Delta youths give testimony on Job creation at exhibition

In the beginning, lots of naysayers did not give the Delta State Job Creation Scheme any chance to make an impact, let alone succeed. With a dismissive wave of the hand, they presumptuously concluded that the initiative would go the way of previous youth intervention programmes that fizzled out shortly after their announcement.

Two years down the line, however, it was pomp and fanfare recently in Asaba, the state capital at the products exhibition and business fair to showcase the current administration’s youth empowerment programme.

The journey to the occasion started, when the government began the process of redirecting the youths’ focus away from non-existent paid employment and channeling their creative energies towards job and wealth creation.

With numerous beneficiaries from the flagship Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) and Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP), who proudly displayed the fruits of their labour at the exhibition, it was obvious that what many thought was unthinkable may have been achieved to a reasonable extent.

In the company of Rivers State Governor Nyesom Wike, Sokoto State Governor Aminu Tambuwal and ex-Delta State Governor James Ibori, who also came to see the two-day exhibition, Delta State Governor Ifeanyi Okowa explained that empowering the youths would create jobs and boost the country’s economy.

He said his administration had trained and empowered no fewer than 2,324 youths through STEP and YAGEP in the last two years.

He explained that the exhibition and business fair would provide STEPreneurs and YAGEPreneurs, as the beneficiaries who were trained by the government are called, an opportunity to make vital business contacts; create business relationships with investors and communicate their business vision to banks and business support institutions from within and outside Delta State.

The governor expressed confidence that the event would offer the youths a platform and ladder for growth and sustenance.
He also told the over 400 beneficiaries that investment in micro, small and medium Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) is the easiest means of reducing youth unemployment and poverty.

He said: “Globally, it has been established that certain economic sectors and activities hold the highest potential for job and wealth creation for the economy. These are agriculture, agribusiness, agro-based industries, vocational skills-based micro enterprises, cottage enterprises, small and medium scale enterprises, as well as such public works as environmental sanitation, housing and road construction. In fact, interventions in these sectors are generally cost-effective and go a long way in reducing youth unemployment and poverty, while ensuring social inclusion, positive economic growth and sustainable development, as has been observed in many countries in South Asia, South East Asia and Latin America. 

“After two programme cycles, 2,324 previously unemployed youths are now small business owners and employers of labour. The beneficiaries were trained and established in various enterprises, including but not limited to ICT, hair dressing and makeover, catering and confectionary, cosmetology, craft/home care products, decoration and event management, electrical installation and repairs, fashion design and tailoring, shoe making, upholstery, welding and fabrication and auto-mechanic, while the agricultural enterprises covered aquaculture, poultry, crop production, agro-processing and piggery.”

Ibori thanked Okowa for remembering the youths, noting that at the end of the day, they will be the one to take over the reins of power.

He said: “I am, indeed, a Deltan and I have an opinion bordering on issues in Delta State. I want to make it very clear that you have done very well. At the end of your eight years as Delta State governor, Deltans will be proud of you. Continue with your good work. We are solidly behind you and I want to call on all Deltans to continue to maintain the peace and security in the state, so that this present level of development will be sustained.”

Okowa told the guests and participants that the World Bank has validated the programmes for partnership and funding support. This, he said, was in recognition of their potential to curb youth unemployment, create wealth and enhance social inclusion, adding that the National Competitive Council of Nigeria recently ranked the state as number one in the country on the human capital development index.

He said: “Through our flagship, Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) and Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP), we have achieved what many thought was impossible. Over 2,324 previously unemployed youths are now small business owners and employers of labour.”

The Representative of the World Bank, Dr. Tunde Adekola, said the bank would support the initiative, as it is out to tackle youth unemployment.

The state Commissioner for Economic Planning, who is the Chairman, Steering Committee on Job Creation, Dr. Kingsley Emu, said the exhibition would provide the beneficiaries the opportunity to make vital business contacts, create business relationship with investors and communicate their business vision to financial institutions. 

The Chief Job Creation Officer, Prof. Eric Eboh, described the job creation model as “robust, customised and result-oriented, which started with training; empowerment with starter packs; and close monitoring and feedback, as well as nurturing mechanism.”

He said: “There is no stronger vindication of Delta State job creation model than today’s splendid gathering of beneficiaries, who are exhibiting their products and services.

“To underscore the essence of this exhibition and business fair, we duly engaged and paid for the services of STEPreneurs in the execution of various aspects of this event. These services include venue utilities, electricity connections, audio-visual facilities and refreshment items.”

Beaming with smile, an orphan, Mrs. Angela Iduh from Ika South Council said if not for the empowerment programme, it would have been very tough for her.

“To God be the glory, I have waded through because of the “bonus” from government,” she said. “With a starter pack that included a fridge, gas cooker, scale, coolers, juice mixer and the sum of N125, 000 to rent a shop, things can only get better.

“I am very happy. Before now, I used to worry a lot as an orphan, but with STEP, things are getting better. God has used the governor to empower us.”

Another beneficiary, Mr. Henry Gbogborogbo from Abraka, Ethiope East Local Council, said he was at a crossroads after obtaining a degree in Political Science from the Delta State University, Abraka, (DELSU) until the empowerment scheme came his way.

A tiler, Gbogborogbo said after the orientation course at Songhai, Amukpe, near Sapele, he went for a three-month intensive training, just like other beneficiaries before he was given the starter pack. 

“With two staff members, low patronage was my major problem, but not for once have I regretted the choice I made last year, when I signed up for the programme,” he said.

And from Kokori, Ethiope East Local Council, Mr. Godwin Ahwieh, a block moulder, commended the scheme, as he said it had in no small way impacted his life.

Like Oliver Twist, Ahwieh lamented that the sum of N85,000 given to him last year at the end of the training was not enough. He was given a 750-litre tank, block moulders, shovel and some other equipment.

He said though it was a good initiative, due to inadequate finance, many of his colleagues had fallen by the wayside, adding that he had had to take a loan of over N300, 000 to boost his business.

“I have been using my money to run the business. A trip of sand costs N20, 000, a bag of cement goes for N2, 600, a tank full of water is N4, 000 and labour to mould a bag of cement is N800. I commend the initiative, but we need more money.”

Buttressing Ahwieh’s stand, another block moulder, Mr. Charles Ekpoh, said he needed a vehicle to ferry blocks from one location to another.

Ekpoh, a computer science graduate of Ambrose Alli University, Ekpoma, Edo State, said in the absence of a good white collar job, he jumped at the offer of being a block moulder and keyed into the government’s job creation scheme. He explained that he had no regrets, as his business was poised for higher level, but the issue of inadequate capital was posing a big challenge.



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