Obiekwe: YOE Will Equip University Graduates with Employability Skills

The EnterpriseNGR Last week launched the Youth of Enterprise (YOE) internship programme for Nigeria’s young graduates. In this interview, the Chief Executive Officer, EnterpriseNGR, Ms. Obi Obiekwe, explains the essence of the programme. Dike Onwuamaeze brings the excerpts:

You have just launched the YOE internship programme some few minutes ago, so what is it all about? 

YOE is EnterpriseNGR’s commitment to nurturing the next generation talent for the work place. Basically, we put together a programme that will address two major challenges that our youths have when they graduate from school. And the objective is to make it easier for them to transit from academics to the workplace. The two challenges I mentioned are, one, we found out that our graduates lack what we call employability skills. What do I mean by employability skills? I meant those skills that make the difference between success and failure in the workplace. And they are communication skills, critical thinking skills, being able to plan and organise yourself around your work, problem solving skills, and having initiative. These are some of the things that youths of today are not imbibing in the course of their education. Yet, are the very skill set that employers are looking for in their prospective employees. So, YOE is designed to equip our young participants that come through the program with employability skills. YOE is also a very robust program. We have to build a bespoke technology platform to deliver it. From what we have learned from the COVID-19 era and the transformation of culture in the workplace and education, you can reach many people via online platforms. So, these are what we have leveraged and YOE is accessible to every Nigerian youth anywhere in Nigeria provided that they can have access to the internet. 

How does the program intend to recruit talented youths? 

I was just speaking about our platform, that is our only source of interacting. Because even as we are launching today (Thursday, May 12) we understand that people are trying to scam the whole programme by setting up WhatsApp and telling people to come. But I just want to use this opportunity to warn our Nigerian youths that YOE internship program cost them nothing. Please, if anybody is asking you to pay any money to come to any platform, that is not the YOE internship program. You can only interact with us on our website On your question on how we are going to recruit our youths, participants are free to go on the platform and register. Put in your information and answer the questions there.

Now, you have to be serious if you are coming for this internship. Because what we are providing is something that is very valuable. And, therefore, it must be for those who recognised the value and who are hungry for it. And the only way you can get it is by being hard working and serious minded. So, the screening process is very rigorous because we want to extract quality from wherever it exists in Nigeria for the job market. They, intending participants, will go through various stages of testing and when they are successful will be put through a very robust orientation program on employability skills that has been specially designed by our partners and a member of the EnterpriseNGR, the PwC.

On the other hand employers will be coming to the platform to request for interns because we are also marketing them by using our reach as EnterpriseNGR. We have a number of leading premium companies as our members. So, we are leveraging our membership and other partnering organisations in other sectors of the economy, not just for the financial and professional service sector, to provide internship opportunities for the YOE participants. So, the goal is to put them through that employability program that will improve their employability skills, especially their digital skills that are so much needed in the workplace of today that is enabled by technology.

And we will then place them with our partnering organisations and members to have workplace experience. We believe that by the time they go through that program, they will have what it takes to succeed, whether they end up becoming entrepreneurs or working in corporate organisations. Definitely, their chances of green starting the careers of their dreams would have improved significantly.

What do you have to tell the Nigerian youths? 

I am telling Nigerian youths that there is hope and that EnterpriseNGR believes in them. The same Nigerian youths when they live this shores of this country, and we know what we are going through in terms of brain drain, go out there and excel. Any why do they do so? The difference is the programmes, training, exposure and the opportunities they are put on their way to make them become stars. And we are saying that we at EnterpriseNGR, as well as other organisations and the Nigerian system as a whole, owe it to our youths to provide that experience and training locally. Because we need them equipped with the skills that they will need to continue to drive the economy and ensure that Nigeria continues on the growth path. 

What is the duration of the internship? 

The training will take about three weeks as currently designed and the on the job training for the internship and the time they spent working with partnering organisations is six months. It is a paid internship and I think it is a great opportunity for our youths. Ideally they should be getting this experience earlier in their formative years when they were in the universities doing summer jobs so that by the time they are graduating they have already created the networks and clearer in their minds what kind of career they want to pursue and they have the network to make it happen.

