Empowering Lagos youth with post-pandemic skills
Sir: As a young electrical engineer fresh out of school, Joseph Iferi-Ebin was constantly being rejected by employers – an occurrence he attributed to lack of employable skills. Ijede Mekezo Sunday, a mild-mannered youth resident in Lagos State, was faced with the challenge of being in and out of a job. Bukola Oke, another Lagos resident and a 2016 Mass Communications graduate, had not had a regular paid job after graduation.
Oloruntosin Agbomeji Rukayat, a Microbiology graduate, lost her first post-graduation job and developed a burning desire to get skilled and be certified. Dominic Mathias has a B.Sc. in Chemistry and Education but ventured into tailoring after graduation – albeit with inadequate knowledge of the terrain, leading to career and business frustrations. Although from different backgrounds, these young Lagos residents have one thing in common: an understanding that in the 21st Century knowledge-based society – dominated by ICT – and where labour market demands are constantly changing, it would take more than just a certificate to get a decent job.
This is the story and experience of many a young person in Nigeria – especially with a global pandemic that halted skills development due to the lockdown. According to a UN report, this situation negatively affected 86 per cent of apprentices and 83 per cent of interns/trainees worldwide. The report further highlighted the fact that 22 per cent of young people were not in employment, education or training (NEET) prior to the pandemic.
This employment decline is yet to be compensated by returns to education and training. Today, World Youth Skills Day (WYSD) is once again commemorated in the midst of a pandemic – though abating, and the NEET rate has remained higher than pre-crisis era, according to the United Nations. Hence, there is the urgent need for more youths to acquire skill-based training for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship in line with Sustainable Development Goals (SDG4).
With the theme: Reimagining Youth Skills Post-Pandemic, this year’s WYSD highlights the resilience and creativity of youth throughout the crisis and how technical and vocational education and training (TVET) systems have adapted to the pandemic, as well as how they are participating in the recovery and imagining priorities they should adopt for the post-COVID-19 world. Ijede, Bukola, Oloruntomi, Dominic, Joseph, and many others in Lagos State have found an opportunity to be a part of this global drive through the USADF-LSETF employability programme. This is a five-year, $10 million commitment by the United States African Development Foundation (USADF) and the Lagos State Government (through LSETF) to provide globally competitive and sought-after skills to young people, youth- and women-led enterprises in Lagos State as a response to the burden of youth unemployment and poverty.
As the Implementing Partner of the USADF in Nigeria, Diamond Development Initiatives (DDI) is excited to be facilitating this initiative. The initiative is currently providing industry- and trade-relevant skills to 15,000 youths in Lagos State for five years – equipping them to take advantage of employment and entrepreneurship opportunities, actualise their dreams and contribute to the development of the country.
This grand initiative is poised to empower 5,000 persons in Lagos and increase youth employment in Nigeria through financial investments, job training and placements and entrepreneurship opportunities during a pandemic era. Happy #WYSD2021!
Lucky Ihanza, a development communicator, wrote from Abuja.