BY EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO
I was awoken by 2 am today by continuous calls that were totally unexpected.
I struggled to pick it up and the caller on the other end turned out to be one of my Cousins. Well, the short and tall of all of the calls was for a message to be passed on to me that he has only just graduated and finished his service year and now in a mad search for employment in the formal sector of the economy.
I expressed my solidarity with him and informed him that I will put my ears to the ground to know and communicate to him whenever any of the agencies of government is doing recruitment of staff.
But deep down inside of me, knowing how Abuja works in the last two decades whereby employments are shrouded in secrecy and often characterized by the disturbing phenomenon of fake job sellers who dupe unsuspecting members of the public, I warned my Cousin not to pay anybody for any employment slot.
Well, I went back to bed but could not sleep throughout the night as my mind wandered from one point to the other on how best Nigeria can confront the monstrous development challenge of Youth unemployment which is a grave threat to National Security.
From my introspection and reflection, I came up with the conclusion that Nigeria is not lacking in the institutional platforms that are mandated to revolutionize, capacitate and rescue our Youths from despondency and joblessness to gainful employments.
Nigeria’s Institutional Platforms such as the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), the National Youths Service Corp (NYSC), the National Directorate of employment and the different state’s Ministries of Youth and sports development are amongst some of the well packaged agencies as well as the youths and sports ministry at the centre. What is lacking however in some of them, not all, is the will power, the energy to do what they are set up to do as to reduce the menace of youths joblessness. NDE particularly has failed to deliver.
Right away, I can give a high marks to the Sir Joe Ari- led Industrial Training Fund and the Brigadier General Ibrahim Shuiabu- led NYSC for bringing about innovative ideas on how best to give skills of a life time to Young stars.
Additionally, the NYSC has also started doing what I think is practicable panacea to youths unemployment by going from one relevant agency to the other to brainstorm, synergize and to work out partnerships on how they can cross breed and deliver innovative ideas on jobs for the benefits of young Nigerians.
So, I believe that the NYSC, the ITF and the Ministry of Sports should broaden the scope of consultations and partnerships and practicalize the deployment of skills and sports and avenues and means/ways and strategies to economically empower millions of Nigerian Youths.
I read a good piece written by Kevin Johnston on the importance of skills acquisition and I think I have three take-aways from the points he articulated. I will list them out before proceeding.
He said as follows: “You will find that you often do not have all the information you would like in order to make decisions. It is important to acquire the skill of being decisive even when you are taking a risk you cannot fully evaluate. Sometimes making any decision is better than making no decision. You can learn to embrace the skill of making decisions in uncertain situations and greatly improve your ability to lead; Being a successful entrepreneur involves having a creative passion to establish the business that is right for you. Using creative thinking and implementing novel ideas can help you embark on a successful business venture; and Having the knack for entrepreneurship involves possessing the determination and commitment to run your own business. An entrepreneur has organizational, marketing, sales and finance skills as well. Although some business owners have a natural talent for entrepreneurship, completing business courses can help you develop these skills”. I think these are profound statements of facts loaded with beneficial ideas.
Now let us examine how working together, these agencies I mentioned can achieve more for our young people.
It is true as told by some experts that some research suggests that being involved in sport can equip young people with specific ‘core’ and ‘soft’ skills that may raise their level of employability.
‘Core’ skills include those that are directly associated with coaching and sport management. ‘Soft’ skills include the skills and values that are learned through sport, such as: cooperation, leadership, respect for others, knowing how to win and lose, knowing how to manage competition, etc.
“However, it is advised to exercise caution when taking this view of sport’s contribution to economic development through job skills development because employment opportunities must exist for these skills to be relevant and of practical use. Research shows that there is a need to identify new jobs associated with sport and to conduct an inventory of all job categories in developing countries that can use sports skills or those derived from sport.”
The International Labour Organization (ILO) has highlighted the position of sports institutions as lying outside the tripartite structure of actors with whom the ILO usually works (governments, employers and workers) and therefore calls for the creation and development of joint projects and partnerships.
“For skills-building in sport for employment, the ILO has suggested that classifications of sport and sport-related economic activities opportunities be carried out in African countries, considering that so few of them have been documented in this region. This would allow for a better understanding of the present situation of the sport sector and to uncover any potential employment opportunities and skills that young people may find useful in the sport sector in Africa”. (sportandev.org).
On their own, the NYSC has introduced the best practical approach to create jobs for young people through its skill acquisition initiative. The Guardian reported the aforementioned recently.
As a fact, UNEMPLOYMENT remains one of the most critical problems bedevilling Nigeria today, despite being endowed with abundance human and material resources.
Indeed, years of unbridled corruption, mismanagement and sheer waste have hindered economic growth in the country.
