultural practices and research work.