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Graduates’ dilemma worsens as formal jobs shrink


The steady shrinking of formal jobs is becoming the most formidable obstacle graduates of higher institutions in Nigeria face in their struggle to survive.

Similarly, the absence of a national safety net system to alleviate or provide stopgap reprieve for graduates is equally worrisome as this forces ablebodied people into societal ills such as armed banditry and kidnapping.

Presently, it seems education no longer provides the assurance of getting a job and this has many implications for parents striving to put their children through school, students striving to get a degree, and the government that intends to build the economy on the back of a productive workforce.

Experts are of the view that part of the problem lies with the slow rate at which the Nigerian economy is creating formal jobs, even as too many people are chasing too few jobs.

According to the recent unemployment report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), unemployment among people with post-secondary school education has almost tripled within three years – from 12 per cent in 2015 to 30 per cent in 2018 – with a national unemployment rate at 23.1 per cent in third quarter of 2018.

While Nigeria’s labour force grew by nearly four per cent between 2010 and 2017, jobs grew at a rate of just 1.6 per cent in the same period.
For instance, in 2015, about 251,000 formal jobs were created whereas popular estimates showed that Nigerian universities produce 500,000 graduates annually. At the same time, key sectors are shedding jobs. About 350,000 jobs were lost in the petroleum downstream oil sector following the 2016 economic recession.

According to a World Bank report, education, which had remained the gateway to our kind of success, by going to school, acquire a degree, and get a job is no longer a leeway. However, on the bright side, the lack of jobs for educated Nigerians is fostering a sizeable entrepreneurial class, with roughly four out of five employed Nigerians working for themselves.Experts submitted that if the country were economically-driven, as expected, opportunities that would create jobs for the youth would not be far to reach.They hinged on absence of good corporate governance, and the use of archaic curriculum by tertiary institutions as some of the reasons youth unemployment remains high.

The Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer, Grt8Jobsng, one of the recruitment platforms in Nigeria, Omomene Odike, at a career and jobs fair programme tagged, ‘Project Employ’, recently, said most job seekers do not fit in as they do not have the required technical skills to do specific jobs.She said the school curriculum is very high, as many schools still work with archaic curriculum developed many years ago.
To bridge the gap, she said there is the need for improved corporate governance, while the education sector as well as the National Universities Commission (NUC), need to step up their game, and rebuild the curriculum into the current digital age.

Since the launch of the platform, which attracted large number of unemployed graduates, Odike said the firm has gone to different universities across the country doing lots of employability skill training for students, to get them equipped for the job market after graduation.She said: “The approach is not sustainable, because of the curriculum most schools are working with. Everybody has a part to play in this high rate of unemployment. The attitude and mind-set has to change. Government is doing some work, but not enough because the statistics are still bad.

“We have taken proactive steps as a company to put employment and employability issues in the front burner of the society. This event is one of the initiatives for improving employment and employability in Nigeria.”Another reason why Nigeria has so many educated and jobless people is that there is a mismatch between the skills that workers have and the skills needed in the jobs available.

Many educated people are not trained to suit the demand of employers. This is attributed to the poor alignment between labour market needs and the curriculum the education system teaches. There is a wide gap between theory and practice in universities, such that it becomes difficult to apply taught courses to real-world issues.

Although, the Federal Government had said the increase in unemployment is not because the present administration has not created jobs, but it is as a result of how new jobs lag behind the rate of new entrants into the job market.Director of Entrepreneurship Centre, University of Lagos (UNILAG), Dr. Adebisi Abayomi, said government and other concerned stakeholders need to think backward by ensuring that the youths are encouraged to be self-sufficient and create businesses on their own even while in school.He told The Guardian how UNILAG trains its students on the need to drive one to self-sufficiency, and creating things by themselves to prepare them for life after graduation.

“If not for ASUU strike, by January, most universities would have churned out large crowd of graduates of over 15,000 per school. What becomes of them? Their number will add up to the unemployment rate, it will further increase to like 30 per cent because there is no job being created rather people are losing jobs.

“For us at UNILAG, we are converting all disciplines to entrepreneurship, where they are converted profitable business venture. As Director of Entrepreneurship Centre, what I have done is to ensure that our discipline has entrepreneur attached to them. We are trying to refocus the minds of the students to what they can turn their discipline in terms of been profitable rather than looking for jobs when they graduate.
“Our graduates are being turned to job creator rather than job seekers. Once they leave the university, they are leaving with idea, which would be developed and transformed into creating jobs for themselves. So, the issue of frustration would be out of it,” he said.

However, Dr. Abayomi urged government to ensure access to funding, “so that most of the good business ideas can be seed-funded. Once they have the assurance that such funds can be given to them when they finish, they begin to grow the business, because for me, government is not looking at creating more jobs.”

The Director-General, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Timothy Olawale noted that to tackle the increasing unemployment rate, government should focus on developing skills for youths to be self-employed. He said for most of the jobs available, majority of the youths don’t have the competent skills to man them.He added: “Government should encourage technical and vocational skills development, once they are better equipped, they can do things on their own, get jobs, and most likely be employers of labour ultimately.”

On what the private sector is doing to assist government create jobs, he said: “We believe there is the need for us to develop technical skill. That is why NECA is collaborating with Industrial Training Fund (ITF) on Technical Skills Development Project (TSDP), where thousands of youths are empowered with technical skills, and at the end of the training, majority are employed by private companies yearly.
“For 2018, we are graduating about 1,700 students and government can replicate that on a larger scale because we are doing that within available resources.

“As organised private sector, we developed an online solution on self-employment called NECApreneur to inculcate entrepreneurial skills in them so that they can start and their businesses.”On his part, the Programme Officer, Faculty of Business Administration, University of Uyo, Paul Awulu identified unemployment as the major cause of insurgency in Nigeria.He said the state government pays over 90 per cent of its allocation on salaries and servicing of loans, which means that no provision for capital projects and job creation.

He added that agriculture, which created major source of employment, was left as soon as Nigeria discovered oil.He urged universities in the country to initiate academic programmes capable of producing graduates, who would become employers of labour rather than employment-seekers.NBS states that Nigeria is too weak to close the significant employment gap that has emerged since the beginning of the global economic crisis in 2008.Similarly, the president of the United Labour Congress (ULC), Joe Ajaero urged government to support the private sector to create the needed jobs on sustainable basis.

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