‘How to create more jobs, overcome search challenges’
VARIOUS reasons have been deduced for the increasing number of unemployed persons in the country.
While the number of unemployed persons keeps increasing and successive governments develop various programmes, create agencies and devout huge financial and human resources to tackle unemployment, so also lack of coordination and duplication of efforts have emerged as one of the most formidable obstacles to the creation of employment.
In the last few decades, successive governments had introduced agencies to tackle employment, which has made coordination and efficient deployment of scarce resources difficult and stifled achieving desirable impact.
Programmes and agencies such Youth Enterprise With Innovation (YouWin), Youth Empowerment Scheme (YES), Small and Medium Enterprises Development Agency of Nigeria (SMEDAN) and National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) have been introduced in the last couple of years.
At the height of cacophony of voices that were trailing the proliferation of agencies set up by government to tackle unemployment and growing poverty, former President Goodluck Jonathan inaugurated a Presidential committee on the rationalization and restructuring of Federal Government Parastatals, Commissions, and Agencies to streamline and strengthen their activities.
At the end of the fact-finding mission of the committee, its Chair, Steve Oronsaye, noted that the proliferation has created a ‘single story’ of inefficiency, corruption, poor work environment, low morale, ineffectiveness, deceit and low productivity, thereby establishing a perception of a dysfunctional and unproductive public sector. The overall submission therefore was that government must move to harmonize its strategies on wealth creation and employment generation initiatives.
The Acting Director General of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Kunle Obayan, said the Directorate is well placed to midwife the job creation initiatives of the Federal Government considering its many years of existence.
The NDE boss explained: “The National Directorate of Employment (NDE) is the apex agency of government established for the sole purpose of creating employment outside the white collar jobs. The NDE has been in the business of employment generation since it began operation in January 1987. Since that time, the NDE has gathered a lot of experiences because unemployment assumes multi-dimensional shapes, which is determined by reigning economic challenges. Unemployment arises in cases where people cannot find the type of work they were trained to do, some arise out of sudden retrenchment while some people are without jobs for the simply reason of not finding the type of work they want. So, all the training programmes that NDE has are a reaction to specific unemployment challenge. That is why we have skills that are designed to tackle specific type of unemployment or targeted at specific unemployed persons.”
Obayan stressed that, not only does NDE design programmes to suit specific unemployed persons, locality also influences the kind of training programme it develops.
He argued that the NDE has survived for 30 years because it has always adapted to the exigencies of the time, saying, “NDE has basic strategies is to give skills to people that are unskilled or to change their vocation and make them relevant to the market needs through skills set such as rural employment promotion which is agricultural skills, vocational skills, special public works which is largely construction skills, and business development skills.”
The NDE helmsman pointed out that the Directorate was positioned and carefully created to proffer solution to unemployment situation as it comes.
His words: “It is not just today that the NDE is positioned to tackle unemployment. Indeed, the NDE has been positioned since 1987 for the challenge. Apart from the fact its strategies are homegrown, they are specially designed to tackle any form of unemployment that may develop in Nigeria. Because NDE is well positioned, we have found other parallel agencies of government trying to do what NDE do. When they copy these programmes, they also use NDE structures at the federal and state levels because NDE has structures and offices in all the 36 states of the federation including Abuja.”
Obayan highlighted that the coming on stream of parallel agencies did not only divert the focus of the NDE, but was responsible for the inadequate funding of its training programmes and activities.
Again, he explained: “All the offices in the states are as equipped as the headquarters but most of the staffers are idled because of inadequate funding. Hence the impact that our programmes ought to have had not been achieved. This also resulted in a systemic increment in the unemployment rate because new organizations that have so much money were established and because they did not achieve the desired impact because they did not have the expertise. While at the same time, the NDE that has the manpower to deliver was neglected. When we examine the number of students who drop off at the secondary level and those that could not gain entrance into the tertiary institutions, they are a disaster waiting to happen if they are not re-trained and re-oriented into productive ventures. There is the need for government and all the stakeholders in the job creation initiatives to ensure NDE is properly funded to avert that disaster. And the nation is seeing and witnessing the army of unemployed persons going into anti-social vices.”
