By Okechukwu Keshi Ukegbu
Unemployment constitutes a nagging socio-economic problem in Nigeria. Millions of youths roam the streets of the country unemployed on a daily basis. This problem has constituted a clog in the wheel of progress in the country. The crime rate is soaring to an unprecedented dimension and youth restiveness is ever on the increase.
Research reveals that unemployment and poverty have direct link to security challenges in Nigeria, and expert opinions suggest “ the need for a radical reform in the areas of skill acquisition centres, agricultural development schemes for creation of employment opportunities and holistic restructuring of peace building mechanisms to curb these social ills and reposition the drifting nation to a more purposeful track.”
Also, Nigeria’s National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) states that “the unemployment rate in Nigeria increased to 14.2 percent in the last quarter of 2016 from 10.4 percent a year earlier. It is the highest jobless rate since 2009 as the number of unemployed went up by 3.5 million to 11.549 million while employment rose at a slower 680.8 thousand to 69.6 million. The labour force increased by 4.194 million to 81.151 million and those detached from it declined by 625.7 thousand to 27.439 million. The unemployment rate was higher for persons between 15-24 years old (25.2 percent), women (16.3 percent) and in rural areas (25.8 percent). In the previous quarter, the jobless rate was 13.9 percent.”
Governments at various levels are making frantic efforts to ensure that the menace of unemployment is addressed, thereby addressing other issues arising from unemployment. Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu understands the grave socio-economic implications of unemployment. According to him, “Our administration views job creation and skills development as necessary ingredients for our integrated economic development agenda as availability of relevant skill sets in our environment will naturally lead to more investment and further reduction in unemployment-related criminal activities”.
As part of its efforts to address this problem, Gov. Okezie Ikpeazu’s administration inaugurated the Education for Employment Scheme on September 16, 2015. The EFE programme was not only conceived to create employment, but also to ensure that education leads to employment by imbuing the youths with the technical skills that would enable them become either self-employed or sought after by others. The programme is to boost the current efforts of the state to be elevated to a Small and Medium Scale Entreprises (SME) capital of the country where all kinds of equipment and devices will be imported to boost shoes and garments production.
The programme would be replicated in primary schools across the primary school pupils that are ready and prepared to go into technical education and eventually end up servicing the technical needs of Abia people.The programme is designed to be replicated in primary schools across the state.
Since the inauguration of the programme, it has been one success story to another. The latest is the ground breaking ceremony of the Dangote Education for Employment (EFE) job centre at Okpuala in Isiala Ngwa North Local Government Area. The pilot project is to provide a digital one-stop shop for job seekers, including services such as free employment consultancy. The centre will also be funded by the Dangote Group.
The recent stride is a huge boost to Gov. Ikpeazu’s resolve that his administration pledges to offer technical and vocational education training to 100, 000 youths in the state, and massive efforts have been mobilised towards achieving this.
For instance, from the outset of the programme, there has been profiling of unemployed youths in the state and creation of a database that identifies their employment needs. Also, the first batch of the programme has been trained to acquire relevant skills required by employers as well as the skills that will enable others to be self-employed. Futhermore, the job centre is expected to acquire additional capacity to place them and others who wish to be gainfully engaged.
It will be recalled that the project recorded another history on Thursday, August 3, 2017 when its first batch graduated in a grand ceremony in Umuahia. The scheme has also trained registered participants at the E-library Complex Umuahia.The participants were trained in various skills. On the other hand, the programme was expected to locate jobs for those wishing to go into paid employment as well as offer start-up materials for those wishing to stand alone as well as offer monthly stipends to the trainees.
Indeed, the EFE programme is a milestone in Gov. Ikpeazu’s administration. The scheme has assumed the status of a beautiful bride as it has attracted the attention of international donor agencies such as the World Bank. At the local level, even the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN) has indicated interest in funding graduates of the scheme who wish to set up shop on their own.
While we commend the Dangote Group for this commitment towards human capital development in Nigeria and Abia State in particular, we urge other corporate organizations, development partners and well-meaning Abians to rally round Governor Okezie Ikpeazu by supporting the governor’s numerous laudable initiatives. There is also a strong appeal here for well-meaning individuals to key into this laudable project by sponsoring the remaining 16 job centres proposed to be replicated in the other local government areas in the state.
Ukegbu writes from Umuahia