Mr. Muhammadu Buhari, the Nigeria president has disclosed that he has moved 5 million Nigerian out of extreme penury. The president made this known while speaking at the commencement of the global youth employment forum, organized by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in Abuja on Thursday. This he said, he was able to do that in three years, through the National Social Investment Programme (N-SIP).
Good as this sounds, it is important the president and his men, understand that youth unemployment in Nigeria and other Africa states has been attributed to the low standard of education that comes with little skill and training.
Employers often lament that many candidates do not possess aptitudes suitable for available employment opportunities.
Policymakers are now using vocational training as an alternative to solving the problem by building youth competencies and skills required the solve the current challenges.
One of the NGOs, that have since discovered this trend is Evergreen, it has trained 1,300 youth in the area of computing, internet website design, catering, nutrition, interior decoration, events management, marble and tiling, and beads making in Damaturu, Yobe State.
Abuja Agency for Science and Technology has also trained and graduated 160 youth in diverse skills on its youth empowerment program that was funded by the Abuja MDG’s office. The curriculums included plumbing, tiling, and other trades.
In Lagos state, the Empowerment & Resource Network offers skill acquisition training and has reached over 13,000 residents from 2007 to date.
Jigawa State and Ekiti State are also making giant strides in the area of vocational skills acquisition. The Jigawa State Ministry of Economic Empowerment has trained and graduated 1,636 youth on diverse skills sets, while Ekiti State has trained and graduated 200 persons in the art of diverse skill acquisition.
After graduation, each of them was given N200, 000.00 (about US$1290) by the state government to establish their own business.
Centre for Women and Children Development (CWCD) gives women vocational training and money to establish business and claims to have affected (directly and indirectly) the lives over 10 million Nigerians.
Ghana is experiencing similar involvement by the private sector, nongovernmental organizations, and government in filling the skills gap. Vlisco BV in the Netherlands and the Dutch Government, in partnership with industries and the Ministry of Education Science and Sports, have commenced a project to put in place a technical training centre that will fast track vocational training for industries in Ghana.
Education at both primary and secondary offers an important base, but available evidence shows that vocational training can give the required skills that are relevant in the labour market.
However, to be functional, vocational training has to make available the accurate balance between universal skills, occupation-definite skills and learning on the job so that training gained is neither too universal nor too constricted.
In many West African countries, vocational training is not acceptable to many youth and families; they view it as the last option available to the poor who cannot afford regular university education which is a passport to a better-paying, white-collar jobs.
Also, certification appears to be more valued in West African countries than skills, which makes vocational training and skill acquisition to be seen as an unappealing option.
In Nigeria and other African countries, few institutions and policies support vocational training and skill acquisition. Governments do not seem to perceive vocational training and skill acquisition as a serious venture to embark on.
Success stories of vocational training across Nigeria and Africa face a lack of acceptance among policymakers who perceive it as substandard.
A bigger challenge is posed by the deep-rooted belief and perception among the people that professional education that leads to a white-collar job is the only way to go.
To pull millions of Nigerians out of poverty, the Buhari government must make a huge investment in vocational training and loans available for the informal sectors. The model, introduced by Tony Elumelu Foundation, which supports internships and entrepreneurship development, is a must if Buhari is indeed serious in pulling many out of extreme poverty.
Audu Liberty Oseni