He said there are fresh steps to harmonize all the skill training centres in the country under the supervision of the NDE to give skill acquisition a sense of direction and enforcement of standards.
He said: “There are discussions under the auspices of the ministry of labour and employment to bring in all skill centres in the country that are owned by government agencies. There is no need for proliferation of the centres because that does not help the overall reduction of unemployment in the country. Indeed, the Minister of Labour and Employment, Dr Chris Ngige has already spoken about putting up a memo to that effect so that it is approved that all those skill centres come under the supervision of the NDE. This will enable us schedule trainings to all areas where the skill centres are located. Even though we know that what we have presently is still not enough. Our target is to have at least one centre in every local government area.”
He hinted that the Directorate is embarking on the registration of the unemployed persons because of the need to be scientific in its approach to tackling unemployment debacle.
He said: “The focus of the present government is to do things differently and also to focus on social protection of vulnerable people and the NDE is keying into that.
“When unemployed persons come to the NDE, we direct them to go the Job Centre where we run checks on the type of unemployment individuals have, determine the barriers to employment and then recommend what they need to do to overcome unemployment challenge. We now have a set of computers that analyze curriculum vitae, do a carrier matching and profile unemployed persons for a job. It will also do analysis on the skill gap between that job that is most suitable for the individual and then determine a training that is most appropriate for such individual. We know that a jobless person that is in the job market does not want a training that will last long. So, we have short-term training that is a quick fix. In a case that some people fall into the unemployable category, hope is not lost for such persons as such people could then be considered for conditional cash transfer.”
Obayan stated that the NDE has a role to play in the implementation of the conditional cash transfer of the Muhammadu Buhari administration, adding, “in the job portal we are planning to register the unemployed persons, every application would be analyzed and select perfect skills for people with precision. It is no longer a guesswork. It is a job exchange where people can go for different types of skills training for possible jobs because employers would also be on the exchange scouting for employable persons. When the platform finishes its analysis, it will point out to trainers the employers looking for them upon completion of the training.”
He said the job centre would operate alongside the traditional training centres spread across the country.
Despite the existence of 74 training centres in the country, the NDE boss said they are not enough considering the number of the unemployed persons in the country.
In its bid to extend training to the grassroots, Obayan hinted that NDE currently have desk officers in each local government area in the country.
“These desks offer explanations to people about NDE programmes. This has helped the Directorate to know the skill training needs of communities,” he stated.
He stressed that while the Directorate continue to collaborate with members of the National Assembly for the purpose of training unemployed persons in their constituencies, he plans to establish a grant desk in the office of the Director General with the sole responsibility of attracting grants for project execution.
On his part, the immediate past Director General of the Directorate, Abubakar Mohammed said the time has come for government and NDE to do things differently in order to tackle unemployment decisively.
He said: “What government should do is to encourage the NDE by looking at its operations and strategies and blend it with its programmes on employment generation.”
He submitted that the NDE has the required manpower to fit into the change mantra of the present administration.
“I believe that the NDE has adequate in-house human capacity, know-how and know-what to spearhead the job creation initiatives of this government. No government keeps paying the salaries of an agency and then ignores such agency in programme implementation. Nobody ask relevant questions when it is supposed to be asked and this can be discouraging indeed. Government must understand the significance of the Directorate in tackling the unemployment challenge,” he stated.
While decrying the negative effects of the proliferation of job creating agencies, Abubakar said that the creation of quasi-agencies to tackle unemployment crisis by successive governments not only amount to pushing a hidden agenda that is not for the good of the generality of the Nigerian masses, but creation of unnecessary rivalry between agencies and waste of resources.
He said: “NDE is an old agency that has officers that have garnered experiences over the years. Its programmes have been tested many times over and its strategies are reliable. If there is any programme that governments wants that the NDE is not implementing presently, the Directorate has enough experienced hands to adapt to the demands of the time. Without any doubt, I don’t think there is any agency that has the kind of human resources that the NDE has got in the fight against unemployment and poverty.”