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Leadership Wealth Limited Is Established To Produce Cutting-edge Entrepreneurs – Mike Okpere

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In view of the obvious gaps and imperfections in the previous attempts by government to curb graduate and youths unemployment through series of deliberate state policies, Leadership Wealth Limited, an Entrepreneurship and Vocational Skills training organisation, with an array of seasoned entrepreneurial skills instructors, trainers and specialist practitioners, has taken up the challenge to reverse this trend. In this interview with OMONU NELSON, the Managing Director of the organisation, Mike Okpere, explained what distinguishes it from its peers. .

Leadership Wealth is partnering with the Presidential Committee on North East Initiative (PCNI). What is the spirit behind this project and why now?
Research has revealed that Nigeria produces about 6 million graduates every year. We are all familiar with one of the sad facts of our economy, that unemployment is very high. Some argue that youth unemployment and graduate unemployment could be as high as 70 to 80% in Nigeria. So, unemployment is a very present problem in the country. And, when one considers the fact that, unemployment can lead to some other socio-economic problems like youth unrest, crime, drug addiction and other vices, one will realize that, it is a problem government and the people ought to take seriously.
Leadership Wealth was set up, essentially, to deliver entrepreneurship and vocational training for youths, graduates andother unemployed people in Nigeria. Once such people are equipped with productive skills, they can venture into self-employment, as an alternative means of livelihood, rather than leaving school and seeking for paid employment which in most cases is not available. We do know that about 33 per cent of the labour force in the US is involved in entrepreneurship and the primary and secondary employment it generates. So, basically, Leadership Wealth is involved in developing entrepreneurial skills in the Nigerian youths and other unemployed people. As such, it can generate employment for them and the secondary employment it will generate for the other people they will also employ.

One of the current projects we are involved in, is a collaboration with the Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI), which is the superintending agency of the Presidency set up to supervise the reconstruction, rehabilitation and economic recovery efforts in the North East region of the country. We are all aware of the fact that, the six states of the North East region of the country have been extensively, devastated by the insurgency activities of the Book Haram. The World Bank and various other agencies have estimated that the cost of rebuilding the region might be in the neighbourhood of nine billion dollars.

The collaboration between Leadership Wealth and PCNI, and our partner-bank, SunTrust Bank Ltd, is one very important plank of the recovery efforts of government in the North East. What this collaboration focuses on is economic recovery, especially in the area of job creation and alleviating the problem of unemployment in the North-East region. The Memorandum of Understanding for this project was signed by Leadership Wealth and PCNI on 15 May 2018. We are setting up strategically located training facilities, which will take in youths and other unemployed people in the North East, and train them. At the moment, we have over 50 carefully selected vocations in various sectors of the economy. And our training centres are well equipped to train people, equip them with the necessary skills and enable them to set up and practice these vocationsthe modern and more economically viableway.

There are such entrepreneurship and vocation-training centres scattered all over the place, what makes yours different?
There are three things that are unique about our approach to entrepreneurship and vocational training. Firstly, unlike, those other training organizations, we combine training in entrepreneurship with training in vocational skills. Most organizations either do vocational training, like the old Trade Centres in those days in the South-West, or they concentrate on entrepreneurship training. Leadership Wealth combines the two, so that, we produce what is called “ a complete entrepreneur”. We produce an entrepreneur who don’t just know how to practice a trade, by having the vocational skills, but he/she is also conversant with modern entrepreneurship and management skills. So that, he/she doesn’t just set up the business, but also knows how to run it effectively and profitably.
We recollect that, less than three per cent of start-ups actually survive the first year. To improve the chances of survival of these new enterprises that we are encouraging to start, we set out to equip them with all the skills they need, not only to practice the trade, the vocation, but also to manage it successfully.

