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Tackling youth unemployment through vocational skills acquisition
Recently, the Minister for Youth Development, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, visited Obafemi Owode to inspect the Owode Egba Youth Development Centre, one of the eight youth training centres his ministry is constructing across the six geopolitical zones in the country. Clement Idoko writes on the job creation efforts of the ministry.
IN the serene and rustic community of Owode-Egba, Obafemi-Owode Local Government Area of Ogun State, Nigeria, lies an expanse of land of about 56 hectares, mapped out by the Federal Government to boost its youth empowerment initiative. The project is the Youth Development Centre, one of the eight designated youth centres established by the present administration as a multi-pronged approach at addressing the challenges of youth unemployment presently facing the country.
According to reports, about 10 million Nigerian school-age children are out of school. Some, who are not so lucky, are engaged in exploitative labour or sexually abused. It’s a common phenomenon to see Nigerian underage boys and girls daily on the streets in major towns, including the Federal Capital Territory (FCT) Abuja, and on highways, hawking items like groundnut, purportedly to complement the efforts of their ‘parents’, or at best, masters. Those not in these categories, of course, are ready tools available to politicians for use as thugs and scoundrels during election periods. Little wonder the rate of armed robbery and ethno-religious crises has been on the increase despite efforts of security agencies at maintaining law and order, and protecting lives and property of the citizenry.
The Minister for Youth Development, Senator Akinlabi Olasunkanmi, who exudes passion in his frantic efforts to address these challenges of the youth, once remarked that the magnitude of the youth employment challenge was causing the government a great deal of concern, as it is estimated that about 4.5 million youths, mostly educated, are entering the labour market annually. He said in order to prevent the already unusually high level of youth unemployment and underemployment rates from getting higher, the government had to take urgent ameliorative action.
The Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan (NIYEAP) prepared by his ministry, which provides a multisectoral approach to the issue of youth joblessness, had already been approved by the Federal Executive Council.
Thus, the Federal Government is currently constructing eight standard Youth Development Centres across the six geo-political zones of the country, considered as a pet project of Senator Olasunkanmi, to massively equip the youth with useful trade and entrepreneurship skills necessary to elevate them from their present condition of poverty and joblessness, to a vibrant and entrepreneurial youth, ready to contribute to the development of the nation.
While on a site inspection of the Owode Egba Youth Development Centre in Ogun State, last week, the Minister said the eight centres which are all in advanced stages of completion would adequately tackle the challenges of youth unemployment in Nigeria.
The Owode Egba Youth Development Centre, occupying about 56 hectares of land, is developed with various skill acquisition and entrepreneurship sections, including Automobile Workshop, Agricultural Production and Processing Section, Integrated Sports Complex, Tailoring and Hair-dressing, Clinic, Computer and Information Technology Centres, among others.
Interestingly, equipment for tailoring, hair-dressing, mechanic, as well as other trades for the training of the youth have already been acquired, as the Minister was conducted round the large site housing this gigantic project. The site inspection was conducted on Thursday, 11 February, 2010, by the Chief Youth Development Officer and Principal of the Centre, Mr. Momoh Idris Olugbenga, in company of His Royal Highness, Chief O. Olufemi, the Baale of Owode-Egba.
In view of the epileptic nature of power supply and generation in the country, the Education Trust Fund (ETF) donated a big 500 KVA power generator for unfettered electricity to power the equipment at the Centre when it commences full operation.
The road networks within the nook and cranny of the Centre were fully asphalted with gutters neatly constructed to give the environment trendy a fantastic outlook.
Senator Olasunkanmi, speaking with newsmen at the end of the inspection, disclosed that the youth centre, with the capacity to accommodate about 360 to 400 students at a time, would soon be commissioned as various construction work were at various stages of completion. He stated that the Federal Government had in 2008, approved N300 million for the Owode Youth Development project, with an additional grant of N150 million in 2009 budget, and that the funds had been properly utilised. He said: “I can assure you that as we are here now, work is ongoing and almost at this stage in all the other seven centres, and in the next two weeks, we will also be in the North for the same site inspection”.
The minister said the training programmes involving about 35 different vocational and entrepreneurship trades would be for everybody; graduates, undergraduates and out of school youths. This, according to him, would empower the youth with basic skills to be self-employed or employers of labour; hence a drastic reduction in the growing army of unemployed youth in the country.
He commended the work done so far, saying, “I am impressed with the level and quality of work done and I’m sure that in another two months, we should begin to put this place into maximum use. He further disclosed that the government had evolved a Public/Private Sector Partnership to manage the Youth Development projects in order for them to be self-sustaining.
The minister also noted that the move to arrest youth joblessness was to minimise the risks to national security and national development posed by rising youth unemployment as already evidenced in increased youth militancy, violent crimes and socially delinquent behaviour, including increase in the spread of HIV/AIDS.
According to reports, Nigeria’s unemployment rate of over 11per cent is higher than the average rate of 9.5 per cent for Sub-Saharan Africa in 2004. The major characteristics of this jobless group are youthfulness and their high-level education. While the youth account for roughly one-third of the labour force, they account for between 60-75 per cent of the employed.
According to official National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) data, in 2004, young people aged between 15 to 24 years accounted for 52.9 per cent of the total number of unemployed persons; those aged 25 to 44 accounted for 41.1 per cent of the unemployed; implying that those two age groups accounted for 94 per cent of the total unemployed persons.
It was also estimated in 2008 that about 300,000 youths entered the labour market with tertiary education, about 1 million with secondary education, about 2.5 million with primary education, and about 0.8 million with no education or as drop-outs for, making a total of about 4.5 million, and about 13.5 to 14 million 2009-2011.
The scale of the unemployment crisis is highlighted by anecdotal evidence which suggest that currently, an estimated 60 per cent of the 80 per cent Nigerian youth population are unemployed. Thus, the World Bank recent report on Growth and Employment in Nigeria covering 1999 to 2006 affirmed that growth performance had not responded to the employment aspirations of its population as a whole, especially the younger generation. The report noted that job creation had not grown in proportion with the labour force even though there were slight improvements in family agriculture.
The Minister, speaking recently at the public presentation of the final Report of the National Youth Employment Templates in Abuja said the World Bank study also recommended specific interventions to create jobs, taking into account, boosting of labour demand, improved labour supply, promotion of globally competitive economic sectors, skills development and liberalisation of trade policies.
He said: “The language all over the continent is the creation of specific job creation programmes to take the millions of our youth out of poverty. This position of the World Bank panel was also recently echoed by the International Labor Organisation, which in its recent appraisal of world job situation urged member nations to create specific programmes to engage the youth in one vocation/trade or the other. Such interventions, the ILO recommended, was the solution to the ever-widening challenges of joblessness worldwide”.
But, one unique thing about the youth centres is that they are not some of those elitist programmes which yield little results, but are rural-based and more of community development programmes. More importantly is the enthusiasm with which the people of the community welcomed the establishment of the centre as expressed by the community leader, the Baale of Owode Egba, chief O. Olufemi. He said: “We are expecting the Federal Government to come and start making use of this place. We know the importance and the youths are eager to come and start doing something here.”