Ugo Aliogo examines the efforts by a non-governmental organisation to tackle unemployment
The Centre for the Study of Economies of Africa in a recent report stated that the labour market in Nigeria is characterised by a significant mismatch between skills demanded by employers and those possessed by these young prospective workers, which has led to an increase in youth unemployment rates.
Owing to this, some non-governmental organisations (NGOs) such as AfterSchool Graduate Development Centre (AGDC) are making efforts in bridging the gap between unemployment and employability skills through one of its flagship initiatives Youth Stakeholders Forum (YSF).
The YSF initiative started eight years ago, when the organisation was working with Lagos State Government under the administration of Governor Babatunde Fashola.
During that period, the state was investing money and training young people to make them employable because the main problem that employers complained about fresh graduates was the fact that they were not unemployable.
Furthermore, these graduates lacked the skills needed to get the jobs and even keep the jobs. Therefore, the administration invested a lot of money in upscaling them. But the veracity of the story was that there so much to be done, and everybody could not be in the classroom, so AGDC decided that yearly, it will organise stakeholders’ forum despite the state’s effort in training 400 to 500 young people.
Meanwhile, the AGDC in its wisdom decided to open up YSF to more young people and had between 2000-3000 young people; it also got variety of resource persons to speak to them on different issues. The youths received information that would assist them in moving on in life either through starting a business or propelling them in their chosen careers.
The YSF provided the platform for the youths to interact with the governor to share their ideas and problems, then the governor will provide funding support. Today, AGDC has remained steadfast on this path, affecting lives and tackling unemployment. The organisation has worked in Ogun and Edo States respectively recording impressive track records.
In 2019, attention was shifted to Oyo State because of the large army of unemployed young persons who needed to be trained and empowered in vocational jobs. The 2019 training was in two phases; vocational and enterprise training and it was concluded with the YSF.
Speaking at the event, the Executive Director, AGDC, Mrs. Funmi Adeyemi, said in Oyo State, it was discovered that persons who did the solar panel installation came up with a lot of training ideas.
She also noted that the training was divided into groups, and within the groups the participants, “had to come up with ideas that they could use solar to solve a problem.”
“The participants we trained in Edo State are developing innovative solutions. So I decided because power is a major issue presently, let’s focus on power. In Edo State, we only trained only 40 people in solar panel. So when first bank gave the funding, I decided to channel the resources in solar and we trained 250 persons.
“Moreover, I felt that if you put that number of army in the market, they will make a difference. When I discussed the initiative with the First Bank Group Head, Corporate Communication and Marketing, Mrs. Folake Ani-Mumney, she lauded the initiative and the bank keyed into it. When we approached the state, they loved it and gave us the support we needed,” she stated.
Adeyemi explained that for each state the organisation visited, it examines the environment and considers things that are commercially viable in such environment; and brings in professionals and experts in those areas to enlighten participants on the opportunities available and how to tap into it.
According to her, “It gives me a lot of joy for instance the participants in Edo State, when they compare where they started from and when they are today, it looks amazing and it is the same thing we have done in Oyo state.
“We use the same facilitators and we provide a very conducive atmosphere. We fed them during the training because we don’t want them to be distracted. It was a huge investment that First Bank made in their lives. We organised the training at the Civic Centre, Ibadan. In terms of value, the value was very good.”
Also speaking at the event, the Project Officer, AGDC, Afolarin Ogunba, explained that the programme was targeted towards youths within the age ranges of 18 -30 and the organisation had to partner with the State development agency who provided the participants.
According to him, the idea behind the programme was to train young people in soft skills, enterprise development, and vocational training, noting that for the vocational training, the focus was on solar panel installation and sales.
He also noted during the five day vocational training AGDC brought in its facilitators from Lagos to train participants on how to build and install solar panels.
Ogunba espoused that the enterprise training was aimed at setting the minds of the participants in the right direction to run an enterprise, stating that the training also focused on developing their entrepreneurial mindsets and skills needed for running a successful business.