The second thing that distinguishes Leadership Wealth from others is, one of the biggest problems new start-ups do have in any country worldwide, is “Where to get start-up capital.” Our programme runs under the auspices of the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YEDP).
YEDP was conceptualized by the CBN, to encourage entrepreneurship among the youths, especially, our unemployed graduates, who some argue are ‘unemployable’, given the poor quality of the education some of them have received. YEDP was setup to support and encourage entrepreneurial activities among the youths, as an alternative means of livelihood. So that, when people graduate from school, they pick skills under YEDP, they won’t have the need to carry their certificate around, in search jobs. Instead, they set up businesses, so that, they can contribute to the economic development of the country. They will also generate employment for others.
In this respect, Leadership Wealth has a list of over 50 carefully selected and fully developed courses. The syllabuses for these courses have been articulated to meet all the requirements of the scheme.

Leadership Wealth is partnering with the Presidential Committee on North East Initiative (PCNI). What is the spirit behind this project and why now?
Research has revealed that Nigeria produces about 6 million graduates every year. We are all familiar with one of the sad facts of our economy, that unemployment is very high. Some argue that youth unemployment and graduate unemployment could be as high as 70 to 80% in Nigeria. So, unemployment is a very present problem in the country. And, when one considers the fact that, unemployment can lead to some other socio-economic problems like youth unrest, crime, drug addiction and other vices, one will realize that, it is a problem government and the people ought to take seriously.
Leadership Wealth was set up, essentially, to deliver entrepreneurship and vocational training for youths, graduates andother unemployed people in Nigeria. Once such people are equipped with productive skills, they can venture into self-employment, as an alternative means of livelihood, rather than leaving school and seeking for paid employment which in most cases is not available. We do know that about 33 per cent of the labour force in the US is involved in entrepreneurship and the primary and secondary employment it generates. So, basically, Leadership Wealth is involved in developing entrepreneurial skills in the Nigerian youths and other unemployed people. As such, it can generate employment for them and the secondary employment it will generate for the other people they will also employ.
One of the current projects we are involved in, is a collaboration with the Presidential Committee on the North East Initiative (PCNI), which is the superintending agency of the Presidency set up to supervise the reconstruction, rehabilitation and economic recovery efforts in the North East region of the country. We are all aware of the fact that, the six states of the North East region of the country have been extensively, devastated by the insurgency activities of the Book Haram. The World Bank and various other agencies have estimated that the cost of rebuilding the region might be in the neighbourhood of nine billion dollars.
The collaboration between Leadership Wealth and PCNI, and our partner-bank, SunTrust Bank Ltd, is one very important plank of the recovery efforts of government in the North East. What this collaboration focuses on is economic recovery, especially in the area of job creation and alleviating the problem of unemployment in the North-East region. The Memorandum of Understanding for this project was signed by Leadership Wealth and PCNI on 15 May 2018.
We are setting up strategically located training facilities, which will take in youths and other unemployed people in the North East, and train them. At the moment, we have over 50 carefully selected vocations in various sectors of the economy. And our training centres are well equipped to train people, equip them with the necessary skills and enable them to set up and practice these vocationsthe modern and more economically viableway.

