Akala: We are Tackling Instability through Youth Employment

Dara Akala 

The Foundation for Partnership Initiative in the Niger Delta, recently signed the second phase of its Niger Delta Youth Employment Pathways Project grants award which targets training 2000 youths in three states in the region. In this interview, the Executive Director of the Foundation, Dara Akala explains the motive behind the project. Adedayo Adejobi provides the excerpts:


What is the motive behind this project? 

To address the growing rate of youth unemployment and under-employment in the Niger Delta, the Foundation for Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND), will be training 2, 000 young men and women to be sustainably employed in the agricultural and Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and Building Construction sectors. The Niger Delta has witnessed conflicts and youth restiveness and as such, the region records some of the highest rates of unemployment in the country.

So, in 2017, PIND, with support from Ford Foundation, initiated the first phase of the Niger Delta Youth Employment Pathways (NDYEP) project to actively target youth in three states of Akwa Ibom, Rivers and Abia. Of the target to train 1,000 youth, over 1,400 completed technical and soft skills training. This included youth who had no prior livelihood skills. So for this second phase that is being launched, 2000 people would be trained.


What do you intend to achieve at the end of the programme?

The beneficiaries are young men and women in the range of 16 and 26 and the plan is to connect them with jobs after the training. The plan is that we will not only equip them with skills, we will also ensure that they have jobs at the end of the day. The program starts with an analysis of what skills are required in the market place, that’s the employment market.  Then we also try to find out what the training providers are providing; the skills they are providing and we try to match this with what the market needs. What we hope to achieve is that the people that are being trained on this program will be learning on the job.

There are some that are on the pathway of formal wage jobs that are employed by companies, there are those that will go on the pathway of entrepreneurship; those ones will receive entrepreneurship trainings in addition to the technical trainings that will enable them to establish their own small businesses. These set of trainees is not being employed by people but rather they are job creators themselves.

Can you dwell more on the details of the project?

The grantees will implement technical, business and employability skills trainings that demonstrate actual potential for job readiness. The Jumpstarting Youth Aquaculture Enterprise grant is aimed at identifying and supporting interested young entrepreneurs starting aquaculture value-added services and fish production businesses by providing access to and training on best practices and technologies. The Bright Future Grant for the ICT sector is aimed at strengthening the ICT ecosystem and providing youth with training in market-relevant skills that will enable them obtain jobs in ICT and related sectors. The Building Skills for Construction grant aims to support initiatives for professional development in the housing construction sector, that provide youth with practical technical skills in trades such as masonry, tiling, plumbing, electrical, ceiling and wall finishing, (and related soft skills) that are currently most in demand by construction sector employers. Many traditional skills acquisition programs fail to deliver sustainable results because they do not pay attention to what happens post training. The NDYEP has built a robust infrastructure for post-training support that assists young entrepreneurs to navigate around the harsh conditions of business world. The support to trained youth consists of business advisory services, market linkages and access to finance both as investment or working capital for growth and expansion.


Why is the training targeted at only three nine Niger Delta states?

There is a reason for that, the pilot phase of the project covers only three states, Rivers, Abia and Akwa Ibom. These states were selected by the donors and this was based on the data that was drawn from the office of the Vice President that showed that the prevalent rate of unemployment in these states.

If you look at the National Bureau of Statistics data, you will find out that the highest rate of youth unemployment is in Rivers State which is about 37 per cent and that is closely followed by Akwa Ibom which is about 36 per cent so this is where we have the highest youth unemployment rate.


What were the criteria for selection?

First, it is the interest or passion to learn a skill; secondly, you have to fall within that age range of 16 to 26. So if you are outside of this age range you will need substantial qualifications to be admitted for the program. Then we are looking at gender and social inclusion because we are looking to incorporate people with disabilities. For gender balance, men and women are given equal opportunities on the program. More importantly, we try as much as possible to ensure that people with disabilities can also join in the program.

What is the monetary value of the grant?

We received a total of $2 million from the Ford Foundation and the target is to train in the first year, 1000 people and in the second year 2000 youths. But you need to understand the training components just to prove the concept of this modelling pathway for youth employment. There are other things like Ecosystem building which is working with stakeholders that have interest or a stake in youth employment creation in the region. By that I mean the government, the private sector, ministry of youth, ministry of economic empowerment and employment, bringing them together. And the training provides us also up to the national board for technical education. It discusses the issue of youth unemployment in a very sustainable way.


When will it be extended to the other Niger Delta states?

Once we have piloted the concept in these three states, we will be exploring opportunities of partnering with the state governments in the remaining states to explore and extend the program to their states.

Already, we are working with a total of 19 partners; we had 13 the first time and we have six new ones coming on board now so that’s a total of 19 service providers so far.