He further stated that the enterprise training was an interactive session with resources persons facilitating the training and it had 250 persons in attendance.
According to him, “At the end of the training, some groups presented very good innovative solutions, judging from the remarks from their facilitators. They have said they had very nice innovative ideas in solar panel installation.
“At the end, First Bank funded their startup kits. Participants in each group had solar kits to startup their businesses on a small scale. The major reason why we had the enterprise training is to let them know the basics and give them the soft skills they need in running a business. In the long run, we are looking at helping them develop an economically viable business that will strive.
“Most of the participants have not run a business before, so we had to spurn them through the enterprise training, so that they can know the nitty-gritty and what is required of them to run a business successfully. For us to do that, they had to specialise in one area of business which is solar panel, so we thought solar panel will be ideal for them. This is why we had to give them the hands on training on solar panel installation, while merging what they have learnt in enterprise training.
“The basic qualification for the training was Ordinary National Diploma (OND) West African Examination Council (WAEC) and the registration was free. The idea behind choosing Oyo state government was because we wanted to bring up the idea that the state Governor, Seyi Makinde was about clocking his 100 days in office. Basically, the starter kits are all you need to start up the training. If any participants required any major funding, the Bank of Industry (BOI) was available to provide funding opportunities at the end of the event.”
In her remarks, the Acting Executive Secretary, Oyo state Agency for Youth Development, Mrs. Aerat Adegbola, said the role of the state government was to recruit the participants for the training, adding that the agency distributed the letters to the representatives of various constituencies in the House of Assembly.
“We also gave to the top political functionaries too including the deputy governor and chief of staff and speaker, youth organisations in all local government areas and others,” she noted.
Adegbola maintained that the programme was a great developmental initiative because AGDC has helped in alleviating the issue of unemployment among the youths in the state.
She added: “Skills acquisition is one of the things that the state government is also advocating for youths, to prevent them from searching for white collar jobs after school. The state government appreciates the kind gesture of the AGDC. The state is still wishing that more of these initiatives will come up from them.”
Monitoring and Evaluation
In the area of monitoring and evaluation, Ogunba remarked that AGDC has developed a mechanism to follow on the activities of these participants through calls, and WhatsApp group chats. WhatsApp according to him has the resource person as a member and it is a platform for the participant to get answers to challenges they are facing in their different vocations.
In his words: “We have made it a point of duty to follow up the activities of these participants through calls once in two months, after implementing the project to find out what has changed for them we had a timeline to execute the project.
“We did something similar to this in 2018 which was funded by ACT foundation, upon our monitoring and evaluation, we realised that a particular group of 12 participants we had trained, have gone ahead to train over 300 persons. Aside from that, the Edo State Government funded that projects of course they were a startup with the business name Green future and they developed an innovative solar product known as solar box.
“They also developed a solar kiosk and they received a contract from the state government to build and install over 100 units of solar kiosk to be distributed among primary and secondary schools within Local Government Areas. We realised that they had been able to make sustainable gains from the train they received.”
On her part, Adeyemi explained that for any state AGDC embarks on its project, it works in conjunction with an agency of government who nurture the seeds that the organisation has planted.
She further stated that when the organisation concluded its project in Oyo, it held a meeting with the state governor Seyi Makinde, who called on his people to continue from where AGDC stopped.
Adeyemi said: “At the event, the deputy governor who represented the state governor made commitment that there would be need to have a phase two of the event. We will follow up with the agency responsible for these youths and ensure that we are working together, to be able to hand hold them into making a success of what they have learnt.
“For every class that we train, we setup a WhatsApp group so that we can continue relating with them because we are constantly trying to supporting them as best we can which was why we brought in BOI. BOI also made presentation to them on opportunities available for young people within BOI to start and grow a business. So the BOI representative in Ibadan was on hand to give all the information they need. So that those interested can follow up on the BOI offers available.”