There are such entrepreneurship and vocation-training centres scattered all over the place, what makes yours different?
There are three things that are unique about our approach to entrepreneurship and vocational training. Firstly, unlike, those other training organizations, we combine training in entrepreneurship with training in vocational skills. Most organizations either do vocational training, like the old Trade Centres in those days in the South-West, or they concentrate on entrepreneurship training. Leadership Wealth combines the two, so that, we produce what is called “ a complete entrepreneur”. We produce an entrepreneur who don’t just know how to practice a trade, by having the vocational skills, but he/she is also conversant with modern entrepreneurship and management skills. So that, he/she doesn’t just set up the business, but also knows how to run it effectively and profitably.
We recollect that, less than three per cent of start-ups actually survive the first year. To improve the chances of survival of these new enterprises that we are encouraging to start, we set out to equip them with all the skills they need, not only to practice the trade, the vocation, but also to manage it successfully.
The second thing that distinguishes Leadership Wealth from others is, one of the biggest problems new start-ups do have in any country worldwide, is “Where to get start-up capital.” Our programme runs under the auspices of the Youth Entrepreneurship Development Programme (YEDP).
YEDP was conceptualized by the CBN, to encourage entrepreneurship among the youths, especially, our unemployed graduates, who some argue are ‘unemployable’, given the poor quality of the education some of them have received. YEDP was setup to support and encourage entrepreneurial activities among the youths, as an alternative means of livelihood. So that, when people graduate from school, they pick skills under YEDP, they won’t have the need to carry their certificate around, in search jobs. Instead, they set up businesses, so that, they can contribute to the economic development of the country. They will also generate employment for others.
In this respect, Leadership Wealth has a list of over 50 carefully selected and fully developed courses. The syllabuses for these courses have been articulated to meet all the requirements of the scheme.
We also have a curriculum to develop sound entrepreneurial skills forpersons that goes through the training. Of 50 vocational courses, we encourage the beneficiaries in the programme to select that course that goes along with his/her innate abilities. In other words, if I have preference for creative undertakings, I might want to go into fashion designing. Each participant will be encouraged to select those courses that are in tune with his/her natural abilities. That will enhance the chances of survival, if they eventually set it up.

What is the likely cost implication of this project on PCNI and the participants?
The cost implication will depend on the choice of course by the participant. I will explain. But, basically, the managerial and entrepreneurial courses are compulsory for everybody.
No trainee pays a kobo until he/she qualifies for the loan. In other words, you are almost doing free training. It is when you ARE successful, haven gone through the training, and, you qualify for the loan, through the partner bank; that a token training fee becomes payable.

What are your other selling points?
Like I said from the beginning, with this programme, trainees are most certain to have access to funding to set up their business if they complete their training successfully and are able to satisfy the bank’s lending criteria.
Our resolve is that, everyone who has successfully gone through our training is guided to satisfy the bank’s lending criteria to qualify them to access the loan. As part of the training programme, participants are taught to package bankable business proposals to elicit support from local banks.

How do you hope to carry out this training, given the prevailing security situation in the North East. Are you going to bring them to Abuja or…
As you may be aware, the security situation in the North East is improving. We are taking this programme to meet them at their doorstep. Attempting to go around North East states to bring them to Abuja will create a logistics nightmare. We intend to train them in Maiduguri, Yola, Bauchi, Gombe, Damaturu and Jalingo. But, where security situation is still volatile, we will move them to the nearest safer town.

How do you hope to handle the ‘Nigerian Factor’ in the selection of participants?
We shall treat all applicants fairlyand assess them on the basis of their ability and potentials. We aim to ensure a level playing ground.
As you know, this programme was tailor-made specifically for thenortheast. We shall consider applicants on first come, first served basis and possibly reserve 50% of the admission places for women/girls.
For those that have undergone some training earlier, we shall examine and identify their skill gaps, provide whatever additional training that is required and take them through managerial courses to prepare them to satisfy the lending criteria of the bank.

Another challenge that your team will likely contend with is low level of literacy. What are you doing about that?
That is why I earlier saidthat the PCNI variant is modified specifically for the northeast. This programme is modelled to attend to all level of educational exposure for the catchment area.

Are you thinking of extending these services to statesand governmental institutions like the PCN, given that unemployment problem is a general one?
We have on-going discussion with some state governments.
We are also discussing with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), where we have arranged a different variant of this programme to satisfy people from these particular states. All these are in the works. Their variant of the programmes shall be rolled out within the next few weeks.
It is our intention to generate self-employment for tens of thousands of youth all over this country. Trust me that with the support we expect to attract from the federal government, state government, the CBN, banks etc., this programme shall be very successful.
Please watch out.

How did you come about these creative ways of solving all facets of the failed programme?
What we concerned ourselves with was to first understand why other similar programmes failed. Our study revealed that there was lack of synergy amongparties running such programmes, and insufficient willingness on the part of the banks to participate in the programme because of the risk factors.
The inability of the training houses to address these two issues became a drag.
We have put a mechanism in place to address these failures. We discovered that, we needed to
work with a partner-bank to ensure smooth appraisal of facility.
We discovered that we also needed to support the bank to collateralize the loans to beneficiaries.
We discovered we needed to carry out extension services to ensure the success of the programme and repayment of the facilities.

