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How To Address Nigeria’s Unemployment Challenge



Recent studies have advocated for entrepreneurship as a viable solution to youth unemployment and with the right structure and facilitated administrative processes, young people could create enterprises as means to find and create new jobs. Here, MAKINDE OLUWAROTIMI explores strategies aimed at tackling youth unemployment in Nigeria.

According to the National Population Commission about half of the population of Nigeria is made up of youths, defined as individuals between 15 and 34 years of age. Unfortunately, as the youth population grows, so does the unemployment rate. In fact, unemployed youth numbered about 11.1 million in 2012.
First, in terms of age, younger youth struggle even more to find jobs: At least two-thirds of unemployed youth are between 15 and 24 years of age. And, in terms of gender, available statistics show that a majority of unemployed youth are female. Unemployed youth have been called “a lost generation”: not only because of productivity loss but also because of the long-term direct and indirect impact unemployment has on young people and their families. Unemployment has been said to affect earnings for about 20 years. Because they are not able to build up skills or experience during their first years in the workforce, unemployed youth see a decrease in lifetime earnings when compared to those who had steady work or those who were unemployed as an adult.

The rise of political unrest and anti-social behaviour in the world has been recently attributed to youth unemployment. During the course of 2011, it became a key factor in fueling protests around the globe. Within 12 months, four regimes (Tunisia, Egypt, Libya, Yemen) in the Arab World fell in the wake of the protests led by young people.
Realising all these, the National Direct of Employment (NDE) has taken the bull by the horn in order to address this mounting unemployment challenge.
The Federal Government of Nigeria through the assistance of the World Bank introduced Youth Employment and Social Support Operation (YESSO), aimed at providing income security through income support, and access to employment opportunities for the poor and vulnerable youth and women.
The first cycle of the pilot phase under the Skills for Job training was delivered at three levels. Life Skills, Sector Specific, and Entrepreneurship skills training, through Life Skills training, youth are assisted with skills to identify their goals in life and also sensitise them on communication skills, interview skills, opportunities on social media platforms while the Sector Specific Skills training enabled the youth to understand skills available within the growth sectors that are highly demanded. The Entrepreneurship skills training exposed them to cutting-edge knowledge for running business successfully in Nigeria.

No fewer than 2, 621 trainees under Skills for Job component of Youth Employment and Social Support Operation (YESSO) received the N7500 allowances earlier promised them.
Out of the total number, Bauchi has 609 trainees, Cross River 79, Ekiti 70, Kwara 388, Kogi 187, Niger 1025 and Oyo with 263. The trainees are selected from the single register which is generated through a combination of Geographic Targeting, Community-Based Targeting, and the application of Proxy Means Test to identify and screen poor and vulnerable households for the intervention. A total of 2325 women and Youth have graduated from the Skills for Job Training of Youth Employment and Social Support Operation anchored by the NDE. This followed the successful completion of the various levels of the training by the S4J beneficiaries which comprises Life skills, Sector specific skills, and Entrepreneurship skills training.
Trainees were also placed on six months’ internship with private sector operators. The skills for job training, which came with a paradigm shift in the delivery of skills training, has exposed trainees to Core Life skills competencies, enhanced trainees’ psycho-social behaviours and norms to assist in their future engagement, obtained good knowledge of demand driven skills that concretely prepared them for jobs in either public or private establishments, entrepreneurship skills training which has upgraded the capacity of S4J beneficiaries to effectively and efficiently manage their enterprises.

In line with the Federal Government commitment towards poverty reduction and employability drive, trainees were provided with meals during orientation, and other three levels of training. The sum of N150,736,828 million was disbursed to Payment Service Providers to pay 2325 beneficiaries as monthly stipend at the maximum rate of N7, 500.00 while another sum of N7, 903, 000.00 was paid to NABTEB as registration and handling charges, which enabled skills for Job graduates who sat for Trade modular certification examination organised by NABTEB.
The skills for job (S4J) training constitute one of the World Bank assistance to increase access of the poor and vulnerable to youth employment opportunities in the participating states of Bauchi, Cross river, Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara, Niger and Oyo. In a bid to encourage inclusive growth and development, 66 Skills for Job beneficiaries in Ekiti State were provided Starter-pack items to establish their micro-businesses. In his address at the disbursement ceremony, the deputy governor of the state, Prof. Kolapo Olusola, who was represented by the state’s Commissioner for Budget and Economic planning, Olajide Gbenga, appreciated the effort of the World Bank, FOCU, NDE and Private Sector operators for ensuring the successful implementation of YESSO in Ekiti State.
In their separate goodwill messages at the event, the director general of the NDE, Dr Nasiru Mohammed Ladan, also represented by NDE Director, Finance and Accounts, Mal Abubakar Nuhu Fikpo, commended the timely intervention of Ekiti State government to provide tools and equipment to S4J beneficiaries, this gesture, according to him will help inject another 66 micro-enterprises to the economy of the state and would avoid their relapse to unemployment.

