My boss often says: "We think Boko Haram is our biggest challenge in this country, but you know what? The real challenge is the quality of human resources we have."
If you have had cause to hire or work with a fresh graduate from some of our Nigerian universities in the past six years, I bet you would agree with the above submission.
How do you deal with a 2:1 accounting graduate who doesn’t know that one couldn’t pay a cheque into an account that doesn’t have the same name as the cheque’s beneficiary?
Apparently, either she wasn’t taught in her four years in the university or she just didn’t bother to pay attention. She could have been employed in a big government parastatal (all that’s required these days is the right connection), and thrown into a system that doesn’t require her to do anything except pass files from one office to another.
A government agency may hide such ineptitude for a lifetime and live to tell the story. There are usually more bodies lying around than would ever be needed, so who cares if there is a coconut head or two in the team getting paid for doing nothing?
However, the story is entirely different for a start-up where every staffer is the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of his unit and every deficiency could result in potentially catastrophic outcomes.
So, when I hear comments berating private organisations for insisting on a certain (number of years of work-related) experience even from young school leavers, I shake in my head because many of us don’t seem to get it.
Not many employers in the country have the resources to train new employees in the rudimentary skills of navigating the workplace; not before and, certainly, not in this special Buhari economy.
According to official figures, by the second quarter of 2016, the youth unemployment rate in the country had risen from 21.50 per cent in the first quarter to 24 per cent. That’s like saying that one in every four young persons in Nigeria was without a job.
However, we all know that unemployment, like most of our other socio-economic realities, is usually grossly under- reported in Nigeria. I would rather go with three in every four young persons unemployed.
Now, where are these people supposedly looking for jobs? Can I see the pharmacists among them volunteering in neighbourhood drug stores, adding value and also acquiring the much elusive workplace experience? Can I see the teachers among them spending just few hours weekly in our over-populated public schools? What about the other professions?
One can go on and on but the response would be the same, unfortunately. Instead, they are all over the social media, parading themselves as ‘Children of Anger’ and unleashing their emptiness on the rest of the population. You would think there is an employment letter waiting for the most virulent among them.
There are now many free courses on almost every subject under the sun and the only resource required to access them is Internet data. Yes, the same data they are frittering away, trolling and abusing everyone.
Sometime ago, the news of former President Barack Obama’s daughter summer job went viral in the country, with many re-tweeting and re-sharing the story and photos. She was 15. Her father was the president of the United States of America! Why on earth did she feel obliged to take up a summer job?
By the time she leaves college in some years’ time, her readiness for the workplace will never be questioned and no employer will ever have to show her where to get sugar for her tea, so to speak.
The concept of volunteering is totally alien to our young people, yet they are all over the place pretending that they are desirous to work, desirous of a better future.
But on whose bill? That’s a question even us - the older adults and parents - are not able to answer, because, somehow, we are also responsible for this skewed sense of entitlement in our young people. As far as many of them are concerned, everyone, including their pussy cat, owes them everything, and the word ‘responsibility’ is almost non-existent in their world.
Parents struggle all their lives to bring up these children, sometimes giving up almost everything to pay all sorts of fees, and then when you thought their assignment was done and dusted, you would be mistaken; they are still the ones to help their wards secure employment.
We feel the pressure but somehow justify it internally with some feeble explanation about love. Yes, we render them cripple because we love them.
Indeed, a major crisis has been brewing for a long time now. When we have finished fighting off the terrorists in the north, the militants in the south-south and kidnappers every other place in between– if it ever ends – we will wake one day to see that while we had been battling a known monster, our tomorrow had been silently chipped away.
But the real tragedy is that that time is no longer far off and that we may wake up too late.