Recently, the management of the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) introduced, a Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme, as a way of assisting corps members develop their entrepreneurial skills. STELLAMARIES AMUWA (Abuja) writes on the impact of the programme on job creation.
“Life would have been far better at the moment if SAED was created years ago”, these are the words of an unemployed graduate, Cynthia Odika, 33 who completed her youth service programme, seven years ago.
Odika who spoke with LEADERSHIP Friday on challenges of being unemployed after service said, “Life has not been pleasant since I graduated about seven years ago. It has been from one private firm to another and at the end, I still quit my job with so many regrets. Getting a civil service job is also not easy to come by, though, I believe if I had the opportunity these young corps members have now, I would have long established a business of my own, especially with the skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development programme in place for them.”
Odika, may have been in and out of jobs for seven years, the case of Umar Hassan, a graduate of Electrical Engineering can be considered worse as the 34-year-old graduate is yet to find a job in the last eight years.
He has pondered the streets of Abuja, Minna, Kaduna and Kano without getting a job and decided to refresh his memories with some house wiring skills from someone who has never been to any conventional school.
“Today, I do house wiring jobs in Suleja to irk a living as I could no longer wait for any big job as the reality has dawned on me that the jobs are not there, you have to create one yourself or you will wait till old age,” he told LEADERSHIP Friday.
It has been reported that Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria increased to 33.10 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 from 29.50 per cent in the second quarter of 2017. Youth Unemployment Rate in Nigeria averaged 21.73 per cent from 2014 until 2017, reaching an all time high of 33.10 per cent in the third quarter of 2017 and a record low of 11.70 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2014.
According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment and underemployment in the country combined, escalated from 37.2 per cent to 40 per cent in the second quarter of 2017.
Youths in the age bracket of between 15 and 35, were hit hard with an alarming rate of 52.65 per cent.
In comparison to some African countries, youth unemployment in Liberia stands at 4.7 per cent, Kenya 18.7 per cent, Egypt 26.3 per cent, South Africa 27.7 per cent (its highest in recent years), Lesotho 31.8 per cent, Libya, 43.8 per cent and Ghana 48 per cent.
The situation in economically advanced countries cannot be compared to the reality in Nigeria and Africa in general, as the youth unemployment figures are more acceptable. With an economy that is import based with little manufacturing, youth and graduate unemployment rate continue to pose a serious problem to policy makers.
Nigeria is said to be sitting on a ticking time bomb as more graduates are churned out annually with little or no job opportunities for them. Some experts have attributed the rising cases of social vices as kidnapping, robbery, thuggery, cultism and other criminal activities to the army of the unemployed in the country.
Sensing the gravity of the situation, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC), through its Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) programme is rising to the challenge.
The effectiveness of the programme, according to the corps is an important and veritable instrument at improving the entrepreneurial skills of graduate youths in Nigeria.
It is evident that lack of employment opportunities have created great sense of hopelessness among the Nigerian youths and made them predisposed to violence, crime and acts of terrorism.
It was in the light of that, that the then minister of Youth and Social Development in a presentation to the Senate Committee on Women and Youth Affairs in 2011, disclosed government’s plans to redirect the NYSC towards national priority areas such as agriculture, education, rural health and infrastructure.
As a follow up to this, the Office of the Head of Service of the Federation, in 2012, approved the establishment of SAED in the NYSC as a leeway to introduce entrepreneurship in the psyche of the Nigerian graduate youth during the one year National Service.
The goal and mission of the SAED department in the NYSC is to contribute in actualising the Millennium Development Goal 1 (MDG-1), which is “Eradication of extreme poverty and hunger”.
To achieve this, the scheme set out the following objective to drive the SAED programme: to mobilise about 200,000 young graduates for skill acquisition annually; facilitate the training and mentoring of the young graduates in skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development for self-reliance annually; promote documentation and sharing of best practices on youth empowerment in Nigeria; promote public-private partnership for entrepreneurship development and self-reliance amongst Nigerian youths and Support evidence driven advocacy effort for favourable policies on youth empowerment in Nigeria.
To this end, the management of the Scheme conscientiously drives and develops the culture of self-reliance among the corps members. During the orientation and indeed the entire service year, corps members are consciously mobilised, trained and mentored on skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development.
Consequently, the curriculum at the Orientation camp was structured into phases with entrepreneurship sensitisation and motivation as the intro at the beginning of the nine days intensive in-camp training. This is followed by the entrepreneurship development and skills acquisition in variety of business sectors.
The sensitisation and motivation are aimed at sensitising youth corps members to the reality that “only about 10 per cent of Nigerian population are engaged in wages or salary jobs while about 38 per cent are into agriculture and the other 52 per cent are either self employed on small scale businesses or are unemployed”.
The corps members are made to know that they are better placed to find active economic opportunities as entrepreneurs in their own businesses. It is also hoped that the motivation and sensitisation will positively propel them to investigate and explore these opportunities rather than exclusively focus on seeking for white-collar jobs.
The basic practical exploration in skills acquisition in 12 different business skills by the corps members within the limited time frame of the orientation camp, gives the corps members the desired stimulus as prospective entrepreneurs to seek further investigation into the world of entrepreneurship.
These skills range from agro allied to cosmetology, food processing, film and photography, environment, culture and tourism, education among others.
The corps members therefore are intended to acquire the business skills based on their areas of interest and choice. The training acquired during the camping exercise is further developed during the service year through the monitoring and mentorship series. Since 2012, the Scheme has pursued this agenda with great determination and foresight.
In his speech during the opening ceremony of the Graduate Entrepreneurship Funds in Lagos in December, 2016, the director-general of the NYSC, Brig Gen Sulaiman Kazaure, revealed that since the commencement the SAED programme in 2012, over 700,000 corps members have benefitted from the NYSC in-camp training skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development. While about 9,172 have been mentored and are doing very well and contributing to the growth of various macro and micro economic development in the country.
In a more practical pursuit of this agenda, and in order to demonstrate its commitment to making sure that the efforts and dreams of these striving youths are not drowned in our socio economic chaos, the Scheme on 15th of March 2016 unveiled the tripartite programme in collaboration with Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) and Heritage Bank Plc tagged ‘Youth Innovative Entrepreneurship Development Programme’. The programme is aimed at scaling up the funding of the NYSC SAED Programme.
In its pilot stage, about 1,250 corps members that qualified, got up to 3 million Naira only, to start up their own businesses after the rigorous selection processes.
In his step-to-step analysis of the Scheme’s partnership with the Bank of Industries and other stakeholders, the DG, in his speech during SAED stakeholders’ meeting in July 2016, revealed that the NYSC SAED Programme has also empowered about 355 corps members under the Graduate Entrepreneurship Fund. Furthermore, he equally disclosed that the partnership between the NYSC SAED with Credit Direct has empowered over 400 corps members with loans to the tone of 14 million Naira. A high percentage of all the beneficiaries of these programmes have established thriving businesses and are even employers of labour.
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