Danger signal from Edo job market
Another practical expression of the heightening unemployment crisis in the country manifested the other day when 8000 job applicants sat for “aptitude test” for only 250 available positions in Edo State Traffic Management Agency (EDSTMA).
The implication of this dimension is that for each of the available vacancies, some 32 people sat for the test. If there is still any doubt about the high rate of unemployment in the land, the revelation by Osarodion Ogie, the secretary to the Edo State Government settles the matter. But it should be frightening.
Consequently, what is needed to address this is not a mere palliative to a spate of unfulfilled promises about job creation. What is urgently needed is critical thinking about making the country entrepreneurial through massive investment in critical infrastructure, construction and manufacturing. The idea of promising white-collar jobs by political leaders all the time is dishonest and unsustainable.
In the first place, we are in a small but digital world where jobs are disappearing to social technologies that are fast disrupting traditional values and modules. Machines, yes machines are now doing jobs that human beings used to do. So, in most parts of developed and developing economies and emerging markets, jobs are being created only for those who are adapting to advanced technologies and disappearing for those who cannot relearn and acquire news skills needed in today’s marketplace.
No public disorder was reported to have ensued as a result of the 8000 capacity job-hunting crowd at the test venue. The management of the EDSTMA deserves commendation for handling the large crowd free from crisis. The successful management of the desperate applicants without any recorded negative incident could not have been by mere luck. That can be attributable to proper planning, which enabled the agency to conduct the test in “batches.”
It is therefore, heart-warming that enough lessons seem to have been learnt from the immigration debacle such that applicants, this time around, were not subjected to sub-human treatments simply because they were in search of jobs.
However, it is emotionally and physically heartbreaking to be seeing the youth of this well endowed country daily roaming the streets endlessly in search of jobs. The power elite and indeed our leaders cannot pretend not to know that a monster is being created in the nation. Thus, except effective and enduring strategies and solutions are quickly embraced, the idle hands will turn to ballistic weapons and so controlling them will be a herculean task for the country. No wonder crime and criminality have been on the increase.
Finding solutions rests on both the public and private sectors of the economy with, of course, the pendulum skewed more towards the government to chart and lead the way. First, the country is now weary from a plethora of policy frameworks encompassing strategies for combating unemployment. There has been no result from workshops where promises and strategies incubate and wither away. What is needed is a result-oriented strategy.
Second, conscious and concerted efforts should be made by all tiers of government (local, state and federal) to create job opportunities. Such efforts should necessarily include ensuring ‘ease of doing business’ environment for the private sector, deploying huge resources into high-impact economic areas such as agriculture, construction and manufacturing.
Third, there is the dire need for serious vocational and technical skills training and development. At present, most of the jobs that require technical skills have been taken over by foreigners while Nigerians watch. Further, applied education is greatly needed to make graduates from tertiary institutions of learning employable without further training and costs to business organisations.
The fourth is that re-orientation of the Nigerian youth is necessary. They have to accept that beyond white-collar jobs, many alternatives exist. They should be prepared to venture into other areas of gainful employment and entrepreneurship without looking only in the direction of white-collar job opportunities. For instance, agriculture and its enormous value chains can absorb a significant proportion of the country’s unemployed people.
Indeed, if there is responsible allocation and deployment of resources into the real sector, notably in agriculture and manufacturing, the challenge of high unemployment rate in this country will become history. Afterall, most raw materials needed by industries are in surplus quantities within our land. Beyond exporting them in their raw state, when we begin to add value to them, prior to exportation and also usage domestically, substantial number of job opportunities will be opened.
Besides, availability and functionality of infrastructure that will support private enterprise is an imperative for more job creation. Sixth, development of micro, small and medium enterprises will play a major role in stemming rising unemployment in the nation. The time has come for this sector to be supported by irresistible incentives to enable it to catalyse the economy with positive consequences for multiple job creation.
In the main, those who have responsibility to lead us at this time should also bear in mind the imperative of a review of the curricula of studies at all levels. As social technologies daily disrupt and shift paradigms, public policy experts should collaborate with managers and leaders in the education sector to develop curricula that will reflect current realities in the market. Skills for the 21st century jobs can’t evolve with 18th century curricula. This should be a critical challenge to leaders who are jostling for opportunities in the political sector at the moment. They should note that the army of unemployed youth in the country is to be feared more than the crisis of Boko Haram and deadly herdsmen in the country, after all. That is why they should freeze politics of underdevelopment and face governance that will revitalise the real sector where manufacturing, construction and agriculture will be employers of labour.