We have sewn up all the failure points and we are ready for the Nigerian youths. We also have a curriculum to develop sound entrepreneurial skills forpersons that goes through the training. Of 50 vocational courses, we encourage the beneficiaries in the programme to select that course that goes along with his/her innate abilities. In other words, if I have preference for creative undertakings, I might want to go into fashion designing. Each participant will be encouraged to select those courses that are in tune with his/her natural abilities. That will enhance the chances of survival, if they eventually set it up.

What is the likely cost implication of this project on PCNI and the participants?
The cost implication will depend on the choice of course by the participant. I will explain. But, basically, the managerial and entrepreneurial courses are compulsory for everybody.
No trainee pays a kobo until he/she qualifies for the loan. In other words, you are almost doing free training. It is when you ARE successful, haven gone through the training, and, you qualify for the loan, through the partner bank; that a token training fee becomes payable.

What are your other selling points?
Like I said from the beginning, with this programme, trainees are most certain to have access to funding to set up their business if they complete their training successfully and are able to satisfy the bank’s lending criteria.
Our resolve is that, everyone who has successfully gone through our training is guided to satisfy the bank’s lending criteria to qualify them to access the loan. As part of the training programme, participants are taught to package bankable business proposals to elicit support from local banks.

How do you hope to carry out this training, given the prevailing security situation in the North East. Are you going to bring them to Abuja or…
As you may be aware, the security situation in the North East is improving. We are taking this programme to meet them at their doorstep. Attempting to go around North East states to bring them to Abuja will create a logistics nightmare. We intend to train them in Maiduguri, Yola, Bauchi, Gombe, Damaturu and Jalingo. But, where security situation is still volatile, we will move them to the nearest safer town.

How do you hope to handle the ‘Nigerian Factor’ in the selection of participants?
We shall treat all applicants fairlyand assess them on the basis of their ability and potentials. We aim to ensure a level playing ground.
As you know, this programme was tailor-made specifically for thenortheast. We shall consider applicants on first come, first served basis and possibly reserve 50% of the admission places for women/girls.
For those that have undergone some training earlier, we shall examine and identify their skill gaps, provide whatever additional training that is required and take them through managerial courses to prepare them to satisfy the lending criteria of the bank.

Another challenge that your team will likely contend with is low level of literacy. What are you doing about that?
That is why I earlier saidthat the PCNI variant is modified specifically for the northeast. This programme is modelled to attend to all level of educational exposure for the catchment area.

Are you thinking of extending these services to statesand governmental institutions like the PCN, given that unemployment problem is a general one?
We have on-going discussion with some state governments.
We are also discussing with the Niger Delta Development Commission (NDDC), where we have arranged a different variant of this programme to satisfy people from these particular states. All these are in the works. Their variant of the programmes shall be rolled out within the next few weeks.
It is our intention to generate self-employment for tens of thousands of youth all over this country. Trust me that with the support we expect to attract from the federal government, state government, the CBN, banks etc., this programme shall be very successful.
Please watch out.
How did you come about these creative ways of solving all facets of the failed programme?
What we concerned ourselves with was to first understand why other similar programmes failed. Our study revealed that there was lack of synergy amongparties running such programmes, and insufficient willingness on the part of the banks to participate in the programme because of the risk factors.
The inability of the training houses to address these two issues became a drag.
We have put a mechanism in place to address these failures. We discovered that, we needed to
work with a partner-bank to ensure smooth appraisal of facility.
We discovered that we also needed to support the bank to collateralize the loans to beneficiaries.
We discovered we needed to carry out extension services to ensure the success of the programme and repayment of the facilities.

We have sewn up all the failure points and we are ready for the Nigerian youths.



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