Nigerian Youths unemployment has been widely publicized and discussed. It is no longer news, and does not really need publicity. The impact is seen every day on our streets, social media, homes and all around us: there is one cousin, one sister, one brother, one friend or a friend’s child who you know is in need of a job. You get the calls, get CVs sent to you, but for the most part, you appear helpless as well. Anyone been there? On social media platforms, such as LinkedIn, the deluge of unemployed youths, who have learnt to voice out and call for help for jobs is alarming. You walk on the streets and see young and agile youths careless about ego and go ‘please help me with transport’, ‘please help me with something to eat’. The human instinct is to be judgmental – call them names and wonder why they ‘cannot go and look for job’. Sadly, that is what they get most of the time.
As a nation, we have an ever increasing population and a mass of that are our agile and energetic youths. The stage we have reached in our youth unemployment rate is alarming; it has reached a scary high. Therefore, it cannot be business as usual for all stakeholders (individuals, parents, family, private and government) in addressing the issue of job creation for our youths. Concerted and deliberate efforts and plan need to be in place. A plan devoid of tribal, ethnic, religious and political sentiments is the only plan that will work and take us out of the impending greater harm of youth unemployment.
Therefore job creation should be and is everyone’s responsibility. There is something each of us can do to support job creation. If you are already doing something, the urgency calls for more. My thoughts on job creation:
Consider Child’s Personality: Parents and guardians have a role to play in ensuring that their children have a chance at employment upon graduation. Therefore, parents need to begin to assess the personality traits of their children and wards as they take them through the process of choosing a course of study. Our private and government owned primary and secondary schools, may also want to adapt career assessment programs to help guide children and young adults in the process.
This very important decision (course of study) plays out while these young adults are in higher schools and when they face the labour market. When they take courses ‘for the sake of parental approval’ or lack of proper guidance, some of them come out as much a liability to their families and marketplace as they were prior to a higher education.
Deliberately Support for made-in-Nigerian Products: As a people, we have grown to become import-dependent to the state of self-doubt. If it is not imported, it is not good enough.
Yes, we are not in a state where we can do without a large percentage of import (and I do not have anything against importation). But we have to begin to deliberately support locally made products. Our Local, State or Federal government executive (political or appointed) need deliberately support made in Nigeria Products. Here are some considerations:
- Revive the orientation and support for made in Nigeria products; these businesses are our first hand job creators;
- Have a policy where all government parastatals, agencies or institutions including our executive, legislative and executive arms are supplied with made in Nigeria products as first option. All their consumables from toilet tissue to furniture and Softwares would be supplied by Nigerian manufacturers;
- Give incentive to multinationals who have the policy, implement it, procure and use locally made products and consumables for their operations;
- Provide incentives and awards for our young innovators and manufacturers, project them as role models to young adults;
- Support small and medium scale manufacturers with local and international market access for their products.
Government should not be the sole driver of the economy: Most businesses thrive on government patronage; and as soon as that business is out of sync with a new government in power; that business, all the jobs and livelihood created within that sphere suffers or become non-existence. An enabling environment that supports the establishment, success and growth of private sector businesses will enhance job creation.
Where are the industries?: We have a huge population of over 200 million but lack enough local industries to cater for their basic needs: water, clothing, food, housing, household consumables and more. Most of these basic goods are largely imported and few local businesses take insignificant amount of the market share. To create jobs, we have to have a fair percentage of local industries, small and medium scale manufacturers that are thriving, growing and scaling. There is need to create an enabling environment for industries operate and be able to serve our huge population and growing consumer taste.
Encourage Private Sector Short-term Internship Scheme: Soon after the one year mandatory Nigerian Youth Service Corps (NYSC) program, most graduates are back to the labour market and the NYSC work experience of some, do not bring so much value to employers. An interaction with a few NYSC graduates – who are usually sent to teach in rural schools, would show near zero skills that would bring value employers.
Encourage, reach an alliance, or provide incentives with sector businesses that offer internship at a token allowance for NYSC graduates. An internship for 2 graduates every 3 months, per organisation, per annum by say 5,000 private businesses will reach and impact about 30,000 youths annually across major cities in Nigeria. This keeps a majority of youths engaged at a time.
