Entrepreneurs of Tomorrow


Solomon Elusoji writes on a training programme that seeks to nurture individuals who can help to shape Nigeria’s future

On a breezy evening in the first week of April, black suits and ties streamed into the Civic Centre in Victoria Island, Lagos. There were photographs and shaking of hands and a glitzy cocktail, but the cynosure of all eyes that evening was a group of 10 young Nigerians who had completed a gruelling 11-month training under the Nigerian Stock Exchange’s Graduate Training programme.

In 2011, the NSE was undergoing a reorganisation, one that was not merely about subtractions and additions, but about spotting the competencies and capabilities that could move the company forward. “Our strategic objective was to acquire skills which were eventually deployed and utilised in revamping the organisation, making her strong, healthy and able to compete on a global business space,” NSE Head of Corporate Services, Pai Gamde, says.

To enable the company take control of its skills development strategy aimed at churning out talent fit for the capital market and in response to the multiple conundrum of the global economic flux, hostile talent war and other dynamics impacting businesses worldwide, the NSE’s GTP was established in 2014, with the objective of grooming future leaders for the capital market and the Nigerian economy.

Through three cycles of graduands, from 2015 to 2017, the GTP became a visible brand etched in the hearts and minds of some of the best and brightest minds that graduated from some of the best universities in Nigeria and Africa. This is evident by the thousands of graduates who storm the internet to enlist for the programme. Interestingly, the programme continues to grow. From the very first cycle in 2014, the NSE received about 4,800 applications. In 2015, there were about 5,900 applications representing a 23.3 per cent increase in interest and participation. And by 2016, there was a 33.7 per cent increase with about 7,900 applications.

In the past three years of running this programme, the NSE has graduated 25 trainees and these graduands have been deployed into several functions within the organisation, serving in different capacities. “Though one may wonder why so few, from our perspective, it is not about the numbers but about creating value and quality,” Gamde says. “At the Exchange, we pride ourselves on being a young and dynamic organisation. And with the infusion of these millennials, we have recorded a 2.5 per cent reduction in the average age of the NSE worker year on year.”

The GTP was conceived by the NSE’s current Chief Executive Officer, Mr. Oscar Onyema; and when he took to the podium on the evening, he noted that the GTP was designed to equip young talents with the required skill-sets and knowledge to become exemplary professionals and leaders in the workplace. “We developed this programme because we recognised that acquiring the right talents would greatly move us closer to achieving our vision of becoming Africa’s foremost securities exchange,” he said. “We also believe that it will help to position Nigeria as a globally competitive nation.

Since inception, the GTP has produced 25 outstanding professionals who are making their mark in their respective departments within the Exchange. These graduating trainees have been exposed to a series of training programmes spanning classroom sessions, internal job rotations, external social engagements, external internships and self-development techniques, to mention a few.
“Despite the harsh economic environment, the Exchange has continued to invest heavily in this programme over the years, and has sustained this standard through its vast curriculum and exceptional faculty.

“Through the GTP, we have established a strong foundation to address the skill gap in the Nigerian capital market and ensured requisite talent is available to fill human capacity needs within the capital market ecosystem. With the GTP, we are equally showing our commitments to accelerating the achievements of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goal number eight, which seeks to promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all by year 2030.”

However, he noted that a lot still needs to be done about the unemployment rate in the country which, according to recent statistics by the National Bureau of Statistics, stands at 13.9%. “We will continue to do our own part using various mechanisms, but the GTP will continue to be our flagship for addressing the unemployment problem,” he said.

He went on to congratulate the participants for their discipline and performance through the course of the programme. “The GTP has equipped you for the world and we believe that you will make extensive use of the lessons learnt and skills acquired here to improve the state of the world,” he said. “We expect that you will continue learning and expand your knowledge base within and beyond the capital market. And that we will learn from you as you unleash your creativity and innovation in the various assignments you will undertake. I look forward to visiting the Exchange several years from now, to be welcomed by one of you as CEO of the Exchange.”

The keynote speaker for the evening was Nigeria’s former Minister of Communication, Frank Nweke Jr. He offered his respect to the NSE for the initiative and noted that it was a step in the right direction. “It represents the kind of strategic thinking and visioning which is the hallmark of great leadership and an important component in the foundation for solid institutions,” he said. “It bears re-stating that no kind of progress can be achieved by accident. Enduring progress can only be achieved through conscious and dedicated effort. And this has been exemplified by the NSE under the leadership of the CEO in planning for the future and investing in people, to ensure that the knowledge and skills required for the growth and development of the Nigerian capital market in the coming years is nurtured and regularly updated.”

To the participants, he noted that they “must not only be book-smart. You must learn to be flexible and adaptable, because you will find that in the real world, not all the things that you’ve been taught will reveal themselves in the exact same way; your intelligence and emotional quotient then comes into play. You must also endeavour to take initiative and embrace self-direction. This is critical because you must learn to work with minimal supervision. You also need to learn social and cultural skills because you will be working in a diverse work environment. Then you must be productive and accountable and show leadership.”

The best student from the GTP Class of 2017 was Jenny Aigbike, an Economics graduate from Ambrose Alli University. In an emotion-laden acceptance speech, she said she was honoured to be named the best graduating trainee. “And it’s more of an honour, because I ran this race with nine other high-performing trainees, whom I love so much by the way,” she said. “I would first like to give glory to God Almighty for helping me through the programme; it was rigorous but it was worth it. I would like to appreciate my CEO, Mr. Oscar Onyema, and the entire management team for setting up this programme to train young professionals for the capital market. This programme gave me the privilege to carry out my internship in companies like Africa Prudential Registers and I learnt so much.”

She also noted that the programme helped her to develop very valuable skills in presentation, effective communication, team work and so much more. “I assure everyone here today that I will continue to be the best representation of myself, I will uphold the Exchange’s value and culture as I pursue its goals,” she said.

Adeolu Towolawi, a Computer Engineering graduate of the University of Lagos, was one of the programme’s participants. He applied because he was interested in financial analysis and now, after the programme, he wants to use technology to build the capital market and make it more efficient. For Joshua Abhulimhen, a Chemical Engineering graduate of the University of Benin, the GTP gave him a rounded learning exposure. “The idea is to form and help shape you as individual,” he said.
Other members of the GTP Class of 2017 include: Abimbola Akindolire, Adedotun Ogunbiyi, Adeoluwa Oni, Ayodele Okeniyi,, Damilola Eniola, Luke Ofojebe and Omosigho Otaregho.