Unemployment is a major challenge confronting the world today as recent statistics have reflected the frustration and anger that millions of unemployed are facing on daily basis. Linda Eroke writes on global and local efforts to tackle the issue
The International Labour Organisation (ILO) recently warned of a “scarred” generation of young workers facing a dangerous mix of high unemployment, increased inactivity and precarious work in developed countries, as well as persistently high working poverty in the developing world.
The increasing rate of graduates entering the labour market in the years of the Great Recession brings not only current discomfort from unemployment, under-employment and the stress of social hazards associated with joblessness and prolonged inactivity, but also possible longer term consequences in terms of lower future wages and distrust of the political and economic system.”
According to the international labour centre, the collective frustration among youth had been a contributing factor to protest movements around the world this year, as it has become increasingly difficult for young people to find anything other than part-time and temporary work.
Governments across the globe are struggling to find innovative solutions through labour market interventions such as addressing skills mismatches, job search support and entrepreneurship training.
In Nigeria, government has continuously made efforts at confronting the challenge by establishing agencies that are charged with the responsibility of alleviating poverty through employment generation.
This is so because government has come to the realisation that more jobs must come from measures beyond the labour market that aim to remove obstacles to growth recovery such as accelerating the repair of the financial system, bank restructuring and recapitalisation to re-launch credit to small and medium sized enterprises.
As a result, interventions such as providing soft loans, training of artisans, matching unemployed persons with available jobs have been deployed by some government agencies as part of efforts to reduce the level of unemployment in the country.
These steps come just as tertiary institutions are churning out graduates every year. The scenarios that are created is that the boundary of army of the unemployed persons are far away from the formal sectors as there are more unemployed persons even from the informal sector of the economy.
No doubt that the white collar jobs are fast disappearing which throws a challenge of an alternative option for job creation.
One of the agencies saddled with the responsibility of job creation in the country was the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) which was established in 1986 with the mandate of providing skills for the unemployed persons.
Consequently, the Directorate has, since its inception in 1986, introduced different skills acquisition training programmes for young entrepreneurs. The training scheme is specifically designed to tackle unemployment, reduce youth restiveness through the provision of functional skills.
Indeed, the Directorate started with Masters’ Trainers Programme where unemployed persons were attached to craftsmen and women for training for some months. But it was soon discovered that regulating and regularising the standard and quality of training was not within the control of the Directorate.
The NDE, through its various training programmes, strives to achieve a significant part of the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) while also addressing one of the biggest challenges facing the country today - the reduction of unemployment rate especially among youths.
It was in recognition of the need to take control of employment training scheme and ensure quality and standardisation that the NDE went into collaboration with the office of the Senior Special Assistant to the President on the MDGs in 2008 to build model skills acquisition centres in some states of the federation.
The Directorate got N1 billion assistance to execute the programme from the MDGs office. So far, 26 out of the 30 centres have been completed and operational while four are still under construction. The NDE had also constructed 11 skill acquisition centres on its own from its meagre annual budgetary allocations.
Areas of training include computer training, GSM handsets repair, welding and metal fabrication, catering, hairdressing, plumbing, interior decoration, mechanics, fashion design and satellite installation and maintenance.
Each centre which has 250 trainees per circle costs of N33,217, 730, and that includes N7 million for building and rehabilitation of donated building complex, N16, 725, 230 for equipping and N9, 429 500 to run the first cycle, including paying the trainers, trainees and buying other consumables.
Director-General of the NDE, Mallam Mohammed Abubakar, who conducted on-the-spot assessment visit to some of the sites recently expressed delight with the enthusiasm shown by the trainees.
He said: “There have been some misconceptions about the N1 billion grants the MDGs office gave the NDE to establish skills acquisition centres across the country in 2008 was not used for that purpose. But these on-the-spot assessment visits have given me the opportunity to let the world see how we disbursed the fund.
“This inspection tours have confirmed to me that these centres are not only on ground but functioning to the benefits of the unemployed and the communities. Members of the media are also on these tours with me to assess how the money was expended.
“I must say the processes of choosing contractors and sites were transparent and all these processes are contained in files that are available for verification by members of the public”, he added.
According to him, the recently ‘YouWin’ project which is expected to provide financial support to young entrepreneurs in the country was timely for trainees of the NDE. Specifically, he said trainees of the newly introduced Enterprise and Finance Counselling Clinic (EFCC) would be expected to benefit immensely from the ‘YouWin’ project.
Abubakar also explained that: “Skill acquisition centres are only ones among many strategies that are deployed to combat unemployment. The Federal Government only last week launched the ‘YouWin’ Scheme which is established to enable graduates participate in competition to access part of the N50 billion government has set out to boost individual enterprise.
“41 skill acquisition centres in the whole country may be small but it is not only NDE that is into building of skill acquisition centres. We have always said that we will develop the skills and show the strategies that other stakeholders will emulate for effective impact”, he added.
The NDE boss during a recent visit to the Tor Tiv, Orchivirigh Torkula, in Gboko, Benue state explained that the building of the skills acquisition centres was to take ownership of the standard and quality of the trainings.
