Wednesday, 6th December 2023

Getting young ones prepared through skill acquisition

By Geraldine Akutu
29 October 2017   |   4:07 am
With the labour market so uncertain and saturated, people looking for employment are not finding things easy.

With the labour market so uncertain and saturated, people looking for employment are not finding things easy. But tertiary institutions in the country keep churning out thousands of graduates every year, who have to compete with seasoned professionals for jobs that are simply not there.

So, what some parents are doing is to equip their children by encouraging them to acquire some skills on the side. The idea is that, with such skills, which are often non-academic, these children will not have to depend solely on white-collar jobs that are non-existent in the future.

But is this really right, especially with the heavy academic workload these children are already burdened with in school? How should parents go about this, so that children are able to make the best of the two worlds?

The Guardian spoke with some experts, who support the need for youths to have vocational skills to enable them have something to fall back on after graduating from school and the search for white collar job is not successful.

Couselling psychologist, Tiwalade Soriyan, said parents should let their children be introduced to the world of work, by letting them know the importance of responsibilities in life.

She said: “By getting children involved in house chores and letting them earn rewards and treats, parents subtly make them know that people make a living by productive contributions. They should also let them see how their own (i.e. parents’) contributions at work bring solutions, meet the needs of others and provide means of income for the family.”

However, she believes a key component in stirring children’s interest in the world of work is to let them know they are not only required to make productive contributions later in life to have fulfilling and successful lives, but that they also must have something to contribute.

“This will arouse their curiosity in identifying their abilities and interests, and consequently what they can do with these. In conjunction with school programmes, parents must be actively involved in helping their kids engage themselves productively even through the word of play, modelling, role playing and holiday jobs, among others. The schools are quite limited in helping kids with self-discovery, but because homes provide the avenue for less inhibited self-expression, parents with the right level of attention can tell what their kids are inclined towards.

“When children get to high school stage, it becomes important for them to begin to identify with career paths, by choosing subjects that allow them to prepare for the world of work. Although our curriculum now include trade subjects from junior classes, parents will do well to have robust discussions with their children on their interest and provide them with extra-curriculum opportunities to develop skills in identified areas beyond school arrangements. For instance, holiday periods can be engaged in learning or developing skills of interest to the kids.”

For youths in higher institutions, she said it is highly recommended that they be given support to pursue courses of interest.

“Even if they have registered for parent influenced ones, they can still develop their interests alongside those. This should be a win-win situation for both parties, rather than a one-way street, and it creates multi-productive opportunities. It is advisable that parents be careful not to join the bandwagon of career or entrepreneurship fads. Individuals are uniquely gifted. Forcing a child to learn what he/she is not adept or interested in does not help to develop skills or confidence. In the process, he learns to associate the world of work with stress and view work as a chore, rather than an avenue for self-expression, creativity and contribution to life.

“I believe what many have termed ‘white collar’ job includes roles and positions in corporate organisations. Any field of endeavour can grow into a corporate organisation. So, rather than be focused on roles, let children know that whatever they can do well in life, which solves problems for people, will always be respected, if done excellently and can be expressed as a ‘corporate’ work or vocation. And in developing skills for winning in life, it is important they are not limited to technical expertise, but emotional and social competencies as well.”

Psychologist/child protection advocate, Ololade Hector-Fowobaje, explained that the basic skills parents should encourage their young teenagers to learn include sewing, barbing, blogging, Vlogging, photography, videography, braiding and hair-dressing, make-up/cosmetology, baking, jewellery-making, soap and body cream making, Ankara shoes and bag making, catering/small chops/special cuisines, specialty drinks, ushering, party planning, computer/phone repairs. Such soft skills in IT as coding, web development and graphics are also good.

“It is definitely a step in the right direction. Even with white-collar jobs, it is wiser to have multiple streams of income. Also, a wholesome education involves training the head, the heart and the hands, as education is not just about academics. A child has to have a wide repertoire of skills. Picking up skills also helps to identify a child’s gifts and talents, as some would just gravitate to whatever they are learning and do it effortlessly. Also, when we have identified their talents and what they love doing, we can develop and hone such natural gifts and interests with relevant skills.

“Above all, it is note-worthy that a lot of jobs would go into extinction in the next 10 years because of the global IT revolution. Apps and other IT systems and products are already solving many problems humans used to solve physically. Information Technology will maximally drive the future; so we need to prepare our children. Driverless cars are set to be launched. Young lawyers are no longer getting jobs easily in the U.S, because of the crazily astounding IBM Watson technology, an app, which provides 90 per cent more accurate legal advice than humans do.

“Every summer holiday, I believe every child should pick up a new skill that is age-appropriate. It’s usually best to learn these skills during the holidays generally; for better concentration and to avoid burdening the child. The training should just be for a few hours daily, since holiday is for rest and recreation. But really and truly, a teenager should also work at least part-time during the long holiday, even if it’s just for a month.

“Engaging in trading and sales by working in shops and businesses also equips a teenager with administrative skills: negotiation skills, record keeping, procurement, audit and customer service skills. So, in the absence of white-collar jobs, they can start and run their own businesses effectively. Most importantly, we should encourage them to always think outside the box,” she advised.

On his part, child development expert, Taiwo Akinlami, felt it is a sad commentary in our nation today that we cannot provide for our youths, even when they have managed to acquire education under some of the most difficult circumstances.

He said: “It is my belief that parents should prepare their children for future in today’s volatile world. I think parents’ first focus must be to develop the right value system in their children. In addition to this, they must develop their children intellectually. The right values system will help them to understand how life works, while the intellectual development will help them be resourceful. Therefore, wherever they find themselves, whether in white-collar or technical jobs, they are sure to do well. We must never forget that the mind rules the man, who rules the world.

“We must also never forget the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt that ‘we cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.’ Therefore, I think we should raise versatile children, who are prepared intellectually and technically to face the challenge of 21st century. We must come to terms with the fact that today’s world has gone digital, and technology is the main driver of every human endeavour and advancement. Therefore, any endeavour or person that is not technologically inclined does not have a future. All of this must be taken into consideration in preparing our precious children for the future.

The truth is that any young person, whose handlers do not take this into cognisance, may not do well in life and labour market, whether it is white-collar or technical engagements.

“I think our main concern should be that young people are not subjected to anything, either through the process of learning a skill and otherwise that will hinder or impair their physical and mental development. In the absence of the foregoing, young people can learn requisite skills required for future relevance in life and workplace without being overwhelmed. I think it is a matter of handlers helping young people set their priorities right and embracing the principle of doing one thing at a time in their order of importance. A lot will depend on the handlers’ knowledge, skills and attitude to ensure that the young ones are not overwhelmed or abused, as a result of learning skills.”