Do you have any relationship with the Industrial Training Fund (ITF)? 

No! This is a private sector initiative. The YOE is made possible by the commitment of the EnterpriseNGR members. We are member led and member funded organisation. And they are the ones that have seen and keyed into this vision, realising that to nurture talent for the future is not something that one organisation can do. It needs collaborative effort of everyone. Not even just the financial and professional service sector but the private sector as a whole in partnership with the government.

EnterpriseNGR was launched seven months ago to be a leading advocacy voice and champion for the development of Nigerian economy. What has been your experience? 

We are very, very encouraged by the traction we have gained in just seven months. We have been able to drive membership. The vision of the EnterpriseNGR is one that organisations are recognising and we are seeing that in our growing membership. In the seven months we have been able to bring to reality this project (YOE). As you know, our focus is to foster an enabling environment that will drive growth, deepen and strengthen financial and professional services industry. We cannot have this growth if we do not have the human capital to drive it. So, YOE is our first initiative and flagship that we have started with. We have been able to do this within our first seven months of existence and we will do more. This is not a small project at all and it has been two years in the making. As we speak, this platform went live today (Thursday, May 12) and we have more than 200 applicants already. It is amazing and you can imagine when the platform is alive for a week the numbers that will be driving. But it goes to show the magnitude of the problem that is being addressed. 

What are you advising the government about investing in the educational system? 

Definitely, we are saying that charity starts from home. We want to collaborate with the public sector but we also want to consolidate the private sector. There is no gainsaying the fact that as a nation we need to invest in education. We are sharpening and putting together our strategies because as I have said, the EnterpriseNGR is a member led organisation. It is definitely an area we will look at in the future.  Right now we are focused on doing what we can to be a solution. 

How do you reach people in the rural areas? 

That is a challenge but we configured our platform with that in mind by making it easily accessible on the mobile phone. We know that mobile phone penetration is almost about 80 per cent. We figured that if it is mobile friendly we would definitely have a wider reach. So, it can easily be accessed on the mobile phone. The lessons have been structured in such a way that they are not data intensive. But ultimately we want to collaborate with telecom companies because all hands need to be on deck. We are hopeful that we will be able to build partnerships with the telecom companies such that when youths go on that site they will not be incurring data cost so that more people can participate. 

Is the YOE being targeted on the graduates or undergraduates?

For now we are targeting graduates. When they leave the university and have done their NYSC program, then they are ripe for our internship. 

You want to make Nigeria the financial hub of Africa …? Yes!

What will it take to achieve this goal? 

It will take a whole lot. We believe that Nigeria is yet to take its rightful place in Africa. We have everything it takes to be the premium financial centre in Africa. We have the market; we have the knowhow an we have the means. It is just for us to make it a goal and that is what EnterpriseNGR will be championing. And it will start with policies; it will start with fostering an enabling environment for the financial system to thrive such that we have an even growth across the financial service sector. We will build a strong financial system, not just a strong banking system that is doing relatively well when compared to other aspects of financial system.  But that is not going to get us to the Promised Land. We need all the other aspects like insurance for instance, the capital market, assets management, pension, fintech, all of these doing extremely well to create that growth and development that we are looking for. Of course, our laws and policies are areas that will be touched as well as building capacity, which we have started with the YOE internship program in building a strong financial centre. 

Are concerned about the declining FDIs flow to Nigeria? 

Of course! As you know, one of our key priority areas is promoting trade and investment in Nigeria. We should be attracting more than we are doing now. Yes, that shall be a concern for all of us. 

What are the hindrances to the flow of FDIs into our economy? 

There are so many things but first of all is the issue of security, our foreign exchange management, the openness of our market. These are some of the things that we need to calibrate without hurting Nigeria’s interest as a nation but at the same time remaining open to trade and investment with our trade partners.

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