From Adanna Nnamani, Abuja
The federal government has urged Nigerian youths to embrace vocational skills, stating that academic qualifications are no longer a guarantee for one to earn a living in Nigeria.
The Director General, National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Mr Abubakar Fikpo stated this recently in Abuja while intimating journalists about the organization’s various skills acquisitions programs available for Nigerians to utilize to escape the shackles of poverty and unemployment.
Fikpo, who spoke just after a media tour of the Directorate’s Model Skills Acquisition Center located at Bwari, FCT, said the federal government was determined to create an enabling environment and facilitate self sufficiency and employment for citizens since it lacks the capacity to cater for all.
According to the DG, white collar jobs are no longer available in the country and youths must come to terms with such reality by getting themselves busy with their hands and establishing themselves to become employers of labour.
He said, “We believe that it is a fact that the negative effect of unemployment touches virtually all households. Every household feels the negative impact of unemployment in this country. We believe that with the support we are receiving from the government to impact upon the lives of unemployed Nigerians as well as those living in serious poverty.
“Yes, it’s good to get the certificates, but it’s also good to have skills. So we want the attitude of unemployed Nigerians to change because we keep saying that certificates will not pay your bills. But your hands are ready made tools for you. The moment you acquire skills, you can go to fend for yourself. You can have something to do. So it is for people to believe that there are no jobs. The white collar job is no more. The days of the ready made white collar job are over. And whether we like it or not, the government is the major employer of labour. And we know that the finances of the government cannot cater for all. So what the government can do is to create an enabling environment for people to be able to create employment.
Also speaking, Head of the Rural Employment Promotion Program (REPP) Dept of the NDE, FCT Centre, Mr Jina Nwachikwuma said participants at the training center are acquainted with all forms of livestock and crop farming, fashion designing, upholstery, catering among others, and after which they are provided with soft loans to enable them start up a business.
“You know that the truth is that you cannot remove rural settings from agriculture. So what we do mostly is agric sector employment. NDE adopts new scientific and technological discoveries in developing employment generation in the agric sector. Like you know, we are encouraging a paradigm shift from artisanal fishing to the practice of aquaculture.
“We teach them all aspects of agriculture. We teach them different aspects Livestock farming and crop production. We deal with cereals, we deal with tubers and so also in livestock. We deal with Fishery, we deal in piggery etc.
“We have 100 participants being trained in every aspect of agriculture for three months after which they get soft loans of 100,000 naira each to enable them start up their business. He said.
One of the participants, Eunice Obeagu who is learning Confectionaries conveyed her joy in participating in the program while expressing hopes that at the end of the program she would be able to become gainfully self employed with the skills and loans she would get.
According to her, “I am from Enugu State. I have been here for this training. After this business, I will be able to make cakes, start up my own business and employ others as well. Before I came here I was doing nothing. I was waiting and hoping for a job as a graduate. But with this now, I am now empowered and I can also bring in more people and empower them.
Another participant, Michael Dorcas, said,
“I am from Kogi State. Before I came here I was doing nothing. I was waiting for a job. With this training I will have something to do now to fend for myself. I am expecting NDE to empower me with a loan at the end to help me start up my own business.
Meanwhile, the media team visited by some of the beneficiaries of the various loans and skills acquisition programs of the NDE whose businesses were located at different parts of the FCT.
Mr Christopher Kadri, who owns a Bakery in Gwagwa said the 5,000 million naira loan and skills he acquired from the NDE program helped in expanding his business from just snack production to bread production with over 20 direct staff and 10 marketers.
“I actually started a few years ago, when I had to resign from the company I worked before, to set up a pastry house. I started by making snacks and from there we chose to tow the bakery line which we started gradually on a very small scale then. As time went on I heard that NDE had a window for entrepreneurs to benefit from and we were able to secure a 5 million naira loan from NDE which we used to do the expansion. We started from a rented place, but with the support and drive of the NDE we were able to buy a place here and put up this structure. Over the years we have been doing it, and right now, we have 21 direct staff and up to ten marketers and we have been coping .
Mr Kadri lamented that even though the NDE has a flexible repayment arrangement, the persistent hike in price of production materials has made keeping the business afloat almost impossible.
According to him, “Our biggest challenge is the persistent rise in cost of production materials.
“Things are expensive now. It takes extra mental strength for manufacturers to keep their businesses now. A bag of flour that we used to buy for 6,200 naira today as i speak to you, is now 24,600 naira. A gallon of vegetable oil is now 32,000 naira. We used to buy it for 11,000 naira. Sugar is 26,800 naira. It was 11,000 naira. A carton of yeast was 4,800 naira and is now 21,500 naira. So you see prices have gone crazy. We are just trying to put ourselves above the waters.
Another beneficiary, Mr Omalafe Sunday Gabriel who runs a fish farm in Bwari said he started his farm on a small scale some years back, and later enrolled for the REPP where he learned advanced methods of running his business to prevent losses and maximize profit.
According Sunday, the 500,000 has helped the business to a stage where he now has over 6,000 catfish in his ponds and six people working under him.
He however, asserted a desire to access more loans to further expand the business.
“I started 10 yrs ago at a point I had to access a loan from NdE to expand the business. I have 6 people working for me and I pay them. I thank the coordinators of the program I have over. We have 6000 fish here. I got a 500k loan to pay within 3 years. I will be happy to be able to access more funds to further expand my business. It is my source of livelihood. With my investment in the farm it is now worth 2.5
“I encourage all the youths outside here to get themselves engaged because there are a lot of opportunities in fish farming. You will not know until you get into it” he said.