President Muhammed Buhari

With the resolve by government to pursue job creation as a top priority in 2016, Paul Obi writes on the National Directorate of Employment (NDE)’s strategies and the challenges ahead

No doubt, unemployment remains one of the greatest challenges facing President Muhammadu Buhari’s administration. Yet finding lasting and practical solutions to unemployment has continued to be a daunting task for the administration.
Beyond this, there is a general belief that government must expedite action in harmonising the best strategies on wealth creation and innovations for employment generation.

Previous Attempts
Over the years, government’s attempts to arrest the ugly unemployment situation in the country have not been holistic. And even agencies that have been entrusted with the responsibility of bridging the gap of joblessness in Nigeria have failed to address the challenge squarely.
Although programmes like Youth Enterprise With Innovation (YouWin), Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) were attempts to respond to the unemployment challenge in Nigeria, they were not far-reaching both in scope and impact.

NDE Intervention
To this end, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) believes that it is the most strategic agency that can harness the human resources needed to put a halt on the high number of unemployed. The Acting Director General of NDE, Dr Kunle Obayan, said the Directorate is better positioned to create the synergy for the job creation initiatives by the Buhari administration.

Obayan explained that “the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) is the apex agency of government established for the sole purpose of creating employment outside the white collar jobs. The NDE has been in the business of employment generation since it began operation in January 1987. Since that time, the NDE has gathered a lot of experiences because unemployment assumes multi-dimensional shapes, which is determined by reigning economic challenges.

“Unemployment arises in cases where people cannot find the type of work they were trained to do; some arise out of sudden retrenchment while some people are without jobs for the simply reason of not finding the type of work they want. So, all the training programmes that NDE has are reactions to specific unemployment challenges. That is why we have skills that are designed to tackle specific type of unemployment or targeted at specific unemployed persons.”

Adaptation Skills
The acting DG contended that the NDE, having survived for 30 years, adapted to the urgency of the time required to facilitate government’s job creation drive.
According to Obayan, “NDE has basic strategies is to give skills to people that are unskilled or to change their vocation and make them relevant to the market needs through skills set such as rural employment promotion which is agricultural skills, vocational skills, special public works which is largely construction skills, and business development skills.”
Going down memory lane since its creation, Obayan observed that “It is not just today that the NDE is positioned to tackle unemployment. Indeed, the NDE has been positioned since 1987 for the challenge. Apart from the fact the strategies are home-grown, they are specially designed to tackle any form of unemployment that may develop in Nigeria.
“Because NDE is well-positioned, we have found other parallel agencies of government trying to do what NDE does. When they copy these programmes, they even use NDE structures at the federal and state levels because NDE has structures and offices in all the 36 states of the federation including Abuja.”

Necessary Capacity
The acting DG further stated that, as presently constituted, the NDE has the capacity to tackle unemployment headlong across the 36 states of the federation and the FCT. “All the offices on the states are as equipped as the headquarters but most of the staffers are idle because of inadequate funding,” he said.
“Hence the impact that our programmes ought to have had not been achieved. This also resulted in a systemic increment in the unemployment rate because new organisations that so much money were put into did not have the expertise to achieve the desired impact while the NDE that has the manpower to deliver was neglected.
“When we examine the number of students who drop off at the secondary level and those that could not gain entrance into the tertiary institutions are disasters waiting to happen if they are not re-trained and re-oriented into productive ventures. There is the need for government and all the stakeholders in the job creation initiatives to ensure NDE is properly funded to avert that disaster; and the nation is seeing and witnessing the army of unemployed persons going into anti-social vices,” Obayan cautioned.

Palliative Measures
In his views, the acting DG stated that there are clear-cut measures that can quickly nip the growing unemployment rate in the country in the bud. He said: “There are discussions under the auspices of the ministry of labour and employment to bring in all skill centres in the country that are owned by government agencies. There is no need for proliferation of the centres because that does not help the overall reduction of unemployment in the country.
“Indeed, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr. Chris Ngige has already spoken about putting up a memo to that effect so that it is approved that all those skill centres come under the supervision of the NDE. This will enable us schedule trainings to all areas where the skill centres are located; even though we know that there will still not be enough until we can have at least one centre in every local government area.”

Novel Approach
Meanwhile, the agency is also considering registering unemployed youths across the country. Obayan explained that given that job creation is one of the strategic agendas of government, the need to approach things differently is also important.
“When unemployed persons come to the NDE, we direct them to go the Job Centre where we run checks on the type of unemployment individuals have, determine the barriers to employment, and then recommend what they need to do to overcome unemployment challenge. We now have a set of computers that analyse curriculum vitae, do a career matching and profile unemployed persons for a job.
“It will also do analysis on the skill gap between the jobs that are most suitable for the individual and then determine a training that is most appropriate for such an individual. We know that a jobless person that is in the job market does not want a training that will last long. So, we have short-term training that is a quick fix.
“In a case that some people fall into the unemployable category, hope is not lost for such persons as such people could then be considered for conditional cash transfer,” he said.
The acting DG added that “in the job portal we are planning to register the unemployed persons, every application would be analysed and select perfect skills for people with precision. It is no longer guesswork. It is a job exchange where people can go for different types of skills training for possible jobs because employers would also be on the exchange scouting for employable persons. When the platform finishes its analysis, it will point out to trainers the employers looking for them upon completion of the training.”

Govt Attention
Also speaking, former NDE Director General, Abubakar Mohammed explained that the growing number of unemployed compel that government gives more serious attention to job creation in a more pragmatic way. Mohammed stated that “what government should encourage the NDE to do is to look at its operations and strategies and blend it with its programmes on employment generation”.
“I believe that the NDE has adequate in-house human capacity, know-how and know-what to spearhead the job creation initiatives of this government. No government keeps paying the salaries of an agency and then ignores such agency in programme implementation. Nobody asks relevant questions when it is supposed to be asked and this can be discouraging indeed. Government must understand the significance of the Directorate in tackling the unemployment challenge,” he declared.

Reality Check
That notwithstanding, government’s inability to come out with a definite position on how it intends to tackle unemployment and promote job creation has not helped matters.
In fact, President Buhari’s recent statement to abandon the N5,000 stipend for the unemployed has once again derailed the aspirations of the teeming unemployed youths who had hoped for a thorough change – specifically, the offer of social security.
Therefore, government must quickly work out its plans for job creation in order to appease those yearning for jobs to make a living, and until a strategic plan for job creation is set in motion, government’s promises to address the time bomb of unemployment will only be seen as mere rhetoric.

“Government must quickly work out its plans for job creation in order to appease those yearning for jobs to make a living, and until a strategic plan for job creation is set in motion, government’s promises to address the time bomb of unemployment will only be seen as mere rhetoric”