The Executive Director, Foundation for Skill Development, Mrs. Omowale Ogunrinde, in this interview speaks about the commitment of the foundation to empowering unemployed youths. Ugo Aliogo brings the excerpts:
What is the idea or goal behind Foundation for Skill Development (FSD)?
FSD is a people-oriented initiative with verifiable and measurable outcomes; providing practical vocational, technical and entrepreneurial training for unemployed persons and business owners. The activities of the institute have been carefully designed to help people reach their goals, through acquisition of practical entrepreneurial and vocational / technical skills. The value of FSD’s work with unemployed youths in Nigeria has attracted many international recognitions and awards. The success stories of FSD trainees are verifiable with many of the trainees having ease of access into industry jobs or setting up their own businesses. Born out of a burden to reduce the number of youths that walked the streets aimlessly every day; the institute has achieved good success with seven vocational and technical departments, electrical installations, renewable energy, refrigeration and air conditioning maintenance, carpentry and joinery, catering, hospitality and tourism, fashion and textile designs, hair dressing and cosmetology.
Since 2003 when the organisation was founded, how will you access its role in building capacity and skills in various jobs?
One simple example of our success story when it comes to creating access to jobs for our trainees happened this year, when we graduated 295 trainees from an enrollment of 300 and over 80 percent of them got jobs in less than three months after training.
Some of the young men have entered industry with only the skills they acquired from FSD without gaveling a degree from any other higher institution. All over the country, the testimonials abound. We still get calls from men and women who were trained in Internally Displaced Persons (IDP) camps and who have now returned to their villages to set up small, but sustainable businesses from the skills we taught them. Calls come in regularly from all over the country with testimonials of good success.
What have been the success stories from FSD?
FSD without mentioning names of employers can boast of having its alumni working in the best companies in construction, catering and fashion industries. The verified list of companies employing FSD has more than 200 companies. Some of these youths who are now gainfully employed include rehabilitated drug peddlers, prostitutes and even deportees. Some of these trainees have no formal higher education aside from their exposure to training at FSD. This has granted them access to superior technician jobs in industry and we have very many of them owning their own business and becoming employers of labour. FSD has a strong alumni network all over the country. In fact, FSD alumni in various companies now facilitate internship opportunities for the newly graduated ones, while some others directly employ newly graduated students.
What is your assessment of entrepreneurship development in Nigeria? Are we getting it right or are there things that need to be done right?
Nigeria has a very large population with a youth bulge that is restless with limited access to training required for empowerment. Even though a lot is being done, yet many youths have been left behind in the scheme of developing intellectual capacities to generate sustainable incomes for their families. Firstly, we need a radical change in the educational sector to ensure that even as a teenager, you are able to earn at least a small income to support yourself and family.
Secondly, we need a growing economy that will enable the creation of new jobs for the teeming youths that walk the streets aimlessly every day. Finally, we need to have more organisations open their doors to accept youths who want to be apprentices after they have acquired basic technical skills.
As it obtains all over the world, corporate organizations in Nigeria must be compelled to create job opportunities for unemployed youths through paid apprenticeships. This will give support to various government incentives to create jobs.
How do we drive entrepreneurial education in our tertiary institutions, so that the country will have youths who are job creators not job seekers?
We must understand that you don’t learn if you are not taught either through self-learning or 3rd party interventions. It is obvious that though we have several interventions to create jobs in Nigeria, much learning does not occur. We need to build capacity in the educational sector. These changes must start right from the primary schools. Teaching values and basic skills required for a citizen to contribute his / her quota to economic development.
By the time the students are in tertiary institutions, we should be expecting them to generate business ideas that are internationally competitive and not teaching basic vocational skills in higher institutions.
How can the government make the sector agric sector attractive for the youths to invest in and reduce the craving for white collar jobs?
So much emphasis is being given to the development of agriculture. This is good but it is not only in agriculture that we have to develop economic prospects for this nation.
There is so much we can do to help farmers turn their produce into finished products through preservation and packaging. There is so much we can do to help farmers ensure they get value for their products through infrastructure and even logistics support. For example, Nigeria has one of the sweetest pineapples in the world. There is so much money the country can generate from pineapples, which rot away on the farms in Delta and Edo States, but is greatly desired in every country of the world.
We have a huge population that requires so much to keep us out of poverty.
Let’s look at other natural resources, our construction industry and arts sector. We have the skills required to cloth the whole world with Adire and leather from hides and skin. However, foreigners come here and smuggle the precious metals away with little or no pay to the hardworking artisans. We need to support everyone who is able to generate alternative sources of foreign exchange for our nation.
Going further, what are the future plans of the organization in the business of skills development and vocational training?
As at today, FSD has worked in over twelve states of Nigeria and this year we are working in four additional states. We will continue to work hard to reach more Nigerians with skills to have a transformed economic life and we will continue to look for more opportunities through partners to expand our reach.
What are the challenges you have encountered over the years and have you surmounted those challenges?
We need more partners to become more effective in reaching more unemployed youths. At every advertisement we place for free training, we turn down more than the number we enroll. Hence, if training can create opportunities for 200 youths, we will end up interviewing over 500 people and have to turn down 300.
This is the most painful part of our work; that we do not have the resources to provide training for all those who sincerely desire a change in their life.
The absence of adequate partners is not good for the economy. We need more wealthy Nigerians and corporate organizations to support job creation through the provision of professional vocational, technical and entrepreneurship training.
The idle hand will always find something to do – “good or bad”. However, the empowered Nigerian is one more miscreant drawn away from crime.