The only way to be secure is to have the skills and knowledge to create security for yourself. Entrepreneurism is the way to do this.” Adwoa Agyemang, Young Entrepreneurs Programme, Harrow, London

With youth unemployment on the rise it is easy for one to put the blame on the government and the educational institution. However, the onus should be on the youth to create a livelihood for themselves.

The Government can be blamed for:

  • not creating enough job opportunities for the youth;
  • not building up the local industries to encourage active labor participation

The Educational institution can be blamed for:

  • not teaching enough technical courses to encourage skill acquisition;
  • not creating workshops and encouraging internships for all courses;
  • not giving career talks and entrepreneurship advice to students

However, are the government and educational institution really to blame? Is self-employment the way to break the cycle of joblessness?

THE GOVERNMENT

With the move from labor intensive to mechanized farming and processing, our Agricultural and Manufacturing sectors are suffering to the point of being abandoned. Farming is no longer seen as a lucrative business by the youth, and the manufacturing sector has seen more and more products being imported as opposed to being produced locally.

The government needs to promote youth involvement in agricultural production and focus more on industrialization. If more industries rely on human manpower as opposed to 100% reliance on technology; it would lead to a vast improvement in the unemployment situation, and hence, the state of the economy. An improvement in electricity production would see small businesses thrive and also see new investors enter the market.  It is a constant struggle for small businesses to break-even let alone make a profit when the bulk of their income is spent on alternative sources of electricity. The government can also bridge the gap between education and work by upgrading vocational schools, encouraging higher institutions to focus on entrepreneurship, form closer relations with local companies, and including apprenticeship programs to the higher education curriculum.

The government can do a lot more to support small businesses and promote entrepreneurship around the country. If this rate of unemployment continues unchecked, it would result in a high level of criminal activities and economic growth would be on a decline. They can set up various incentives to encourage more youth to take this route to self-sufficiency rather than spending years and wasting valuable time on the hunt for paid employment.

THE SCHOOL

Most of the courses being taught at our higher institutions are incompatible with a majority of the jobs local to our country e.g. zoology, botany etc. They have stopped teaching trades in schools and concentrated on courses based more on theory than practical skill acquisition. Courses like auto repairs, electrical repairs, fish farming, wood work, tailoring, construction, massage, hair dressing, etc. need to be included in our curriculum. Vocational education and apprenticeships need to be encouraged, for in the long run, they will help to reduce the rate of unemployment.  Few university graduates have any real work experience; and even the little they may have adds little or no value towards the years of experience required by recruiters. Universities need to focus less on preparing students for civil-service jobs and encourage technical skills and acquisition building.

Most recruiting companies these days are reluctant to bridge the education gap by investing in training; fewer companies offer on-the-job training as they expect the selected candidate to hit-the-floor running in terms of being prepared and experienced to fulfill their job description with little or no financial commitment on their part. Often times, training new recruits is seen as a time consuming process and a financial cost. The job seeker needs to meet all or some of the recruiters’ requirement in order to get shortlisted for the role.

THE YOUTH

With thousands of graduates trying to secure decent jobs in the cities, what prevents us from creating employment opportunities for ourselves? Being innovative, creative and thinking outside the box? Most youth today seem content in blaming their inability to get white-collar jobs on different mediums; but the reality of things is that individually, we can set up small businesses and earn a living off it. An individual with a great love for children can start small and create a play group for children in his/her vicinity. Those with a knack for fixing things can set up a small workshop right from their houses and start small. Those with a love for animals can set up a grooming facility right from their backyards. Those with culinary skills can cook for friends, church members or even new clients; thereby turning a hobby into a career. We all have been given talents but if these talents remain untapped; they become of no value to us, therefore obsolete.

With 3 batches of youth corpers introduced into the labor market yearly, the unemployment situation in Nigeria is spiraling out of control. White collar jobs are few and far between. The number of qualified individuals applying for a handful of advertised jobs is alarming. The requirements for most of these jobs are unrealistic to recent graduates; as some companies discriminate based on age, gender and years of experience. With what few vacancies available having absurd candidate requirements as opposed to providing on-the-job training.

In the early 60’s and 70’s, the unemployment rate in Nigeria was low as the government in power at the time provided graduates with instant employment, and in some cases, vehicles to reward their educational achievements. Granted, the number of graduates being produced in recent times is of greater number than in the past; a lot can still be done to make the youth self-sufficient and confident in their abilities after leaving the university.

On the road to self-sufficiency

  • do something you are passionate about – look at your skills and experience to find your business idea;
  • do your research – is there a market for your product or services? Identify available opportunities;
  • write out your business plan;
  • financial planning – start on a small budget or via sponsors or loans;
  • build a support system – a mentor or family and friends to guide you through the process

So the question remains, youth unemployment; voluntary or otherwise? Will we continue to blame the government for the situation of things, or take a bold step to turn our hobbies and skills into a lucrative business?

Starting a business is not about how clever or rich you are, but about the practical skills and determination to do it” Catherine Marchant, Young Enterprise, London

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