He argued that skilled artisans who are groomed by the Directorate would boost the attainment of the national aspiration to become one of the 20 top economies in the world by 2020.
“We are establishing the centres to ensure that we own the process and can thereby enforce standard. We want to make sure that out trainees are properly and have high standard that will be of the international standard. We cannot achieve if we continually use our master trainers.
“This is not to say that we will abandon our master trainer system. Nigeria needs to bridge the artisans’ scarcity to drive the economy. In buoyant economies especially in the Asian Tiger countries, it is small and medium scale enterprises that drive the economy and the situation cannot be different in Nigeria.
“We at the NDE recognise that we cannot achieve with traditional tools hence the need to promote trades that are ruling the global economy,” he stated.
The Monarch solicited for more support from the Federal Government in order to build more skill acquisition centres that would absorb the army of unemployed people in the country.
He observed that the establishment of 41 skills acquisition centres in the country by the NDE was commendable and unparalleled in its efforts made to combat unemployment.
“I am told that the NDE has established 41 skills acquisition centres across the country and I am very happy about it. But I think the Federal Government still needs to empower the Directorate to establish these kind of centres in all the local government areas in the country and I dare say in every wards.
“The level of unemployment is a huge challenge that needs holistic approach. I must commend the NDE for its unparallel achievements of providing opportunities for alternative alternatives to white collar jobs in the form of skilled labour.
“The universities and polytechnics keep graduating students without thinking too much about where they will work. I know that the challenges before the NDE are huge but I believe that it is equal to the task as it had always done since its creation many years ago,” the Monarch added.
In his submission, the Sultan of Sokoto, Alhaji Sa'ad Abubakar, traced the advent of kidnapping and random killings among other social misdemeanours in the country to poverty induced by massive unemployment.
His words: "The giant strides of the NDE not only gladdens our hearts as major stakeholders in ensuring peace and stability in this country, but also gladdens the hearts of the common man who is either unemployed or self-employed.
“It is common knowledge to all of us that 95 per cent of the problems we face in Nigeria today are caused by poverty and poverty is caused by unemployment which is in turn caused by lack of planning by all the stakeholders.
“When you don't plan before producing schools drop-outs we then don’t know what to do next. Graduates don't know what to do next and that provides a fertile ground for immediate ready-made weapons of destruction in the form of youths.
“I believe what we must all do is to think of what our roles should be in terms of imparting knowledge in our youths. We believe that all graduates should be self- employed and should not therefore depend on office work or government White-collar jobs”, he added.
The paramount ruler challenged the NDE to seek ways of partnering with Universities across the country in the areas of training and job creation, adding that the collaboration would help them generate their own employment rather than searching for white collar jobs.
“I know a lot is being done by government but a lot more still needs to be done if we want to have a very developed and achieve the goals spelt out in the Vision 20:2020. If we really want to be a peaceful and stable country, because we see what is happening in other parts of the world, what poverty and unemployment are causing.
“These are worrisome to us. We should strategise on what the roles of the NDE should because it is an agency that was established so many years ago. As time chafes, so should the modus operandi of the Directorate change to be in tune with current challenges,” he added.
In his remarks, the Etsu of Nupe, Alhaji Yahaya Abubakar, called for the modernisation of skills acquisition training methods and equipment for enhanced productivity.
Specifically, he told NDE delegation who visited his palace that blacksmithing was a veritable avenue through which massive jobs could be created if modernised to appeal to the youths.
He argued that there were many economic activities and skills that were going into extinction as a result of continued usage of traditional methods. He stressed the need for the NDE to move away from traditional methods of training to modernised skills acquisition programmes.
He said: “We have established a vocational centre here in Bida for our youths so that they will be engaged. It is only when our youths are engaged that they can be kept away from crimes.”
The Emir of Zazzau, Alhaji Shehu Idris, also added his voice to the need to introduce deliberate policies to tame the rising unemployment in the country.
However, Alhaji Idris lauded the NDE for introducing programmes that are aimed at boosting youth and women unemployment in the country.
He said: "Let me thank the NDE for the good job it has been doing over the years in an attempt at tackling unemployment in the country. But I am worried about the high level of graduates' unemployment in the country.
“We must find ways round of tackling this. I hope you will help our people out of this unemployment problem. We are happy about all your programmes and I urge you to continue the good work”, he added.
Addressing the trainees, Mallam Mohammed, who bemoaned lack of finishing of most Nigerian artisans, opined that this inadequacy has led to the invasion of Togolese and Ghanaian artisans who have demonstrated near perfection in finishing touches.
He added that the reality was that most highly placed Nigerians now prefer to patronise neighbouring countries.
The NDE boss submitted that the only route to reversing this trend is for Nigerian artisans to embrace standard and quality in their works. He described the trainees as the building-block for the realization of Vision 20:2020.
On the cost of the centres, the NDE Chief explained that it included the building or rehabilitation, equipping, consumables purchase and payment of trainees' allowances.
“We take accountability seriously. That is why I am moving around to see to what extent we have gone either in the building or rehabilitation of cents that are still under construction or where trainings have begun. We closely monitor the processes to make ensure compliance with our standards,” he added.
Source | Thisday