Consequently, the nation’s resources have been left under-utilised leading to unemployment and abject poverty, the twin evils, which experts believe may scuttle the attainment of the Millennium Development Goals in the country.
According to a recent World Bank statistics, youth unemployment rate is 38 percent, but realistically, 80 percent of Nigerian youths are unemployed, with secondary school graduates mostly found among unemployed rural population accounting for about half of this figure, while university and polytechnic graduates make up the rest.
More worrisome is the fact that the nation’s tertiary institutions continue to churn out more than 150,000 graduates yearly, while available jobs remain inadequate to keep pace with the growing numbers of jobseekers.
Successive governments had introduced different developmental initiative to address the problem of youth unemployment in the country.
However, these efforts have made little or no impact considering the enormity of the problem. Most of the initiatives fall short in terms of scope and scale.
Today, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is probably the only government institution that has presence (infrastructure and personnel) in all the 774 local government Areas (LGAs) of the country, putting it in a position to be reckoned with, in ensuring youth empowerment, so reports The Guardian.
Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier-General Ibrahim Shuaibu in a reaction to the growing number of unemployed youths in the country has called for more practical solutions to address the situation.
The Guardian recalled that in March 2012, the NYSC leadership introduced skill acquisition and entrepreneurship programmes into the orientation course content, in order to raise an army of entrepreneurs that will drive the economy and not job seekers that will trudge the streets in search of scarcely available jobs.
To institutionalize this, the Federal Government raised the number of departments in the NYSC from seven to eleven with Department of Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) as one of the new departments.
The introduction of SAED into the NYSC scheme had helped many fresh graduates to be self-reliant, creating employment opportunities instead of searching for non-existent jobs.
The NYSC Director of SAED, Mrs. Mary Dan-Abia, in an interview with The Guardian in Abuja recently, disclosed that over 500,000 corps members had been trained under the reinvigorated Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme since its inception in 2012.
“As at the end of 2013, we have been able to train over 410, 000 corps members on skills acquisition and entrepreneurship, if I add the 2015 batch A, we will be looking at over 500,000 corps members who have been exposed to the message of acquiring skills and becoming entrepreneurs.
She said out of the total number of trained entrepreneurs, over 1,600 had become full-time entrepreneurs, managing businesses with varying degrees of success across the country.
“The figure we have given is for those who have established. The others may be doing their things quietly. For instance, we know a corps member who started making buns snack with six thousand naira, but today he has a shop, registered business, he has employed about 10 people and his business is growing. We also have one in Ogun state who started with juice making, today he has trucks. If one has a programme, you have to give him enough time else, he will tell you he cannot come. These are established ones. Many of them would have gotten established businesses if these bottle necks were not there. It is difficult to get the CAC registration because of the cost and it is also not easy to get the NAFDAC license.
Dan-Abia said more youths would have been trained by the scheme, if it were fully supported by the Federal Government, particularly in the training of manpower and establishment of skills centres.
According to her, the Federal Government’s support is vital, as it would also help the youths roaming the streets in search of job placements to acquire skills for self-employment.
She dismissed the insinuation that many graduates were not resourceful, stressing that some of them had displayed great entrepreneurial skills but lacked the financial support to establish themselves.
Dan-Abia noted that the management of the scheme was worried by the statistics of unemployment among graduate youths in the country.
She said the NYSC SAED programme was unique as it emphasised on imparting skills and knowledge that would make beneficiaries self-reliant and resourceful.
Dan-Abia identified lack of resource persons, poor funding and other economic factors like accessibility to loan facilities as some of the challenges facing the programme.
The director said the corps remained committed to supporting the Federal Government’s policy aimed at addressing the problem of youth unemployment.
“The NYSC, through the programme and engagement of more stakeholders, hoped to assist graduates to depend less on non-existent government employments.
“NYSC supports corps members to develop good business proposal that could be supported by the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture and the Central Bank of Nigeria,” she said.
The director said the NYSC was not specific about the kinds of training to give to the participants, stressing that the different areas of the economy were covered in the programme.
Dan-Abia said the NYSC would continue to contribute its quota towards building a team of vibrant and resourceful graduates that would be ready to support the task of nation building.
Speaking on the projections of the NYSC SAED in the future, she stated, “I want to see the NYSC in a position where when we finish we are not sourcing for people to come and sponsor them. I want a situation where people will be waiting for the entrepreneurs. We had planned to have an entrepreneurship festival where we wanted to showcase those ones. The idea was that people would see them and take them on. We want to produce entrepreneurs that people will see and take. There are some of them, when people see the products they come out with; they have people who want to sponsor them. We want to see a situation where their produce will be collected from them and exported.
