In this report, ZAKA ABD-KHALIQ writes on why millions of Nigerian graduates are still unemployed.

In advanced economies where educational system is working perfectly, graduates are inventors, innovators and proffer economic and scientific solutions to problems confronting their respective countries.

Graduates, in those cycle, even if they are jobless, are engaged in researches that could lead to new discoveries. Competing companies struggle to employ such sharp brains because they can enhance the brands that finally employ them. Their educational system has sharpened their skills, prepare them very well for life outside the classroom, where they are expected to practicalise what they have learnt in schools.

But in Nigeria, our streets are flooded with graduates looking for jobs where there are none, yet, our tertiary institutions keep on churning out thousands of graduates on a yearly basis to further crowd the already saturated labour market.

Some, for 10 years or more after graduation, are still busy searching for jobs and every morning, you see more of them at the newsstand looking for vacancy placements in newspapers.

In an encounter with some of these graduates, they have gone for several interviews with no positive outcome. The recruiting companies keep turning them back because they are unemployable.

Why are Nigerian graduates unemployable, you may wish to ask? Experts said our educational system is a key contributor to this issue. According to them, the bribery and corruption going on in higher institutions made students lazy, believing money can buy them their dream results, so, would pay lecturers to award them marks they are not entitled to.In the end, they graduated with the best results that they could not defend. The experts also said the dilapidated nature of the facilities and poor quality of some of the lecturers on campuses is also a contributory factor.

According to an expert who craved anonymity, ‘‘The pathetic scenario is that some of the so-called graduates could not even write application letter properly, yet these are people who have spent minimum of four years in higher institutions, did and wrote the final year Research Project, went for the compulsory one year National Youths Service Corps (NYSC) only to come back and still be worse off than somebody who just finished his SSCE exams. So, when such graduates apply for jobs, the recruiting companies see them as not qualified for such vacancies.

‘‘Moreover, our educational syllabus is more theoretical than practical, and are structured in a way for students to look for jobs after graduation, rather than what they can do to create jobs.’’

Also, there are some field of study such as; geography, medicine, law, statistics, history and international relations, physics, engineering, among others, looking for graduates to employ, yet you find students rushing for already saturated courses such as; Business Administration, Accountancy, Marketing, Mass Communication and so on. This translates to misplaced priority from the onset.

More so, employers keep complaining about skills mismatch in the employment market, while some graduates come out lacking technical and soft skills to fit into the workplace.

Stakeholders’ Reaction The director-general, Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN), Dr Umaru Radda, said that only one out of 100 Nigerian graduates were employable, attributing the situation to poor skills and lack of entrepreneurial competence.

Radda, who stated this at a forum in Anambra State, said the population of young people between the ages of 15 and 24 around the world was rapidly on the increase, adding that, the vast majority of them lived in the poor and emerging economies. Radda, who was represented by the director, Policy, Advocacy and Coordination SMEDAN, Mr. Monday Ewans, said: “One of the major causes of unemployment is skill shortage occasioned by dearth of skilled personnel and entrepreneurial competence, inadequate capacity of vocational skill centres and the non-orientation of the educational system to the production of vocational skills that are aligned to industry requirements.”

In the same vein, Doctor of Optometry, University of Benin (UNIBEN), Mr. Imhanzenobe Jovita, said, since education is only seen by many as a tool to get the minimum requirements to get into coveted positions in society, it was no longer about learning, innovation, research or even duty, as it was all about positions and money.

To this end, he added that parents encouraged their children to study those courses that would get them into high paying jobs like Medicine, Law, Petroleum Engineering, Accounting, and so on.

Millions of graduates of these selected career paths, he noted, started chasing thousands of jobs, universities never bothered to search for new relevant careers to add to their courses offered and many students who could not make the high cut-off marks of these prestigious courses settles for meaningless careers that they lacked passion for, increasing their chances of failure.

“With few universities and colleges, poor funding and infrastructure, unqualified and mediocre teachers, mediocre students admitted, non- revised curriculums and courses of study, mismatched persons to careers, incessant strikes due to delays in salary and benefits payments of staff, high cost of good educational training in world class institutions and a general clannishness and give-nothing-but-expect-everything attitude encouraged by the constitution and the whole system, Nigeria continues to churn out semi-educated pupils at the primary level, unwholesomely educated students at the secondary level and unemployable graduates at the tertiary level,” he pointed out.

Meanwhile, president and chief executive officer, Postgraduate School of Credit and Financial Management, Prof Chris Onalo, who expressed concern over the quality of Nigerian graduates, said, about 95 per cent of them are not employable.

He lamented that the present crops of graduates do not meet the need of the reality in the workplace and called for an urgent attention from all concerned to address the trend.

Onalo who is also the Registrar, Institute of Credit Administration of Nigeria (ICA), added that the curriculum of tertiary institutions must be fine-tuned in line with market demands and current trends for graduates to be globally acceptable and relevant.

He said: “95 per cent of Nigerian graduates cannot get jobs. Those you see working are those supported by connections, not with what they came out of the university with. One thing with the labour market is that it keeps changing and you must have a brain that is well structured, one that recognises the need for change and quickly move ahead to create the change for things to function properly.

“If you have a curriculum that is obsolete, a curriculum that is 50 years away from the reality, then who are you baking? On one hand, it is the tertiary institutions that should develop the initiative and convey it to the labour market that we want collaboration and strategic partnership so that the labour market, captains in the industry, corporate managers and directors will have a very cordial relationship with the universities to bring the reality to the system. We don’t have that,” he pointed out.

How to make Graduates Employable

While investigation shows that jobs abound in the country, it was learnt that those jobs are given to expatriates and Nigerians that studied abroad because graduates of Nigerian universities are unemployable; they lack the skills that employers are looking for and are not teachable.

On his part, Senate President, Bukola Saraki, while lamenting the poor quality of graduates Nigeria universities produce on a year-to-year basis, maintained that most universities churned out unemployable graduates, as Nigeria’s university curriculum and teaching methods must be scaled up to reflect the demands of employers from both the public and the private sectors.

He said:“This situation requires the urgent intervention of all stakeholders in the education sector. What we have on our hands is an influx, into the workforce, of many graduates who are unable to meet the demands of both the public and the private sectors.

“In order to reduce the incidence of unemployment and make our country more competitive going into the future, we must immediately work to ensure the careful and constant realignment of what our young people are learning in the classrooms, with what the employers expect from them at the workplace.”

As school resumes in the current month, Senator Saraki said the Senate will mobilise its relevant committees to work with education stakeholders to develop clear-cut strategies on how to move Nigeria’s educational system forward.

Also, Minister of State for Education, Professor Anthony Anwukah, urged Nigerian graduates to go for an extra year of studies after graduation to bridge the skills gap and make them employable.

According to him, like law and medical graduates that proceed to the law school and housemanship for a year after graduation before being mobilised for the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) mandatory year of national service, graduates of other disciplines should do the same in some specialised institutions like the Lagos Business School.

He partly blamed the un-employability of graduates on the failure of the Students’ Industrial Work Experience Scheme (SIWES) in Nigerian universities, saying, SIWES is not playing its role in bridging the gap between universities and industries.

He said the one year re-schooling would serve as a training ground for graduates to be well equipped with the rudiments of the courses they studied in the university.

A secondary school teacher, Mr. John Ene also suggested regular review of the curriculum at the basic and secondary level, as they are the foundation on which the tertiary education rests.