World Youth Skills Day: Empowering Lagos Youth with Post-Pandemic Skills

As a young electrical engineer fresh out of school, Joseph Iferi-Ebin was constantly being rejected by employers – an occurrence he attributed to a lack of employable skills while Ijede Mekezo Sunday, a mild-mannered youth resident in Lagos State, was faced with the challenge of being in and out of a job. Bukola Oke, another Lagos resident and 2016 Mass Communications graduate had not had a regular paid job after graduation. Oloruntosin Agbomeji Rukayat, a Microbiology graduate, lost her first post-graduation job and developed a burning desire to get skilled and be certified. Dominic Mathias has a B.Sc. in Chemistry and Education but ventured into tailoring after graduation – albeit with inadequate knowledge of the terrain, leading to career and business frustrations. Although from different backgrounds, these young Lagos residents have one thing in common: an understanding that in the 21st Century knowledge-based society – dominated by ICT – and where labour market demands are constantly changing, it would take more than just a certificate to get a decent job.

This is the story and experience of many a young person in Nigeria – especially with a global pandemic that halted skills development due to the lockdown. According to a UN report, this situation negatively affected 86 per cent of apprentices and 83 per cent of interns/trainees worldwide. The report further highlighted the fact that 22% of young people were not in employment, education, or training (NEET) prior to the pandemic. This employment decline is yet to be compensated by returns to education and training. Today, World Youth Skills Day is once again commemorated in the midst of a pandemic – though abating, and the NEET rate has remained higher than pre-crisis era, according to the United Nations. Hence, there is an urgent need for more youth to acquire skill-based training for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG4).

With the theme: Reimagining Youth Skills Post-Pandemic, this year’s WYSD highlights the resilience and creativity of youth throughout the crisis and how technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems have adapted to the pandemic, as well as how they are participating in the recovery, and imagining priorities they should adopt for the post-COVID-19 world. Ijede, Bukola, Oloruntomi, Dominic, Joseph, and many others in Lagos State have found an opportunity to be a part of this global drive through the USADF-LSETF Employability Program. This is a five-year, $10 million commitment by the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) and the Lagos State Government (through LSETF) to provide globally competitive and sought-after skills to young people, youth- and women-led enterprises in Lagos State as a response to the burden of youth unemployment and poverty.

This is especially important at a time when the world has been witnessing a global increase in the rate of unemployment as the pandemic and lockdown severely affected skill development. As the Implementing Partner of the USADF in Nigeria, Diamond Development Initiatives (DDI) is excited to be facilitating this initiative. The initiative is currently providing industry- and trade-relevant skills to 15,000 youth in Lagos State for five years – equipping them to take advantage of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, actualize their dreams, and contribute to the development of the country.

Indeed, TVET is capable of equipping young people with the required skills that will enhance employability prospects and self-employment. This opportunity has changed the game for Ijede, Bukola, Joseph, Oloruntomi, Dominic, and many other young people in Lagos State. Ijede and Bukola are now trained interior decorators and are currently employed. Joseph boasts of being ‘marketable and employable’ after he was trained on electrical installations, designs, solar systems, inverter, and air-conditioning and placed on a three-month post-training paid internship where he is currently learning and earning on the job.

Oloruntosin and Dominic are now trained garment makers and currently work as Production Assistants with OSC School of Fashion. As we mark another WYSD, DDI is proud to be associated with this grand initiative that is poised to empower 5,000 persons in Lagos and increase youth employment in Nigeria through financial investments, job training and placements, and entrepreneurship opportunities during a pandemic era.
Happy #WYSD2021!

Lucky Ihanza, a Development Communicator, writes from Abuja.

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