Tackling youth unemployment

Although the actual statistics are not readily available, it is correct to say that there are too many unemployed and underemployed youths in the country. It is dangerous. It is an indication that we are not preparing for the future. It is an indication of past failure. Sadly, there is nothing to make the youths believe that somebody somewhere has rolled up his sleeves, working on some massive programme to transform their lives.

The labour force of the Nigerian state is constituted by the youths. As one travels across the country, we encounter youths who have been compelled to give up their dreams. The ones who do not want to go the dubious way are left stranded. The easy but dangerous path to make fast money is a great attraction to many of them. Internet fraud, kidnapping, extortion, cultism, and obtaining money through false pretences are great temptations. A young vibrant man who wakes up in the morning with nothing to do, no great things to look forward to is a great threat to himself and to society. It is practical problem. It requires a practical solution. An idle youth is more likely to become a thug or a brigand or an outright criminal. After the beautiful optimistic years of university education, the spectre of unemployment is a spirit-killer.

A cursory look at the social media would reveal that there are too many young people with brilliant ideas who have not been able to realise their full potentials. Apart from these, there are too many graduates, ex-students of great academic institutions who are not living their dream. They may not even have dreamt to live on Banana Island or anything so fantastic. Most of them just wanted to graduate, get a good job and live the normal life with their life-partners. There are those who never went beyond secondary education. These wanted to work hard and get on with life at their level. Sadly, people at that level are beginning to see that life at that level is condemnation to perpetual poverty. What then is the solution to youth employment?

I propose that from the next batch of our sons and daughters on the National Youth Service scheme, an elaborate and detailed scheme should be introduced to get them gainfully employed after the one-year mandatory service. This should start from the camps. They should be introduced to life-lasting skills and knowledge. One big area where the government can succeed is IT. Of course, it is subdivided into segments that well-trained graduates can carve a niche for themselves.

Anyone who has been involved with building in the last 20 years would realise that we lack artisans with the proper training. How may we train artisans and skilled men and women both the local and international markets? Nigerian builders currently search for artisans from Benin Republic and Togo. They are often well-trained, better disciplined and amenable to labour rules. Who says that with the right orientation we cannot direct the minds of our youths in that direction. To achieve any or all of this, we need national discipline. We need a disciplined team with proper focus. We need a team that is bothered about the overall survival of the nation than their pockets. These should be well planned and coordinated with targets and projection and milestones.

In times of a recession massive injection of resources into infrastructure is a great stimulant to growth. The multiplier effect could be astounding if the resources are properly channeled. As jobs are created and people get employed at different levels, the power to spend is increased. I suggest a massive injection of funds into agriculture. Specifically poultry farming could be a life-saver. From the very beginning to the end stage where eggs are laid, there are opportunities for growth. If we fund 500,000 youths every year into poultry farming with a guarantee that their products would be readily bought off them, in 10 years, there would be massive turn-around in that sector. Added to this is the export end of the chain.

Of course before the programme starts, detailed planning must have taken place. The right questions must be asked and answered. Who produces the feeds? Who supplies the feeds? Who pays for the feeds? How do we ensure discipline? How do we guarantee profit? How do we penetrate the African markets? How do we penetrate the Asian market? What else can we produce from the huge tonnes of eggs that are harvested daily or weekly? What about transporting the products to the market? Would these be in the hands of the youths as well? What guarantees can banks give?

Another area of agriculture which we can exploit during these harsh times is fish production. Which type of fish? What are the best methods for producing the fish? What markets are likely to be available? Who should be placed in charge of getting their products into the harsh competing markets in the international system? What role can ECOWAS play?

The universities must redirect the contents of their programmes to problems solving. No matter what discipline our youths study, there should be a definite focus on creating wealth, of creating work. The era of abstract ideas for the sake of abstract ideas is gone. What role can abstract ideas play in creating jobs? That should be the focus of our academic programmes in the universities and the polytechnics.

It would seem that the nation currently lacks the political will or ideological persuasion to fully engage the youths of our country. If we do not take action to give our young men and women a sense of belonging and fulfillment in the Nigerian project the keg of gunpowder will not take long to explode.

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