By Nume Ekeghe
That number of young graduates turning to vocational jobs after the compulsory National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) instead of going in search of white collar jobs is on the rise. What may be interesting now is that this trend is gaining traction on daily basis. At mechanic workshops, fashion shops and hair salons, youths with academic degrees and diplomas are gradually displacing the hitherto unlearned trainees.
The new trend was epitomised by Amarachi Agufobi, a graduate of Economics from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, and Kehinde Oluwafemi, who holds a Higher National Diploma in Business Administration. The two young graduates recently beat other nominees from different parts of the country to clinch first and second positions (fashion designers’ category) in this year’s National Skills Competition, an event organised by the Bank of Industry (BoI).
The awardees started their journey into the competitive fashion making industry at the Field of Skills and Dream Academy (FSD), an Ikeja-based foremost vocational training centre, last year. The Imo State-born Agufobi, who won the fashion competition with a wedding gown made with local fabric, was still an NYSC member when she registered for the nine-month intensive course in fashion at FSD.
On his part, Oluwafemi, had finished his national service and had a stint in clothes making at a roadside shop. But, according to him, he joined FSD because he needed to learn from professionals.
Their decisions have paid off in the form of cash prizes and equipment they will get from BoI to set up their fashion shops. While some graduates are still on the streets of Lagos, Port Harcourt and other major cities searching for scarce white-collar jobs, the two are already making a living from fashion design.
Speaking in an interview, Agufobi said she had no intention of seeking a paid job any more as her new found vocation has the potential to fulfil her childhood dream – running a successful business.
She said: “I have always wanted to be a successful business woman. But I needed to acquire education first. With my sowing skill, I think I am close to fulfilling my dreams. I don’t have to look for a job anymore. I want start my business so that I can grow to become an employer of labour.”
On the difference the award has made in her life, the 26-year old economics graduate said her confidence had been boosted. She also said many clients had more confidence in what she could do after the honour.
“I cannot believe that I, the same person who was making clothes in a corner of a room has received a national award in fashion designing. Apart from the prestige and the financial reward, what interests me most is the fact that successful fashion designers have accepted to mentor me. For me, this is the most valuable aspect of the honour. But above all, I appreciate the FSD who took time to train me in the art of cloth making. The award would not have come without the centre,” she said.
Agufobi called on Nigerian youths to take advantage of the opportunities made available by training institutes to acquire skills that would make them self-reliant rather seeking unavailable jobs.
According to her, her passion for clothing started when she was very young. She narrated how at a tender age she discovered her as gifts, just as she described her encounter with the FSD as the magic that unlocked her hidden talents.
Also, 27-year old Oluwafemi said he had started harvesting the gains of the award less than a month when he was honoured as the first runner-up in the fashion category. According to him, his fashion label – Q&Q Stiches – has started gaining recognition since the award as he had started getting several jobs that come based on referrals.
While he hopes to concentrate on developing his brand, Oluwafemi hopes to establish a training institute to help Nigerians with interest in vocations to find their feet. He said the ambition is anchored on the impacts of the FSD on Nigerian youths, saying: “Nigeria needs more of similar initiatives.”
For the Founder and Executive Director of FSD, Mrs. Omowale Ogunrinde, who acknowledged the place of God factor in the initiative, the awards were an indication that the academy was doing something unique. She said her fulfilment came from watching Nigerians who passed through the centre grew their grown into big entrepreneurs.