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Higher education not panacea to curbing youth unemployment, firm chief cautions

By Editor
17 December 2015   |   12:02 am
Quality and relevance, not higher education, are some of the factors that are capable of addressing the country’s rising youth unemployment.
A puzzled unemployed graduate. Image source campusdelight

A puzzled unemployed graduate. Image source campusdelight

Quality and relevance, not higher education, are some of the factors that are capable of addressing the country’s rising youth unemployment. Consequently, it is time to look at the type of education universities are providing to Nigerian youths, so says education expert and Workforce Development Director at international learning company, Pearson, Frank Edwards.

According to Edwards, with approximately 11 million people between the ages of 15 and 34 out of work in the country, it is becoming more important than ever to tackle the country’s youth unemployment challenge with practical and effective solutions.

Without a doubt, higher education plays a key role in reversing unemployment trends in Nigeria, and in helping young people to establish meaningful careers. The Nigerian government and other education stakeholders across the country have recognised this, opening over 70 new universities since 2005.

However, as international experience demonstrates, higher education in itself is no panacea to curbing youth unemployment. Whilst creating additional university places is essential, what also needs to be considered, he added, is the quality and relevance of the education tertiary students are receiving.

In this direction, Edward believes that believes that giving students an education that sets them up for success in work and life is what will have the greatest impact on improving Nigeria’s unemployment statistics.

“Indeed, the mismatch between education and employment is a global challenge, as employers the world over complain that despite high youth unemployment rates, finding school leavers and graduates with the skills demanded by modern workplaces is increasingly difficult.

“Nigeria, like many other countries, has an oversupply of tertiary graduates that fail to possess 21st century skills and competencies employers so often require – teamwork, innovation, communication skills and initiative, to name just a few.”

He noted that whilst graduates may be gaining essential theoretical knowledge, they too often lack the skills to apply this knowledge in a way that is useful to those who employ them. Providing graduates of all disciplines with 21st century skills therefore needs to become a priority for policy makers and educators alike.

Furthermore, he said, “embedding these skills in curricula would help create a workforce that has the attributes necessary to meet the demands of a global and increasingly connected labour market. Employees who have learnt how to learn, how to adapt to new and challenging situations, and how to direct their knowledge in practical ways, will be those that flourish in a future workforce. Teaching educators how to give their learners these skills should therefore be pivotal to Nigeria’s efforts to reform its higher education system,” he stated.

Edwards who maintained that the economic and social cost of youth unemployment was high, not only to individuals but to the communities in which they live, added that, “Nigeria as a country has so much potential, but fulfilling this potential will depend on harnessing the country’s human capital. Providing talented young Nigerians with access to quality tertiary education is of course fundamental to achieving this goal. With many of the country’s top students choosing to study abroad (30, 000 Nigerians are currently enrolled in universities in the United Kingdom alone) we need to provide young people with access to education that not only provides superior academic learning, but also prepares them for the workplace. A solution to Nigeria’s youth unemployment challenge must therefore prioritise 21st Century skills uptake in the country’s universities.”