The National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) was created by the federal government in order to involve young compatriots in the country’s progress and improvement. Following the Nigerian Civil War between 6th July 1967 and 15th January 1970, the Supreme Military Government under the leadership of General Yakubu Gowon launched its post-war 3Rs ( Reconciliation, Rehabilitation, and Reconstruction) agenda. This agenda gave birth to the NYSC on May 22, 1973.

The idea behind the creation of the NYSC was to develop and encourage better connection among young Nigerians with a view to ensuring national unity. Part of the goals of the scheme include inculcating discipline in the Nigerian youths by instilling in them a tradition of industry at work and of patriotic and loyal service to the country in any situation they may find themselves.

Like all government’s policies and programmes, despite its shortcomings, the NYSC scheme has over the years succeeded, in its own little way, in fostering unity in the country. Through the programmes, a few inter-tribal marriages, which ordinary might not have taken place, have been consummated. Equally, some of the corps members, seeing the limitless possibilities for prosperity in their host communities, have stayed back in those communities (irrespective of tribal and ethnic differences) to earn a living through various legitimate means. Similarly, through various means of social interactions, a few of the corps members have been able to learn, speak and understand the languages spoken in their places of primary assignments.

Indisputably, the NYSC scheme has over the years been a uniting factor. It is, however, gratifying to note that the coordinators of the scheme are taking advantage of the platform to empower corps members for better economic opportunities, especially after the completion of the scheme. This is a quite smart and creative move by the leadership of the scheme, particularly in view of the unemployment situation in the country.

In March 2012, the NYSC leadership introduced Skill Acquisition and Entrepreneurship (SAED) Programmes into the NYSC orientation course content. The goals of the scheme include sensitization and mobilization of young graduates for skill acquisition annually and facilitation of training and mentoring of young graduates in skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development of self-reliance annually. Others include promotion of public-private partnership for entrepreneurship development and self-reliance among Nigerian youths and attachment of corps members to appropriate organizations for skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development.

The SAED scheme is an initiative driven to aid Corps members in obtaining necessary skills that will encourage them in turn to pursue entrepreneurship careers in order to reduce their possible time spent in the labour market in search of paid employment. The SEAD Department is made up of two divisions namely: Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship and Empowerment.

To institutionalize the scheme, the federal government raised the number of departments in the NYSC from seven to eleven with of Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development as one of the new departments.

The introduction of SAED into the NYSC Scheme has helped lots of fresh graduates to be self-reliant, creating employment opportunities instead of searching for white collar jobs. The project is a nationwide initiative, targeted at young graduates who are mobilized and deployed for the NYSC scheme. It is designed to be implemented within the framework of camping exercise (in-camp) and the service year of the corps members (post-camp).

The in-camp phase of the project focuses largely on creating the entrepreneurial and self-reliance spirit, helping corps members explore income generation opportunities available, with a view to identifying the one that best suits their personality/circumstances and professional training with some forms of hands-on training as well as development of business plans. The post-camp phase provides the platform for a rigorous training of interested corps members with a view to equipping them with the necessary technical/vocational skills as well as business competence needed to start up business.

This is carried out in partnership with various organizations with cognate competence and experience in the identified skill sets. There are about ten skill sets which cut across various sectors of the economy, ranging from energy, construction, agro-business and environment. The training focuses more on Poultry, Snailry, Animal Husbandry, Fish Farming, Plantain and Banana Sucker Plantation, Catering, Bead Making, Fashion Designing, Hairdressing and Make-up, Photography and Graphics Designing.

NYSC partners with several companies and training outlets across the country to obtain and provide the very best to the nation’s corps members at subsidized rates, courses and live training programmes developed by sponsors to equip them with skills pertaining to independent sustenance and business management understanding as well.

Today, the SAED policy is one of the few in the country that is really helping in empowering and preparing the youths for productive engagements. From its inception till date, no fewer than 971,272 corps members have benefitted from the skill acquisition programme while over 7000 have established their preferred business.

Bola Omotosho, NYSC. Ministry of Information & Strategy, Alausa, Ikeja

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