The last one year has been a very challenging one for everyone in Nigeria, especially for our teeming unemployed youths whose hopes of having a better life are being quashed every second.
While sub-Saharan Africa today is on a fast-growth trajectory, young people – those under the age of 25 – account for about 60 percent of total unemployment in the region. On the average, 72 percent of the youth population lives below the poverty line of $2 a day, according to a World Bank survey.
We need to act fast and act smart. We need to mainstream youth employment as a core strategic objective of development, and we need to tackle issues raised with both short and long-term solutions.
So, when the federal government announced the much expected N-Power Programmes, my joy knew no bounds as it will at least take some of our youths off the street and get them engaged, albeit a temporary one, as I gathered that the programme is only for two years.
What is N-Power?
When I visited their website, this is what I got about the programme:
The N-Power programme has Large-scale skill development as its main policy thrust.
N-Power is also linked to the federal government’s policies in the economic, employment and social development arenas. N-Power addresses the challenge of youth unemployment by providing a structure for large scale and relevant work skills acquisition and development, while linking its core and outcomes to fixing inadequate public services and stimulating the larger economy. The modular programmes under N-Power will ensure that each participant will learn and practise most of what is necessary to find or create work. The N-Power Teacher Corp involves a massive deployment of 500,000 trained graduates who will assist to improve the inadequacies in our public services in education, health and civic education. Some of these graduates will also help in actualising Nigeria’s economic and strategic aspirations of achieving food security and self-sufficiency.
N-Power will also be a platform for diversifying the economy. N-Power is preparing young Nigerians for a knowledge economy where, equipped with world-class skills and certification, they become innovators and movers in the domestic and global markets.
Nigeria will have a pool of software developers, hardware service professionals, animators, graphic artists, building services professionals, artisans and others. N-Power also focuses on providing our non-graduates with relevant technical and business skills that enhance their work outlook and livelihood.
In sum, N-Power is segmented as follows:
- N-Power Teachers Corps - 500,000 graduates
- N-Power Knowledge – 25,000 non-graduates
- N-Power Build - 75,000 non-graduates
The programme intends to target the following focus areas which have been recognised as high employment generators: agriculture, health, teaching, vocational work, technology, community service, animation and post- production.
While I do not see anything different between these programmes and the ones in the last government, I am happy to go along with it provided it will give employment to our youths.
One intervention programme from the last regime that I would like this government to bring back is The Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS). The Scheme aims at reducing youth unemployment by creating opportunity for interns to be attached to firms/organisations where they can work for a year and enjoy a monthly stipend of N30,000. Such interns can use the opportunity to gain working experience and enhance their employability.
Our company took on two interns from that scheme because we subscribed to its objective which are: to enhance the employability of up to 50,000 unemployed graduates in the 36 states of the federation and the FCT through internship programmes in pre-selected institutions; to reduce the vulnerability of unemployed graduates, and to build manpower base towards attaining national development operations.
Our firm reaped many benefits by engaging these graduates. We enjoyed free labour at government expense as the government paid the monthly stipends of the interns. We also had the opportunity to pick and choose as we got to select the best interns to join our team.
And, most importantly, we had an opportunity to render our Corporate Social Responsibility in the area of youth mentorship. The project was definitely a win-win one for us as a company.
Nevertheless, with rising numbers of people, these initiatives alone will not solve the unemployment challenge and the difficulties that come with it.
Young people need genuine education and skills training but, crucially, their ambitions need to be matched with opportunities.