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Any Nigerian youth resident in Lagos can access our employment fund – Part 2

Babatunde Etti


We are also working with the American Embassy, the Consulate General has been kind enough to give quite a number of grants to Lagos entrepreneurs, and the one we are just concluding with is the Street Foundation; they just trained about over 100 young ones in the area of creative arts, culture, theatre and also drama, and they sort of brought out the talents in them. We are going to pull in about 46 of them into our graduate internship scheme. We have created outlets for artists who are probably going to be fitting into another gallery, and we are going to take few of them and put them through into our collaboration with Ruff n’ Tumble, to train those who show talent in sewing and train them in the garment industry.

Quite a lot of these entrepreneurs will also have gone through trainings, they have gone through capacity building, which will also encourage them and make them available in the pipeline for the ETF, and be able to access small loans. And we are not stopping on that at the ETF side; we’ve got start up consultants working on business development support services for all these people. , So it’s not as if we are telling them to just take a loan the way other financial institutions will do, the social impact is also very important. We have offices in five local government, we have complementary support services from ETF in the 20 local governments. Eventually, what we’re doing with Mercy Corp is to go back to the days of guidance and counselling. We will train about 30 of our personnel, who will be like Training of Trainers (ToTs). If you’re in Badagry, students can go in for career guidance and counselling to determine what they can do. We are also working with the Ford Foundation on technical capacity building for the Ministry. We are also working with General Electric in the area of entrepreneurship support, and I know ETF also has a relationship with the UNDP.

Information is power, so how does the target audience get to know about all of these initiatives, or what are the awareness creation measures that the Ministry has adopted?
First and foremost, through the good work you are doing talking to you, and our next step is that Microsoft has been graceful to support us they are donating an interactive board. Eventually, that interactive board that we are working on with Poise and with a lot of encouragement from Ford Foundation is to be able to create electronic platform whereby all employers and all trainers will be able to key in into what we are doing. For example, if you’re looking for a job, you go to the board and you’ll be able to pick up Jobbermann, Joblink to see what is on offer and training schools. Information is key, and that is what our young ones really need. The good thing is that the board makes sure that we know those that are advertised on it. We create that enabling environment that they are genuine offtakers, and that they are genuine facilitators so that we don’t have cases of people being duped. We are advocating an end to scams where by unemployed youths are being exploited because they don’t have information.

In terms of partnership, apart from international institutions you have mentioned, are there other collaborations with the corporate institutions like the banks, oil companies, and others?
Yes, we launched our graduate internship programme, which is being done with a lot of offtakers and collaborators whereby we intend on the competitive bases to have 2,000 graduates with an age limit of 30, to have three months internship in quite a number of all these organisations. We’ve had a meeting with First Bank recently, looking at taking between 20 and 50 interns to start up with. We are working with Mactay as the consultant for this, to make sure that it is devoid of political process. We are working with the offtakers and on the board you will find that all the employers can see the interview scores for every single applicant that is being screened online. The applicant will get pin codes because as you are being interviewed, in front of you, I have a laptop doing the assessment, asking the questions and everything and your scores and grades are being uploaded right there. So if you are an employability partner, you have a pin code, you go online and could see what everyone scored. So it’s transparent and you don’t have to know anybody.

We are also working on how to make sure that our employability partners also have to sit down on the interview panels to look at how it goes. The good thing about this is, with 2000 as a pilot, some partners have said: “three months is too small, how can it fit into my structure programme, can you move it to six months?” and we look at them and make sure they don’t use it for personnel support because we are paying their salary for those three months. So we also ask them, what is the career plans you have if you want us to extend it up to six months so we know that the young ones are not being used and after six months they come back. Like I told you, what we are looking at is sustained development.

You said it would be devoid of politics and nepotism. Does that mean that any Nigerian, irrespective of tribe or religion can access these facilities?
Yes of course, so long as the applicant passes the eligibility criteria. This is clear – you must be up to 30, you must have a Lagos State residency and Identification and a few other things.