Create a Healthy Competition for Job Creation: Let each State Governor create a healthy Job Creation Competition among its Local Government Area or Council. Give an incentive of say, additional 5% allocation bonus to a local government that comes up with initiatives that creates jobs and economically empower youths within its community. To be successful, such competition should be devoid of any form of religious or political sentiments; it should be guided by data and external evaluation.
Research and Development: How strong do we think we are on Research and Development at different levels of government – local, state and federal? What type of value do we place on our academic researchers, our professors and their attempted inventions? Anybody got the answer? How do we plan for growth without adequate and accurate data? How do we plan for growth when the data will not be put to use. Can we make deliberate efforts to begin to turn the tables?
I recommend an active Research and Development Desk for all constituencies – communities, local government and ministries (at State and Federal levels). These Desks should engage our fresh and numerically inclined graduates and put them to work. Stimulate their minds and engage them in nothing but research, data collection and analysis which can be used to further serve and address social issues from health, to infrastructure, to population, crime and commerce.
Encourage Research and development across all strata of our institutions. Provide incentives for researchers and provide funding. Give Researchers awards and recognition and help them to promote their inventions locally and internationally; and help them with good regulations to protect their inventions and intellectual property.
Make Commerce Possible in other States and Regions: Can we have more Airports, Sea Ports and Road Networks in more parts of the Country? This enhances movement of goods and services, boosts commerce, reduces urban congestion and migration and ultimately creates job and grows the economy. Who gains – a Nigeria that could boast of improved GDP!
Review the Curriculum of our Schools: Review the Curriculum of our Schools at all levels to fit the realities of our fast-paced modern world. The world is changing, but our Schools curriculum unchanging. Such a review should address core subjects and also include special courses that would align and equip fresh graduates with skills that prepare them for the demands of the labour market.
Re-Design the Courses Offered in Universities: What is the purpose of being in the university in the first place? To acquire knowledge that enables an individual become fit for employment, either as an employee or an entrepreneur and add value to the society. Everyone needs the skills required to play in the marketplace. But most of our Courses do not prepare students to fit into our current or future labour market demands. What is our plan for giving a child admission to study Linguistic and Russian Language? Is our environment or labour demand ready or have need for such skill? Do we have a program that enables such skill to be ‘exported’?
Why do we offer courses such as Animal Husbandry with near zero animal farms nationwide? It is time to look inwards, redesign some courses being offered, keep some courses in the ‘archive’ or create a program to ensure that students that are ‘required’ to undergo such studies have a ready labour market that will absorb them.
Invest in our Educational System: How much of our budget goes to education? Is it possible to have a deliberate budget increment for education for the next 20 years? As far as our educational system is concerned, we get what we give. We need a shift.
Be serious about Development: When it comes to development, let’s learn to keep off tribal, religious and political sentiments, and truly begin to deliberately invest and focus on development. Put in place the right infrastructure that creates an enabling environment for human life development, wealth creation and economic boost. Countries such as Singapore and China have seen be seen to be deliberate about national development; those deliberate efforts of past decades is what the world see today, their citizens being the top beneficiaries.
Use Data Analytics for Governance: We have capable IT companies that can support each local, state and federal government ministries and agencies, including the three arms of government (Executive, Legislative and Judiciary) to better manage governance. Does the average hospital in a State know the number of adults visiting the hospital for a simple thing as malaria within say one month, to enable better preparation for the drug, the personnel and even utilities (water, toiletries, electricity etc) that will be required? Data should be the life of our governance and administration in today’s Nigeria.
Our Value System: Our young adults are guided by our value system. We cannot attach value to certain things, and expect the opposite from our youths. What gets the most accolades from us as a society? Merit driven performance or something that brings less value to human lives. Our definition of success is no longer our intellectual capacity and merit-driven performance. What society presents, is what our youths emulate and pursue in adult life. A re-orientation of the good old values of hard work, legally earned wealth, success as a process and not get quick rich syndrome, may be the place to start from at home and in all religious and secular settings.
Conclusion: Our greatest and God-given assets are our youths. They have the energy, the talents and young minds. Every parent looks forward to having a child that could ensure family continuity; that is equipped and capable to support them at old age. As a nation, do have these in our youths?
None of the above can be achieved in one year or two-term political administration. But how about a 20 year Plan for Job Creation for Nigerian Youths? We have the people, the talents and the resources, let’s harness them.