Tackling social crisis through skill acquisition initiative
UNEMPLOYMENT remains one of the most critical problems bedeviling Nigeria today.
Nigeria, the most populous country in Africa and the second-largest economy in the continent with a population of over 150 million, is endowed with abundant human and material resources.
Unfortunately, years of unbridled corruption, mismanagement and sheer waste have hindered economic growth in the country.
Consequently, the nation’s resources have been left underutilised 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. What seems to be more worrisome is the fact that the nation’s tertiary institutions continue to churn out more than 150,000 graduates yearly and 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 of the country, putting it in a position to be reckoned with, in ensuring youth empowerment.
Director-General of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), Brigadier-General Johnson Olawunmi, in a reaction to the growing number of unemployed youths in the country has called for practical solutions to address the situation.
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 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 bottlenecks 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 product 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 N50,000 full fee as long as we will send many to them for training and they will balance up the rest of the money in installments 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.
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 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.
Olawumi listed some of the constraints confronting further realisation of the lofty objectives of job creation and reduction of unemployment among youths in the country to include inadequate skills centres for post-camp training and stringent conditions for accessing micro-credit required for trained corps members to start business.
The State Coordinator, NYSC, Lagos State, Mrs. Adenike Adeyemi, said that the introduction of Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurial Development Programme into the NYSC scheme has helped many fresh graduates to be self-reliant, creating employment opportunities instead of searching for non-existent jobs.
Speaking at the closing ceremony of the ‘Batch A Orientation Course’ in Lagos recently, she said the programme has resulted in many fresh graduates looking for alternative means of engagement after graduation.
She maintained that the skill acquisition programme now equips corps members to explore other areas of opportunities instead of relying on white-collar jobs.
She said “I want to say that gradually through the NYSC’s skill acquisitions and entrepreneurship development programme introduced into the scheme, the corps members now have a paradigm shift. Most of them no longer think only the way of white-collar jobs. Most of them know that it is possible to live and fire their passions”