You talked about creating jobs on so many platforms, how many jobs does this administration envision to create before the expiration of its term?
When we look at the numbers, these are very catchy. I owe it to my mandate and the oath of office to tell the truth, but it’s very difficult to put in numbers when you are rebuilding an ecosystem. Is it sustainable? Is it cyclical? I can take the N25billion and give everybody N100million each, and I will tell you I have created 25 million jobs and put up photograph. But in six months’ time they will come back hungry. Like I said, so far we have trained 7,000 within the past one year through Marcy Corp, and we have created opportunities for about 10,000 people, another 2,000 coming up under the graduate internship programme and we have other initiatives.

But I cannot tell you it is the end of the game and then I can tell you: “yes, these people are actually kidding.” Once a conducive ecosystem is there, it’s easier for you to track. If you want me to tell you how many people I have captured through my employment centres, I have about 50,000 registered as at today seeking for employment. In in the process, we also have some people that currently working and still they are underemployed, so I think what is most important is for Nigerians to really understand how to define employment and what kind of employment makes us fit in a positive manner.

I’m happy you raised the issue of underemployment, and increasingly, because of the economic situation, we are having a whole lot of that. In determining who to assist first, do you take this into consideration – those who are already working and looking for better placement against those who don’t have anything at all?
You need to be able to balance that and that’s why we believe it has to be inclusive and transparent, and it must be competitive. Is there anything wrong if am a graduate, and a clerk today and I see another opportunity and I compete for it and I top the class? There are also those graduates who are unemployed because they refused to take the job of that clerk, so it’s a very ambiguous situation. This is one the reasons why I said when we start looking at numbers, which has been the bane of this country. You ask, what samples have you taken? What are the samples for? Do we know how many people come into Lagos every day and how many people go out? There are a lot of factors that we need to consider. If am asking for a World Bank loan, that’s when I’ll talk about numbers. Basically, what we should do is to say that we are reconstructing a conducive ecosystem to boast employment and employability, and in the process of reconstructing, you need to look at where you are and where you are going, and your strategy and the opportunities inherent.

In terms of sustained employment, one of the things I found out since I started this journey, is, there needs to be a lot of reorientation amongst our young ones. They don’t want to work, they don’t want to volunteer, and we must realise that this is the message we really need to send out. When we have to talk about numbers, we are not helping the system because once we do, we get distracted. In fact I get so annoyed when people insist on this. One thing is, I talk to a lot of youths here every day because I created an open door policy, and I don’t have any appointment days. I see everybody, and a lot of them that have done excellently well, we have encouraged them in terms of entrepreneurship. There are also some that come and they feel that it’s government so it has to be driven.

When I assumed office here, I met huge files of training proposals, and I said: “we are not going to train because there are a lot of international partners doing that already and we would support what they are doing.” We will only support training whereby there is an employability outlet. When you train people, you come with rising expectations that there is job at the end of the day, and when you don’t give them that job, then deprivation sets in and you make them worse than they were before.

Finally, Lagos is targeting to become the top economy in the continent and right now, we know that wealth creation and employment play a huge role in growing any economy’s GDP. What level of unemployment does this government want to leave behind at the end of this tenure?
If possible, this government does not want to leave any behind. One of the things I think this government would want to do is to see unemployment reduced by 50%. This might sound ambitious, because when you look at unemployment, you are looking at opportunities that you would have created that would have brought unemployment down to 50%. Opportunities include mind-set reorientation, for them to on a competitive base fit into that ecosystem, which we have created for them to harness these opportunities. We keep saying that people are unemployed, it’s not their fault; when we don’t have our Boys Scout, we don’t have Girls Guide, and we don’t have our Red Cross again. We don’t have our swimming pools any more. It’s not going to be only the Ministry alone; the ecosystem is being reinforced with all sorts of sectorial reforms in the area of creative arts, tourism, which are areas that our young ones never looked at because the ecosystem wasn’t there.

With the State Government creating six new movie theatres and arts, the way Terra Culture is going in the state to create jobs in that industry. With tourism coming up, and Ministry of Tourism taking a look at it and saying: I am creating tourist sites and it will create jobs, as we will have tourist guides that will take visitors around, telling them the history of Madam Tinubu and lots more. If you take a look at sports, we have swimming pool and mini stadia coming up in many places, and then you have malls spring up. It is not something only the Ministry is doing but the state is creating all these sectors, they might be in silos but they are all part of the value chain and ecosystem.


In this article:
Babatunde Etti


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