The World Bank Task Team leader, Prof Foluso Okunmadewa, congratulated Ekiti State, NDE for diligently implementing Skills for Job, according to him, ‘’the World Bank salutes the ownership, commitment, dedication and funding committed to this effort’’. He charged beneficiaries to stay committed to the dictates and requirements of this program in order to harvest the promised fruitfulness which is sustainable job and welfare improvement. About 152 unemployed persons selected from poor and vulnerable households have acquired marketable skills under the first training cycle of the Skills-for-Job (S4J) component in Kogi State. These beneficiaries are youth selected from the Single Register of the poor and vulnerable household established through a community-based information gathering (CBIG) process by the (Kogi) State Operation Coordinating Unit (SOCU) of YESSO using the Kogi State Poverty Index Map as a guide. These youths were Verified and authenticated by the state NDE- S4J Team, and comprise of 71 males and 81 females aged between 18 years and 35 years with a minimum of JSS3 education.
The nine months training was flagged-off at the ITF Conference Hall, Lokoja with the S4J Focal Person, the Kogi State coordinator of SOCU, representatives of the Federal Ministry of Finance and other dignitaries in attendance.

Speakers at the disbursement ceremony enjoined the beneficiaries to take their training seriously as it would take them out of poverty, make them self-employed and eventually become employers of labour. During the orientation programme also, S4J beneficiaries were documented while the bank officials captured their details to enable them open accounts in readiness for the payment of their monthly stipends of N7,500. The first three months of the programme involve developing skills in some core areas of Life Skills, Vocational/Sector Specific Skills and Entrepreneurship skills. Some of the trades offered by the beneficiaries include poultry, fishery, fashion and design, computer operations, aluminium fabrication, carpentry, textile and electrical installation. The second phase, covering a period of six months was designed to provide internship training with private sector operatives. The joy of these beneficiaries knows no bound as they were exposed to more practical training to gain experience and adequate mentorship. Appreciating the training opportunity provided them; one of the interns, Muhammed Umar, who studied fisheries commended the World Bank, the federal government and NDE for the opportunity given to them to acquire marketable skill and their registration for certification by NABTEB.
Another apprentice, Yandako Yalagan, who studied Fashion and Design enjoined the state government to provide them with necessary tools and equipment to enable them start their own businesses for sustainability and to run a functional and productive life while at the same time contributing to the economy of the state.
In his appeal to the Kogi State government, the Kogi State S4J Team Head, Abdul’I brahim Ndaman, stated that the programme is a viable tool to reduce crime and criminality in the state as idle youth are made to become productive.

He admonished the government to expedite action in signing the MoU with private sector operators and assist the graduate beneficiaries with starter packs in order to avoid a precarious situation that would dampen the spirit of the Private Sector Operators and the grandaunts of S4J intervention relapsing to the poor and vulnerable status again. “In Kogi State, it gladdens our heart that Federal Government of Nigeria with the assistance of the World Bank settled all the training expenses; paid stipends to the beneficiaries and also paid the National Board of Technical Education (NABTEB) to conduct Trade Modular Certification Examination for award of certificate,” he added. Meanwhile, the pre-test training of 108 will be conducted at the International Vocational, Technical and Entrepreneurship College, established by the Kwara State government. This will be followed by another batch of at least 250 beneficiaries per batch for a three months training at IVTEC. The NDE being the implementation agency for the S4J Component will have to sign Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with training Institution. The objective is strengthening collaboration to execute a test case ‘’Output-based KWSG-managed S4J sub-component in the training of WB-YESSO-S4J beneficiaries. Under the current arrangement, the NDE will pay a fee of N90, 000 per trainee to IVTEC, pay stipend to beneficiaries, provide regular monitoring while IVTEC will deliver the three levels’ training and also conduct examination and evaluation of each trainee.

One of the great aspirations desired by key stakeholders of Youth Employment and Social Support Operation (YESSO) is to improve the living conditions of the poor and vulnerable section of the Nigerian population. This is achievable through the provision of Human capacity development of the poor, it is therefore, incontrovertible to say that, the training of over 2325 youth in ICT, panel beating, Auto-Mech, Poultry, Cosmetology, Plumbing, Electrical Installation, Painting and Decoration, Garment Production, Shoe and Bag manufacture, Catering, Drum Making, PoP Making, Fashion Design, Make-over, Welding, Fish production, etc under the first cycle of the Skills for Job Training is a step in the right direction because of the derivable benefits associated with acquiring such skills to function and meet up with requirements of Job demands of the 20th century. Our checks with few beneficiaries that are practicing their learned skills reveal some positive narratives hence mentioned that the training has helped to increase in work capacity and capability, improve in proficiency, effectiveness and efficiency and is serving as veritable source of employment. No wonder, the World Bank saddled the NDE to drive the implementation of the second cycle of Skills Training in Bauchi, Cross River, Ekiti, Kogi, Kwara, Niger and Oyo side by side with WB-S4J output-based sub-component. But Osun, which keyed in to the initiative recently will train the first set of 176 trainees.
According to the NDE-YESSO Focal Person, Olaomi R.S, arrangements are at advance stage to commence the second cycle of the training, already State S4J Teams swung in to action to mine the prospective beneficiaries using the approve selection criteria, which include but not limited to possession of a minimum of nine years of schooling (JSS3), unemployed, and potential beneficiaries to fall within the age 18-35 years.

Other tasks undertaken by the state teams was the door-to door verification of the mined beneficiaries to ascertain their availability for the training or otherwise. The focal person confirmed 5,509 beneficiaries were verified and ready for the training.
She added that public training institutions have been identified. Under this model the three levels of the training (life skills, sector specific and Entrepreneurship) would be conducted at the facilities of the institution.
YESSO-S4J is a cutting-edge training strategy, in achieving this; NDE does not act alone, nor accept business as usual, they simply key in to the innovative and market-driven training model.