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Engaging Nigerian youths with entrepreneurial skills for national development

Engaging Nigerian youths with entrepreneurial skills for national development

By Gloria Ehiaghe
A cross section of Graduate Trainees of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) Employability Support Project in Lagos. PHOTO: AYODELE ADENIRAN

The importance of skills acquisition in developing and underdeveloping, especially Nigeria, is increasingly generating topics for discourse in the quest for development, at private and public sectors’ level.

With youths making up more than half of Nigeria’s population, any development plan that would be sustainable must undoubtedly be around young persons, but the dearth of “white collar” job makes it exigent for skills development.

Development experts have however, stressed that for a nation to be economically self-reliant, it must necessarily diversify its economy, as well as encourage the youth to embrace self-employment through appropriate favourable policies and an environment that facilitates skills acquisition, entrepreneurship and self-reliance.

Initiatives such as STEM educational programmes, investment in vocational training and community colleges, comprehensive apprenticeship programmes and improved access to risk capital are all important elements that have the potentials of unearthing innovations in youths.

So, how do youth get the entrepreneurial skills and experience they so desperately need?

Indeed, many states are tackling the high rate of unemployment by creating the needed space to ensure their youths are trained, particularly on vocational skills, thus making the majority of youths become employers of labour.

Of course, an important part of the solution is to equip the youth with an entrepreneurial mind-set and related business skills to succeed in creating new businesses.

The Lagos State Government (LASG) through the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund (LSETF) Employability Support Project in partnership with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) graduated its 2019 trainees, where over 5,000 persons were trained in different skills.

Specifically, they were trained in various sectors such as manufacturing, media, healthcare, garment making, construction, hospitality and business support, as part of the state’s response to unemployment challenge and targeted at unemployed persons with or without skills to enable them compete favourably internationally.

The representative of the Country Director, UNDP, Muyiwa Odele, noted that it was very important to understand and acquire skills that empower one to compete all over the world.

According to him, what Lagos State government is doing through the LSETF in partnership with organisations like the UNDP is to ensure that the youths of Nigeria do not fall behind in terms of skills and capacity building.

“There is opportunity for youth in the country to make themselves relevant in the labour market. The youths in Nigeria are living in adversity and it depends on how they react to that adversity.

“Anywhere you go, you see opportunities. They need to understand that paper qualifications will not take them to the promise land. They need to continue to retool and up-skill and keep themselves alive to various opportunities around them, and look for ways to take advantage around them. They should go out and look for opportunities to fill the gap.

“In Nigeria, everywhere you go, there is something that needs to be done and we should not be afraid of getting our hands dirty.

“Other states are beginning to see lots of impact of the programme. I believe that it is going to have a nominal effect on other states that need to create job opportunities for their youths and build up their capacity,” he said.

But the Lagos State Governor, Babajide Sanwo-Olu, at the graduation of the trainees, said there is the need to adequately equip the youths with world-class vocational skills and to utilise their potentials, as they stand a good chance in highly competitive market.

He argued that most job opportunities are mostly contracted to artisans in the neighbouring countries, who are considered to have better skills and expertise.

The governor also said there is an urgent need to reverse the situation with deliberate action to adequately equip Nigerian youths with world-class vocational skills in order to make them more competitive.

Represented by the Commissioner for Education, Folashade Adefisayo, Sanwo-Olu stressed that the project puts the state in another position to achieve its agenda for building a greater Lagos, saying, “this has become necessary to help us realise our Sustainable Development Goals objective of achieving full and productive employment and decent work for all by 2030.”

While enjoining youths to embrace vocational skills of the Fund, he urged the graduands be good examples in their places of employment, and also urged other organisations to join UNDP in the fight against unemployment in Lagos State.

The Acting Executive Secretary, LSETF, Teju Abisoye, added: “Our role is to help in finding the right skills for businesses. For us, our priority is to make sure the skills are available within the state and that is what we are working on. We are sharing and learning with other states how we can do this project end-to-end, engaging the industry, curriculum validation and all of that.”

Similarly, in Edo State, where about 400 youths were trained recently on various ICT skills at the Edo Production Centre, wife of the state Governor, Mrs. Betsy Obaseki, said that skills’ acquisition was pivotal in the nation’s quest to provide real solutions to the problems confronting the Nigerian society.

According to her, the Godwin Obaseki-led administration will continue to groom youths in the state in on-demand skill-set, especially in Information and Communications Technology (ICT) to prepare them to contribute to the state’s fledgling economy.

Describing the graduation ceremony of 400 youths trained on various ICT skills at the Edo Production Centre as a dream come true, she said she had always been passionate about skills development as an avenue to provide real solutions to problems confronting the Nigerian society.

The governor’s wife, represented by the Special Adviser on Gender to Edo State Governor, Efosa Uyigue, commended the state’s Skills Development Agency (EdoJobs) and its partners for equipping youths with relevant skills to transform the state’s economy.

She, therefore, urged the graduands to recognise the value of skills they were taught and be courageous to use the knowledge acquired to create the needed change.

The Senior Special Assistant to the Governor on Skills Development and Job Creation, Mrs. Ukinebo Dare, noted that the graduands were from Edo Innovate and had undergone training ranging from two weeks to one year.

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