“We want to see a situation where we will have skills acquisition centers where we post our corps members to go and do their training and they come out refined. We also want a situation where we have to rely on people who own skills acquisition centers and then we go there to negotiate begging them to collect five thousand naira instalment from corps members instead of fifty thousand full fee as long as we will send many to them for training and they will balance up the rest of the money in instalments because they only earn 19, 800 therefore they won’t be able to bring out the full fifty thousand naira fee. But if we have a skill acquisition center developed all over the country then we will know that anywhere they go to they can be assured they will be given training. In fact some of them are saying that if Federal Government wants to give them skills why do they have to pay, so a situation where they do not have to pay to acquire the skills is what we look out for.
More so, Sources at the NYSC headquarters hinted to The Guardian reporter that as part of steps towards consolidating on the achievements so far recorded, the NYSC management recently held a meeting with stakeholders with a view to fashioning out areas of support in terms of curriculum development, training, monitoring, policy advocacy and influencing, as well as funding. The stakeholders, drawn from both the public and private sectors, indicated interest in assisting the NYSC to maximise the benefits of the programme, especially through technical support.
Addressing participants at a one-day stakeholders’ meeting on the NYSC skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development programme in Lagos recently, the NYSC DG, stated that a considerable reduction in youth unemployment would reduce the high rate of insecurity.
Apparently not too pleased with stampede and undue exploitation that usually characterizes job interviews, the DG assured that the crop of corps members undergoing orientation and their colleagues in service will not be job seekers, but job creators.
Lastly and by no means the least, the Sir Joe Ari- led ITF has in the last five years, carried out diverse skills acquisition trainings for young persons to an admirable dimension. The Director General performed so excellently that he won the heart of President Muhammadu Buhari who has just reappointed him for a second term.
As captured in a news report, for the tide of insecurity to be stemmed and youths in Nigeria gainfully employment, institutions of government have to rise to the occasion and ensure the mandates of their establishments are fully actualised. This was the view of the Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment, Mr. Richard Adebayo who spoke at the weekend in Jos, Plateau State at the commissioning of some projects at the headquarter of the Industrial Training Fund, ITF.
He said that federal government would continue to put in place policies that would support organizations whose activities have direct impact on the lives of Nigerians and make such organizations thrive. The Minister said the Industrial Training Fund (ITF), with its mandate to train Nigerian youths on various skills acquisition, will eliminate the growing trends of unemployment in the country. According to him, “It is no longer news that a huge number of Nigerians are unemployed and in poverty, as a consequence, the country has witnessed a rise in insecurity and other social vices. In the face of the absence of white collar jobs, the only feasible alternative is for organizations like the ITF to ensure that their mandates are fully actualised.
“I want to assure that the federal government will continue to put in place policies that will ensure that organisations like the ITF whose activities have direct impact on the life of Nigerians thrives to its fullest.” Also, the Plateau State Governor, Simon Lalong, who acknowledged that the ITF has contributed in no small measure in raising the living conditions of Nigerians especially in the skills acquisition and the educational sectors, through its training and Corporate Social Responsibility, assured of his support for more citizens of the State to be empowered. Earlier, the Director General of ITF, Joseph Ari, listed the projects to be commissioned to include, a modern library complex, a central store and a block of classrooms at the ITF Staff School. He stressed, “The modern library complex will accommodate e-learning facilities for Engineering, Arts and Humanities Social Sciences, among others. It would also house a 250 computer based test CBT capacity, as well as office accommodation for staff. “It is our firm believe that the library will enhance the capacity of staff to perform their duties. It must be noted that for any organisation to flourish, it requires the services of a vibrant and well furnished line, taking into cognizance our position as a learning and development agency. “The staff of the Fund are expected to be knowledgeable and that can only be achieved through constant research which is possible with a rich modern library. In order to ensure continuous efficient and effective mandate delivery, there are several other projects in the pipeline which include the construction of a skills center in Enugu and an industrial skills training center in Gombe, construction and refurbishment of area complex in Awka, Jos, Enugu, Kaduna amongst others.”
The goal of this article is to advocate a greater synergy and partnerships between and amongst the above listed agencies of government. The group I coordinate nationally- HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) will be approaching these agencies with research papers on how to deepen their conversations on partnership for employment creation for the millions of Nigerian Youths.
Also, the National Assembly needs to pragmatically improve the funding capacities of these agencies so that the goal of creating Jobs for the Youths can become realistic in a short time. This is the way out of the nation’s security nightmares.
*EMMANUEL ONWUBIKO is head of the HUMAN RIGHTS WRITERS ASSOCIATION OF NIGERIA (HURIWA) and blogs@www. theingerianinsidernews.com, www.huriwanigeria.com.