The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) scheme has as its objectives the mandate to contribute to the accelerated growth of the national economy, develop common ties among the Nigerian youths and promote national unity and integration.
Over the years, the NYSC has pursued various measures geared towards critically engaging corps members constructively during their service year as part of efforts to achieve its set goals. One of such is the entrepreneurship week, which comes at the end of every service year in collaboration with the National Directorate of Employment (NDE). Through that programme, Corps members are trained and introduced to various skills designed to make them establish as start-ups after their service year.
Similarly, in 2008, the Corps went into a collaboration with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) as one of the ways of promoting the spirit of self-reliance and entrepreneurship. It started with 600 corps members per edition. Through the programme, over 2000 corps members have been reached.
We recall that in 2019, NYSC also took a step further by expanding the partnership with the CBN to include offering loans to corps members under a seven-year tenor to assist beneficiaries with funds to startup businesses of their choice.
The success of this and other programmes encouraged other organizations to collaborate with the NYSC to train Corps members on skills acquisition. For instance, the Office of the Special Adviser to the President on Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) sponsored a programme- ‘The War against Poverty’ (WAP) which was structured to empower corps members with skills and startup loans to professionalise in Agro-Allied enterprises. It is also in line with the scheme’s determination to respond to current unemployment realities by shifting the corps members’ attention from the unrealistic quest for white-collar jobs to that of becoming self-employed after their national service.
At the end of the training, the corps members were given interest-free loans ranging from N200, 000 to N300, 000 to start businesses in their areas of choice. Through WAP, NYSC has trained and empowered close to 500,000 corps members.
It is instructive to add that the innovations in the NYSC skills acquisition and entrepreneurship development programme have resulted in tangible gains. Already, over 1,400,000 corps members have been sensitised on entrepreneurship development. To boost this synergy channeled towards engaging the youths, the Access Bank Plc built and equipped a mega Skills Acquisition Centre for the North East Zone in Gombe. Others are in the pipeline for Jigawa State in the North West, Nasarawa in North Central and Ekiti State in the South west.
There is also the successful partnership with funding institutions such as the Bank of Industry (BoI) and the CBN on the provision of startup capital for the Corps’ entrepreneurs; the training of 40 SAED officers on Entrepreneurship by multinationals like General Electric and Cognity Advisory using the International Labour Organisation (ILO’s) How-to-Start-and-Improve-Your-Business-Guide curriculum.
We had earlier on this page argued that NYSC needs to be fine-tuned and retooled to enable it play a more relevant role in the harnessing of the energy of the youth, in addition to its other philosophical mandate. In our opinion, these skill acquisition programmes are part of what the country needs.
We believe that the scheme can make contributions towards reducing the country’s unemployment rate as most of the trained and equipped corps members have imbibed the spirit of entrepreneurship against the usual unending wait for white-collar jobs. The ultimate impact will be a chain of successes in businesses as well as the inspiration such positive development will have on the nation.
Therefore, we are moved to commend the NYSC for these laudable initiatives geared towards fulfilling its mandate and ensuring that the scheme continues to provide a platform for Nigerian youths to acquire the spirit of self-reliance and entrepreneurship.
In the meantime, and in our considered opinion, the government should channel more resources to the NYSC Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship development initiatives. In this direction, we urge the government to also consider, as a matter of urgency, the establishment of an NYSC Trust Fund (NYSCTF) to provide start- up capitals for all passing out Corps members to establish their businesses on the skills acquired through the scheme. It can also expand and replicate the template across the country to encourage self-reliance amongst the teeming youthful population in the country.
It is pertinent that the organised private sector are not left out of these laudable initiatives. The benefits of expanding the NYSC Skills and Entrepreneurship Development programme are many, in our view. It has the potential to address, in a more meaningful way, the unemployment situation among the youth. Even more than that, it will address, frontally, the problem of youth involvement in anti-social behaviours.