By Chiamaka Ajeamo
In its quest to reduce unemployment in the Niger Delta region and Nigeria entirely, the Niger Delta Youth Employment Pathways (NDYEP) has trained over 4,800 youths in various skills.
The NDYEP project, which is in three pilot states, Abia, Akwa Ibom and Rivers, is the brainchild of the Partnership Initiatives in the Niger Delta (PIND), a non-profit organisation working with partners to build peace and equitable economic development in the Niger Delta.
The youths obtained skills in priority sectors of agriculture, construction, information and communication technology (ICT) and renewable energy and finished leather.
Speaking at the closeout workshop, the manager of NDYEP, Emeka Ile, said the project’s aim was to equip youths in the region with skills that were in high demand.
Before the project started in 2018, it discovered that there was a mismatch between the skills offered by so many training programmes and what was actually demanded by organisations, especially in the private sector. This, Ile said, informed the project’s decision to focus on priority growth sectors.
He said, of the over 4,800 who enrolled for the first and second phases of the project, 4,355 participants completed their training.
In phase two alone, “2,887 participants completed technical and soft skill training” of which “1,288 have already been linked to waged work opportunities (356) and starting business/entrepreneurship (932)”, Ile said.
For Dr. Dara Akala, the executive director of PIND Foundation, the high unemployment rate in the Niger Delta was disturbing. That informed PIND’s decision to design the programme to address the menace in a very practical way by equipping the youths with market-relevant skills.
In his opening remarks at the workshop, Akala emphasized that “addressing unemployment remains one of the most significant development challenges at this time for governments and actors at the national and sub-national levels, including the Niger Delta.
“And that is why celebrating the wins of the NDYEP project today is important while replicating such innovative approaches to skills development that will contribute to economic recovery and growth post-COVID-19 is of even more importance.”
The project initiated a business plan competition to support participants start their own small businesses; 47 individual and group start-ups emerged successful and were awarded grants to kickstart their businesses. The winners will also receive guidance on how to start and grow their businesses to help provide employment for others.
One of the participants, Mary Ogbonna, who spoke at the end of the closeout workshop, described the project as “amazing”. She was trained in Android development and has already started replicating her knowledge.
“I’m doing great things. I train and mentor girls between the ages of 10 and 18 in Android development to get them involved in the tech ecosystem because girls tend to shy away from technology”, she said.
“They think it’s really difficult and what they can’t do. But I’m a testimony that girls can do it.”
Another participant, Uduak Etuk, who described herself as a professional woodworker, said the project helped her gain competence in construction machine usage. Going forward, she said, with the skills she has gained, she would be able to “do some space-saving furniture, which have not been done in Nigeria”.
While giving a goodwill message on behalf of the Abia State government, the director-general of Abia State Marketing and Quality Management Agency, Sam Hart, said PIND’s projects were usually result-oriented.
“PIND, you are intentional, you are practical and your works speak for themselves. Because of the work you do, Abia State is more serious, better positioned and more attractive to development partners who are looking for serious partners to work with,” Hart said.
The NDYEP project advisory board was recognised for its hard work and commitment to the project during the workshop.