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‘Close education, employment gap to prepare youths for 4IR’

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Femi Balogun


Femi Balogun is the Evaluation and Research Specialist at Jobberman Nigeria. In this interview with GLORIA NWAFOR, he talks about the digital skills gap in the Nigerian labour market and how to fill them and prepare for the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR).

Could you please give an in-depth view of the labour market and how young people can be prepared for 4IR?
There is a deep-rooted issue with unemployment in Nigeria, and with the pandemic, the situation has intensified. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), between Q3 2018 and Q4 2020, Nigeria’s unemployment rate rose from 23.1% to 33.3%. This is due to several factors, including gaps in the country’s education system, as well as lack of access to jobs. For example, in 2018, Nigeria only created about 450,000 new jobs, while over 5 million people joined the labour force.

The World Bank data suggests that 18% – 20% of tertiary graduates will require training interventions for about one to four years to become employable. In order for young people to be prepared for 4IR, there is a need to close the existing gap between education (learning outcomes) and employment (skills in demand). This can only happen when mainstream curricular is designed in ways that are relevant for the job market on a continuous basis. Importantly, young people need to be socialised to develop both soft skills and digital skills from the primary school stage so that they can take advantage of the 4IR. An integrated approach where academia, government, private sector and practitioners co-create the development of a curriculum will go a long way in preparing young people effectively for the future of work.

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There is a huge digital skills gap in the Nigerian labour market regarding automation. How can they be prepared and adequately tap the potential in the sector to avoid the country relying on expatriates?
Job seekers need to study job specifications carefully before applying for jobs. By looking at requirements for specific roles, they can then see whether a career development course is needed to secure certain positions. For example a role may require more advanced literacy skills; therefore a training course is the appropriate step to take or strong communication skills. Jobberman strongly advocates candidates to continue to upskill and continue learning throughout their career.

How can the present high unemployment rate be tackled in Nigeria?
Transparency and democratisation are key to tackling the unemployment situation in Nigeria. When we have a transparent job market, we can collect data from different sectors about demand and skill sets required. This will help strengthen the education system by informing on curriculum that should be taught in skills and in turn support reforms in the education sector. The only way we can get a 100 per cent transparent jobs market is to have all jobs posted online – this is what we are striving for!

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What roles can the government and private sector play in addressing the issue of unemployment?
When addressing the issue of unemployment in Nigeria, it is imperative for the public and private sectors to work together to achieve set goals. Public-private sector partnerships are important to stimulate and sustain the demand for the use of digital platforms. The government can begin by strengthening the education sector and supporting reforms in education to develop industry relevant curriculum for improved skills, while also galvanising support for digital skills and soft skills training especially for women and marginalised communities. Secondly, they need to create an enabling environment for young businesses in the digital economy to thrive. This also includes investing in infrastructure that enables ICT adoption (such as broadband internet and electricity), as well as advancing policies that improve business climate will be useful in boosting investment opportunities. Recently, the Federal Ministry of Communications and Digital Economy launched the National Digital Economic Policy and Strategy (NDEPS) to help forge partnerships towards advancing an inclusive digital economy.

To achieve the goal of lowering the access barrier to digital tools for the citizens, the government has set a benchmark of 95 per cent digital literacy rates to be achieved in the next 10 years (2030) through states and LGAs support. It is expected that through the policy, young people will be equipped with the necessary skills to acquire decent jobs, while transforming Nigeria into a leading digital economy.

Beside technology, what other roles can Nigerian youth tap from to increase their potential and contribute to the growth of the country?
Technology is a core part of career development in many ways. Since the advent of the pandemic, we have seen how important technology has been for many businesses whether it is through remote working, having easy access to their customers or even networking via virtual events.

However, to contribute to the growth of Nigeria’s economy, young people can tap into more roles in the agriculture, creative and digital industries. Our research showed that these sectors were the top three sectors with the highest amount of job listings on the Jobberman website during the pandemic.

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