OPINION: Addressing skills, youth unemployment and job mismatch problems
By Adesoji Adesugba
Unemployment in Nigeria can be traced back to several decades especially when the fortunes of the country in oil and gas deepened and other sectors of the economy were gradually been relegated to the background.
Curiously, it was around this critical period that Nigerian government and individuals abandoned skills acquisition and utilization through diversified entrepreneurship practices that have the capability to boost both individual and the economy were jettisoned in favour of paper qualification.
Whereas in the past, the nation’s agricultural, industrial and the then bubbling public service sectors were able to effectively absorb most of the labour force. Nigerian citizens before the oil boom believed in what one can do in order to ensure self-sustenance.
A recent survey conducted by Jobberman published by Quartz states that almost 90,000 people, 47% of the country’s university graduates are unemployed even as the country is the largest economy in Africa. By some estimates Nigerian tertiary education institutions produce up to 500,000 graduates every year and there are also Nigerian graduates who study abroad who come home to compete for the same white collar jobs.
Jobberman’s conclusion is that, ways to solve the problem include creating secondary skills development and acquisition programs as well as government investment in job creation schemes.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) at a point also emphasised that the country’s unemployment rate rose from 14.2% to 18.8% in 2017. It also said that Nigeria’s labour population increased from 83.9 million in the second quarter to 85.1 million in the third quarter of 2017, a difference of 1.2million in additional workforce.
The National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) says the country’s unemployment rate rose from 14.2% to 18.8% in 2017. It also said that Nigeria’s labour population increased from 83.9 million in the second quarter to 85.1 million in the third quarter of 2017, a difference of 1.2million in additional workforce.
The NBS stated that the total number of people in full-time employment (at least 40 hours a week) declined from 52.7 million in the second quarter 2017 to 51.1 million in third quarters. It stated that the unemployment rate increased from 14.2 per cent in the fourth quarter 2016 to 16.2 per cent in second quarter 2017 and 18.8 per cent in the third quarter, 2017.
The number of people with the labour force who were in unemployment or underemployment increased from 13.6 million and 17.7 million respectively in the second quarter 2017, to 15.9 million and 18.0 million in the third quarter 2017.
It stated that total unemployment and underemployment combined increased from 37.2 per cent in the previous quarter to 40.0 per cent in the third quarter. During the third quarter of 2017, the report stated that 21.2 per cent of women within the labour force (aged 15-64 and willing, able and actively seeking work) were unemployed, compared with 16.5 per cent with 16.5 per cent of men within the same period.
According to the report, Nigeria’s economic growth has been decelerating since second quarter, 2014 culminating in an economic recession in second quarter, 2016.
It stated that the technical indicator of a recession was two consecutive quarters of negative economic growth as measured by a country’s gross domestic product (GDP).
The report stated that the economic recession was technically over in second quarter of 2017.
However, it noted that several economic activities were still contracting or recovering sub optimally, noting that an economic recession was consistent with an increase in unemployment as jobs were lost and new jobs creation was stalled.
The report stated that a return to economic growth provided an impetus to employment.
However, it stated that employment growth might lag, and unemployment rates worsened, especially at the end of a recession and for many months after.
In addition, it stated that the unemployment rate, induced by a recession, typically peaks about 15-18 months after the beginning of a recession or four to eight months after the end of a recession before it returns to its pre- recession trend.
This, it stated in the case of Nigeria, would be a peak in fourth quarter which means we would only expect unemployment to return to its normal trend in 2018.
It stated that the length of the lag would depend on how deep and long the recession was.
It noted that it would also depend on how stable and fast the recovery was as well as on the economic sectors driving the recovery, whether it is labour or capital or intensive technology.
Over the years, marginal efforts have been made to ensure that the situation is brought under control. But from all indications, only the surface is scratched, leaving the whole gamut of the problem unattended to due to lack of a wholistic approach to the problem.
Earlier reforms aimed at curbing unemployment include: The Structural Adjustment Programme (SAP); The National Directorate of Employment (NDE); Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agencies (SMEDAN); National Agency for Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP); Better Life Programme; National Open Apprenticeship Scheme; The graduate job creation loan Guarantee scheme; Agricultural Sector Employment Programme; Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P) and Youth Enterprise With Innovation in Nigeria (YOUWIN) amongst several other intervention programmes.
The following skills sets are needed for development such as:
Technical Skills: Welding, Plumbing, Aluminum Works, Electrical Installations, Photography/ Video, GSM Maintenance, Interlocking Spurs.
Domestic Skills: Fashion Design, Soap Making, Catering, Hair Dressing, Beads Making, Hats Making, Tailoring.
Agricultural Skills: Crop Production, Fisheries, Piggery, Poultry, cattle rearing etc.
Business Skills: Basic Business Training, Start Business, Entrepreneurship Development Programme, Improve Your Business.
Computer Skills: Computer Operation, Repairs, Programming
Special Public Works: Environmental Beautification Training Scheme, Solar Energy, Community Development Services etc.
