In recent years, concerns have been raised by all and sundry over the escalating rate of unemployment in Nigeria. According to a 2018 report by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), the unemployment rate surged to 23.1 per cent from 20.42 per cent in December 2017; and this is despite an estimated total of 50=0,000 graduates produced by tertiary institutions in the country annually.
The figures, explained by human resource experts and employers of labour, have been rising because many tertiary institution graduates have no skills that make them employable, a situation blamed on the outdated educational curriculum used by Nigerian schools.
As part of the remediation of the development, a group, Street Project Foundation (SPF), launched an initiative- Creative Youth Boot Camp-in 2016. The initiative was conceived to provide an opportunity for singers, musicians, poets, creative writers, presenters, comedians, spoken word artists, actors, visual artists, fashion enthusiasts and performance artists of any kind to hone their skills under the guidance and mentorship of industry experts.
Since inception in 2016, the Creative Boot Camp has up-skilled a total of 200 young people, with 80 per cent of them placed on internships, while 50 per cent secured full-time jobs or started their own businesses after the programme.
This year’s edition, the third since inception, has as its theme: “Art for Social Transformation”, and will run for six weeks, starting from Monday, November 11. Rita Ezenwa-Okoro, SPF’s Founder and Lead Visionary, explained that she was inspired to establish the boot camp after noticing how her siblings struggled to gain employment upon their graduation from higher institutions. According to her, her siblings struggled because they were forced to study courses that did not align with their passion. She stated that the experiences of her siblings, therefore, spurred her to focus on creative art and vocational skills in order to improve the skill-set of the Nigerian youth aside from what they learn in the classroom. She noted that the boot camp will place emphasis on building soft skills, which, according to her, are essential for communication in both formal and informal workplaces. She added that the initiative also provides a platform for the youth to pursue their passion while giving them a platform to showcase their talents.
“SPF was set up to focus on youth development using the creative art as a tool. When you are teaching drama for instance, you are teaching young people diction (communication); when you are teaching dance, you are teaching stance, public speaking and non- verbal communication; when you are teaching improvisation, you are building their critical thinking skills. That was what birth the creative youth boot camp.
“The whole essence of this is to teach young people soft skills that they need for the work place. One thing that people are always looking out for when they want to hire the entry level position they are always looking out for the character of work; timeliness, ability to communicate effectively, project management, team work, team building these are all of the things that we teach our young people when they come to the creative youth boot camp,” she said.
The SPF founder disclosed that this year’s boot camp is unique as it caters for the need of people living with disabilities. She insisted that there is the need to fully integrate people limited by health challenges into the society as they also possess critical skills needed to make the world a better place.
She said: “The first two cohorts were run in Lagos in 2016 and 2017 but now we are taking it to the city of Abuja where we also want to replicate this now. What is making this year’s own unique is that the SPF agenda for the next three years is to scale up activities, we are looking at the inclusion of people living with disabilities and working with more young women as well and so that’s why this edition 30 per cent of our participants are going to be young people living with disabilities.”
Noting that the SPF wants all its participants to blossom, Ezenwa-Okoro acknowledged that every individual will venture into any field which entices and guarantees them success. She noted that some of its graduates such as Ruby, Josh2funny and Chizzy d’ Ace have excelled in the entertainment industry, while another of its prodigies, was recruited by a prominent accounting firm in the country.
On his part, Ezenwa Okoro, SPF’s Director of Programmes, explained that the boot camp also empowers participants by providing internship placement and mentorship during and after the programme.
According to him, the SPF places emphasis on a safe place for its trainees because the lack of opportunities for young people makes them vulnerable to the dangers of society. “Internship placement is a critical component of this boot camp and also finding mentors for these young people. We are passionate about youth development, which stems from life experiences,” he said. He called on employer-partners from both creative and corporate organizations interested in accepting interns from the boot camp to attend the Street Project Foundation’s Employer Partnership Forum, scheduled for Friday, 8 November in Abuja.
Okoro said it is imperative for the SPF to gather employers and make them aware of the benefits of the boot camp to the society and their businesses, as well as to young people seeking opportunities. This year’s edition, which is supported by VOICE, will have a total of 100 participants, including 30 gifted youths living with physical disabilities. All participants will be split into four cohorts of 25 each and placed on internships at the end of the boot camp.