Retooling workforce to meet green economy’s demand

Employers, critical stakeholders in the labour sector and job seekers, who gathered at this year’s job and employability fair recently,
Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde
Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde

As Nigeria embarks on the journey towards a greener economy, mindful of the challenges that lie ahead and the immense opportunities it brings forth, the need for reskilling and upskilling the workforce to meet the demands of emerging green industries is paramount, writes GLORIA NWAFOR.

Employers, critical stakeholders in the labour sector and job seekers, who gathered at this year’s job and employability fair recently, underscored the need to tap into the potential inherent in the green economy, conserve the environment and unlock the opportunities for business growth and job creation.
From renewable energy to sustainable agriculture, eco-tourism to green infrastructure, indeed, the possibilities are limitless.

By embracing green practices and fostering a culture of innovation, they argued that Nigeria could unlock new avenues for employment, entrepreneurship, and economic prosperity and aid the preservation of the environment.

While they called for concerted effort, investment and policy support, they said achieving success will require strong leadership, collaboration at all levels and policy development.

They added that reskilling and upskilling of the workforce to meet the growing demands is necessary through innovation and creativity in developing sustainable solutions to complex environmental issues.
Speaking on the theme ‘The Green Economy: The New Frontier for Job Creation and Employability’, President and Chairman of Council, Nigeria Employers’ Consultative Association (NECA), Taiwo Adeniyi, whose association organised the event, said the immense opportunities in the green economy has the power to, not only create millions of jobs but also to foster social inclusion, reduce inequality and promote environmental stewardship.

According to him, it is a pathway towards a more resilient, equitable and prosperous future for all Nigerians.

Considering the high rate of employment and its attendant implication for businesses, like increasing insecurity, high poverty rate and low purchasing power among others, Director-General, NECA, Adewale-Smatt Oyerinde, said the job fair, began in 2020 as part of efforts to promote employability and job creation in Nigeria.

Country Director, International Labour Organisation (ILO) office for Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia and Sierra Leone, Venessa Phala, represented by National Project Coordinator for Just Transition and Green Jobs, ILO, Stephen Agugua, said with about 60 million jobs expected in the green economy by 2050, the global organisation was driving actions on green jobs and green skills through the just transition.
In Nigeria, he said the ILO is providing the needed support to the government in areas of technical knowledge by implementing physical programmes to develop guidelines for Nigeria to transmit from high emitting to low emitting economy and to make sure the country approaches the just transition that is justifiable and equitable for all.

At the job fair, employers had on-the-spot job interviews with thousands of job seekers and members of the National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), who were almost rounding off their one-year mandatory programme.

While the youths lamented the high rate of unemployment in the country, the employers said the jobs are there but most youths and job seekers lack the requisite skills and potential to up their game.

They charged them that while in school and during their internships, they should upskill themselves through certification and trainee programmes, get the experiences and grow their talents to become an employer’s delight.
Lead, Talent and Acquisition and Employee Assistance Programme (EAP), Flour Mills Nigeria (FMN), Christianah Olukanmi, commended NECA on the initiative despite the huge number of graduates churned out yearly.

Sharing her experience with The Guardian, she said recently, her organisation did a trainee programme with large applications covering around 6,000 first-class graduates and 8,600 second-class upper graduates.

With such an amazing quality of graduates, she queried what was missing, even as she struggled to fill the 82 available vacancies for her organisation.

“Using experience as a yardstick, I ask that experience can be from their internship placements and also when they are undergraduates, they should know to go get experience, that counts for something.

“What we do here is to counsel people. We respond to their queries on opportunities that will match their level of experience. We are not looking at overly experienced folks but there is something for everyone at FMN, whether internship or NYSC for their career path.
“When we are shortlisting, we have 45,000 applications, and about half already have Master’s degrees. We are looking for people with additional talent, not particularly experience but there is a misconstrued message out there that people think it is the experience we are after we are looking for people with potential and certain skills, something we can leverage on. We must start with them and satisfy their curiosity,” she said.

Similarly, Lead, Talent Acquisition, Airtel, Olubusola Basanya, said while there is also a need for a lot of upskilling, people should be open to learning and have personal values.

According to her, it is not only about competencies and skills but personal values.

“You could have the skills but if you don’t know how to relate with the team you won’t be able to inculcate your values into the organisation, you will be a defect. Core values are very important aside from skills and competence that your education will give you,” she said

One of the panelists, Victoria Ugbedeojo, who is the founder of Grandeur Tech and IT Services, lamented that as it relates to unemployment, the government was not ready for the youths.
She said despite that the nation was in an era where opportunities were springing up, she said it was abnormal such that about one million people would struggle to partake in a tight vacancy space.

“I urged the government to open up more space for job opportunities, give starters access to funding and capital, the government should give maximum support to entrepreneurs. This way, industries get bigger and will open doors for more jobs,” she said.

Left with less than three months to their passing out from the NYSC and their plans to be in gainful employment, a Data Analyst graduate from Ekiti State University, Henry Omoboyowa, said the fair was a big opportunity for Corp members to explore and prepare themselves for jobs.

“I’m already feeling the life after NYSC. I have to prepare myself. The high rate of unemployment is quite alarming but we mostly Generation (Gen) Z will always find a way to fend for ourselves without waiting for the government,” he said.
When asked if the government was doing more to tackle the high rate of unemployment in the country, he responded, “We are tackling it ourselves.”

His counterpart, Gabriel Okpe, a Mass Communications graduate from the University of Nigeria Nsukka (UNN), said he was opportune to acquire more skills where he was posted.

Looking at the massive unemployment rate in the country, he advised his fellow corp members and the youths not to put their heads in one basket but to be versatile in all areas.

“Youth have to do more. These days, social media has taken our time, we don’t focus on the things we are supposed to do at this time of our youth.

“Education now is not about your certificate but what you can do and how you apply the knowledge gained. While on social media, let us utilise it on something productive, learn the positives of social media and cash out positively. It is to our advantage. Although I have what I want to do I still want to get a job, raise some capital and venture into my dream area, which is business,” he said.

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