Mabel Benson writes on how Access Bank Plc is shaping the future of Nigerian youths through its entrepreneurial skills acquisition programme
On the morning of Friday, 26 August 2011, Nigeria had a taste of modern-day terrorism. Members of the Boko Haram extremist group bombed the headquarters of the United Nations in FCT, Abuja.
Lives were lost, properties were destroyed, the whole nation was thrown into mourning, and messages poured in from across the world to comfort the Nigerian people through those trying times.
It is six years after; Boko Haram has been largely suppressed by the federal military and the prospects of a nation rid completely of terror looks promising, however, the scar of the past six years has not completely healed.
The young men and women who have lived most and perhaps, all of their lives in the North-east are the worst hit victims of the devastating terrorism.
It is challenging to be a young man or woman in Nigeria, but when you also have to grapple with the unpleasant experiences of terrorism; losing loved ones, seeing your schools closed, losing your means of livelihood, your home and even your friends, then it is doubly so.
Rebuilding the lives of the youths in the North-east
Being the youth-friendly bank it is, Access Bank partnered with the National Youth Service Corps to build integrated skills acquisition and vocational centres in the North-east and empower 500,000 young Nigerians with different vocational skills that would help them alleviate poverty, drive sustainable economic growth and live better lives.
Construction of the centres has commenced in Gombe State and serving corps members will be deployed to the centres as part of their compulsory one year service.
By partnering with a very strategic youth-focused government agency as the NYSC, Access Bank is helping to shape the future of Nigeria through its investment in youth development.
For it is not just terrorism that threatens the future of the Nigerian youth. The education system also does little to prepare her for the realities of the 21st century world; so that when she has gone through years of study and finally graduates, she suddenly finds herself grossly unprepared, inadequately trained and unable to forge ahead and build a truly remarkable life.
This initiative by Access Bank will help half a million of such young people acquire the skills needed to get their lives back on track. An economically-empowered youth population is a catalyst for the prosperity of the nation. They will not only drive economic growth, they will also improve the security of our cities and secure the future of Nigeria.
Putting young people back to work across the nation
Youth unemployment is clearly a major challenge in Nigeria. In fact, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) in a recent report said Nigeriaâ€™s unemployment rate rose 14.2 per cent in the fourth quarter of 2016.
The total number of persons in full employment also decreased by 977,876 or 1.8 per cent compared to the third quarter, and decreased by 1.92 million or 3.5 per cent when compared to fourth quarter of 2015.
We can blame the government, but nowhere in the world does the government solely provide employment opportunities. By investing in Nigeriaâ€™s youth population, Access Bank has shown outstanding corporate leadership and commitment to addressing this problem.
Through its Access Entry Level Training Programme, young Nigerians across the nation undergo a 4-month intensive training programme at the bankâ€™s School of Banking Excellence. These young graduates are given a unique opportunity to receive the best industry training and even land a job with the bank.
Through this initiative alone, thousands of young Nigerians have acquired valuable skills to meet the demands of the very competitive labor market, while several others have been employed by the bank and have gone on to build meaningful careers in the banking and financial services sector.
In furtherance of Access Bankâ€™s commitment to youth development, the bank also partnered with the Lagos State Government on a 13-week employability programme to equip young people in the state with high-demand marketplace skills.
An initiative of the Lagos State Government, Ready-Set-Work â€œwas conceived to address employability and employment challenges that face todayâ€™s graduates, empowering them with the right skills and knowledge that will make them valuable in the marketplace.â€
The programme will adequately prepare final and penultimate year students and fresh graduates to meet the demands of the job market, through a series of training, and Access Bank, as a forward-thinking organisation, is working with the state government to ensure the success of the programme.
A major complaint by employers of labor in Nigeria is that many Nigerian graduates lack the fundamental skills to thrive in the workplace due to the poor syllabus taught in schools and also the lack of working experience by the young lads.
To help resolve this challenge and help young graduates land their dream jobs, Access Bank created an internship programme to absorb these graduates after they must have undergone the Ready-Set-Work training. Through the paid internship placement, the young candidates get the very important real-life working experience and are better-prepared to excel on the job.
A worthy recognition
Good deeds of this magnitude hardly ever go unrecognised, which perhaps explains the recent visit by a delegation of students of the Harvard Kennedy School of Government and Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) to the Access Bank headquarters.
The visiting scholars had come to Lagos to learn more about urban development and innovation, democratic governance and emerging trends in the public policies of Lagos State and Nigeria, and recognising the huge impact Access Bank is making on the Nigerian youth, decided to visit the bankâ€™s headquarters in Lagos.
The group, received by the bankâ€™s CEO and Group Managing Director, Herbert Wigwe and a delegation of the National Economics Students Association of the University of Lagos, who coincidentally were there to present an award of â€˜The Most Supportive Organisationâ€™ to the bank, commended Access Bank for its contribution to gender and youth empowerment in Nigeria.
Access Bank Plc has continued to distinguish itself as a forward-thinking brand, and a committed partner in nation-building. It is not every day you find a business, much less a bank, commit so much funds, manpower and numerous other resources to developing young people in its host community or country.
Just like Access Bank, more businesses need to jump in on the Nigerian project. If the young people in whose hands the future of this nation lies do not get the help they need, how do we expect them to help the nation in return?
Access Bank is a proven and dependable ally in youth development and that is what every serious and socially responsible company should be.