The levels of skills acquisition cut across novice; advanced beginner; competent; proficient and expert.
On challenges facing skill acquisition, the following have been identified as troubling impediments. Poor entrepreneurial culture; lack of fund; poor knowledge based economy and low spirit of competition; lack of entrepreneurial teachers, materials and equipment; non-inclusion of entrepreneurship practical programme in the school curricula; poor societal attitude to technical and vocational education development; inadequate facilities and modern equipment for teaching and learning; insensitivity of government to enterprise creation and expansion strategy; poor plan and execution of processes of action; isolated or pockets of ineffective programmes and management in competencies; lack of political will.
But if we must take a clue from India, it would be realised that the country has created Ministry of Skill and Entrepreneurial Development.
The Ministry is responsible for co-ordination of all skill development efforts across the country, removal of disconnect between demand and supply of skilled manpower, building the vocational and technical training framework, skill up-gradation, building of new skills, and innovative thinking not only for existing jobs but also jobs that are to be created.
The Ministry aims to Skill on a large Scale with Speed and high Standards in order to achieve its vision of a ‘Skilled India’.
It intends to work with the existing network of skill development centres, universities and other alliances in the field.
Collaborations with relevant Central Ministries, State governments, international organizations, industry and NGOs have been initiated for multi-level engagement and more impactful implementation of skill development efforts.
The business side of the Ministry is that, it is charged with the responsibility of carrying out mapping of existing skills and their certification; expansion of youth entrepreneurship education and capacity through forging strong partnership between educational institutions, business and other community organizations and set national standards for it; role of co-ordination relating to skill development; doing market research and devising training curriculum in important sectors; industry-institute linkage and bringing Public-Private Partnership element schemes.
Also, it is charged with the responsibility to making broad policies for all other Ministries/Departments with regard to market requirements and skill development; to frame policies for soft skills; large scale skill development related to Information Technology and computer education; academic equivalence of skill sets; work relating to industrial training institutes as well as skilling for entrepreneurship development for science and technology.
It needs to be pointed out that, a list of basic vocational trades needing improvement in Nigeria are: arts and crafts; auto fitting; auto mechanical; autotronics; bakery; barbing; vehicle battery charging; car wash; carpentry; crop production; cosmetology; decoration; driving; electrical installation; fashion design; hair dressing and hat making.
Other areas are: Catering; hotel management; Information Communication and Technology (ICT); leather work; livestock rearing; masonry; metal work; office technology and management; perfume making; photography; pomade making; printing; refrigeration and air-conditioning; satellite dish installation; shoe making; soap making; spray painting; tie and dye; upholstery, welding and general wood works.
There is an overarching need to link young people to real opportunities that exist in the labour market. The large gaps between education systems and the private sector have resulted in a skills mismatch between young job seekers and employers, as well as high youth unemployment rates.
There should be a national project to improve the ability of educational institutions (local universities and youth centres) to increase the employability of their students. The project should help to integrate formal career and employment preparation curricula into the classrooms of educational institutions.
The project should be able to ensure that prospective employers from the very beginning and assessing labour market skills needs. This will create high quality technical and transferable skills training for unemployed university graduates.
Thoughts have been that the deliverable has to be a customized job-readiness skills training, including resume writing, networking, organizational and interview skills, that are often missing in higher education and training programs. Involving the private sector at the early stages of such initiative will go a long way in securing internship and job placements for youth who complete specific industry training.
In the proposed scheme on skill acquisition development on my mind, the following major elements must be incorporated in to include: educate and equip potential and early stage entrepreneurs across Nigeria; connect entrepreneurs to peers, mentors, incubators; support entrepreneurs through Entrepreneurship Hubs (E-Hubs; catalyse a culture shift to encourage entrepreneurship; encourage entrepreneurship among underrepresented groups; promote entrepreneurship amongst women; foster social entrepreneurship and grassroots innovations.
Federal and State Governments should review, standardize and expand the curricula of all skill acquisition centres in Nigeria.
Federal Ministries of Education and Information and Communication, in collaboration with agencies and professional associations, should enlighten and sensitize the public on the importance of Technical, Vocational, Education and Training (TVET) as a veritable tool for national development and the need for individuals to acquire employable skills.
ITF, NDE etc should collaborate with regulatory Agencies such as National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) with a view to making Certificates issued by Skills Acquisition Centres recognized for career development.
Skills Acquisition Centres must be made to strictly adhere to safety policy as enshrined in the TVET.
Responsible Ministries should be, Employment, Labour and Productivity, Finance, National Planning, Trade and Investment, Youth, Sports and Social development, Science and Technology, Education, Agriculture, Culture and Tourism as well as Communications.
Prof. Adesugba who is the Vice President ICT of Abuja Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) also doubles as its Business Entrepreneurial Skills and Technology (BEST) Centre. He contributes this piece from Abuja and can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org