Ernest Ubong Essien is a Kaduna-based young entrepreneur and Chief Executive Officer of Magvoile Vocational Centre and Magvoile Foundation where he and his wife, Margret Essien, have trained over 2, 000 youths, including graduates in different skills to make them self-reliant. Recently, he represented Nigeria in United States of America at one month empowering youth through workforce development programme, a regional project, where he was exposed to how Nigeria especially, Kaduna State could solve its youth unemployment challenge.
Can you lead us into how you started your vocational centre and what prompted you to start it in the first place?
I am Ernest Essien, Ambassador of Goodwill from Arkansas, United States of America. Magvoile is 2-1n one; we have the vocational arm where we train people in different skills based on the societal needs and Magvoile Foundation through which we give back to the society. I run the centre together with my wife, Margret Essien. We have been running the centre for 12 years unofficially and eighth years officially now. Having a supporting spouse is a plus to my progress in this calling.
When we started Magvoile, many people that knew about it thought we didn’t know what we were doing. We did not start with support from anyone or even a grant from anywhere. We started from the scratch. All I have to say is to tell every young person who is dreaming of becoming an entrepreneur not to give up, but see to it that his vision becomes a reality. I was just doing what I know how to do best. We started with a single office room in Muri road here in Kaduna. Now, we have a bigger office space with nine rooms. We also have a workforce of 18 youths working directly with us and earning salaries.
With regards to expansion, we are opening a new branch in Jaji military cantonment. They have already given us space in Jaji to extend our services to train the wives of soldiers and other youths there. We are also looking at the possibility of working with the Inspector General of Police because we believe that the Police too have great role to play in youth development as they relate with communities. We are also looking at working with the office of the minister of youth and sports, governors to train their youths. I have been trained by the Government of the United States of America. I thank US Ambassador to Nigeria W, Stuart Symington and Nigerian – US Embassy for giving me this great opportunity. I have observed that the US government is doing a lot to empower Nigerian youths. Now as an Ambassador, I work with the US embassy in the area of youth development not only in Kaduna, but across all states in Nigeria.
In our centre, we have departments of fashion design, photography, shoes and bags making, catering and cosmetology. We are adding new department called direct to work journalism which will benefit those that are learning photography. With the taste and dimension of what people want in terms of interior, we are also considering adding up carpentry to what we do. We also have etiquette programme we do for young people and Goggle training to blend everything with technology.
We have directly trained over 2,000 youths in Kaduna. We did a training programme a few months ago where we trained 500 youths. I want to use this opportunity to thank the senator- elect for Kaduna Central, Uba Sani. He was not part of the programme but when he heard about what we were doing, he came in and played a great role which added to the success of that project. We are looking forward to seeing more of him.
So, how has the US experience inspired you to improve on what you are doing?
I was being selected by the US embassy and the US department of state to represent Nigeria on the workforce development of young people. I have learnt a lot. I have been inspired a lot, that experience open my eyes to look back home and saw what we need to do better to address youth unemployment in our country. One man said your children determine your future which to me is a statement of fact. The children here are the youth of this country. I’m talking about our leaders putting priority in investing in their youth. This is what I saw in the US, to create jobs and to protect the youths and this is done by creating enabling working environment. Enabling working environment in this context means running a statistics on the job needed in each state. That is, knowing the need of the people of the state and who can help to meet the identified needs.
Let me quickly say this, Kaduna State has 23 local government areas. All the state government need to do is to know what each of the local government area is good at, understand this and then get those that can make them do what they do better in tandem with the objective of the state in meeting the identified needs of its people.
How can this be transferred into a reality in Nigeria?
The best way to help the country is help people to discover their ideology early in life. Good taxes come from good entrepreneurs. What that means is that when people are doing well in what they do, government is relaxed, some of the problems we face today will naturally disappear and more money will be available for the government to work with. We should not forget the saying that an idle hand is devil’s workshop. If we must address terrorism and other emerging crimes in Nigeria, we must create workforce for the youths.
You have been trained in the US on entrepreneurship, of what benefit is this to the people of Kaduna State?
Yes, to the people of Kaduna State, it is a good thing that out of the 36 states and FCT, only the Kaduna-based Magvoile Centre was selected from the country alongside 14 others from other African countries. While some Nigerian youths went there to soil our image, I went there to bring Nigeria and Kaduna State to spotlight with regards to what we can do as youths. That ambassadorial award with US seal on it speaks volume. That means they were ready to transact business with Kaduna and Nigeria through me as their ambassador. And you know what, that goodwill ambassador award was not ordinary. It came after scrutiny, after they may have seen your profile and good behaviour.
On my part, I am ready to work with Kaduna State government because charity begins at home, and other states in Nigeria for that matter. I went with a lot of African attires to the US – from Washington DC to California, San Diego, Denver, Colorado, and little Rock in Arkansas. And each time I wore these attire, people were like ‘wow, I like the stuff man, where can I get them man.’ and all that. That means they appreciate our uniqueness. That means we can explore our tourism in Nigeria. Kaduna State is blessed with so much tourism locations, which is another area we can help to create jobs for the youths. There is nothing wrong for Kaduna State to take the lead.