SKILLS DEVELOPMENT: PANACEA FOR YOUTH EMPLOYABILITY AND EMPOWERMENT CHALLENGES BY BLDR ALANI ADEGOKE

Speech delivered at first World World Engineering Day organised by the NSE Ikeja Branch Lagos.

Inclusive Skills Development For Youth Employability & Job Creation
In September 2015, World Leaders at the United Nations Special summit adopted what has been described as “the most inclusive development agenda the world has ever seen” which is The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development. The Agenda has 17 Goals for Countries and Communities to tackle confronting challenges.
These Challenges include those in the World of Work within the Built Environment.
United Nations Goal No 8
Indicates Full & Productive Employment and Decent Work for All.

Goal 8 is of critical importance for Nigeria becauese, education serves as a means to getting a decent job.

Inclusive Skill Development & Training are indispensable in order to keep up with the changing employment needs at the labour market.

Sometimes last year the Fed Govt through the Minister of Labour & Employment, said the Nigeria unemployment rate will reach 33.5% by the year 2020 while declaring open a two-day workshop on “Breaking the Resilience of High Unemployment Rate in the Country”.

This shows that the govt is fully aware of the situation at hand. It was reported that the incessant increase of unemployment rate in the country was alarming due to skills gap in our Country.

National Bureau of Statistics stated in 2019 that unemployment rate was 23.1% & underemployment rate was 16.6 % .The report was alarming.

The World Bank in late 2018 considered Nigeria as the Poverty World Capital with prevalence rate of crimes and criminality, .

What Is A Skill Gap?
A Skills Gap is the disparity between job available, the people and skilled enough to fill those jobs across the industries.
This is not just affecting construction industry only. It’s a monster ravaging almost all the industries.

Work is constantly being reshaped by economic progress. Society evolves as technology advances, new ways of production are adopted, markets are integrated. While this process is continuous, certain technological changes have the potential for greater impact.. The changes reshaping work today are fundamental, which are driven by Technological Progress, Globalization, Shifting Demographics, Urbanization and Climate Change.

One third of the working age population in low- and middle-income countries lack the basic skills required to get quality jobs.

This makes working class unable to achieve their full productive potential and is limiting economic investment and growth.

The challenge is further complicated by a rapidly changing global economy that increasingly requires workers to be innovative, flexible and adaptive.

According to World Bank, over two billion working-age adults are not equipped with the most essential literacy skills required by employers. Among young adults under the age of 25, the number is about 420 million worldwide.

Soft Skills like communication, teamwork, leadership, creative thinking etc are fundamental skills that provide critical scaffolding for young people & these are prerequisite for employability, problem solving & productivity..

Helping young people develop these skills makes economic sense unskilled workers who are forced into menial jobs or unemployment. They may even be stuck in unstable low-wage jobs for many years. This may lead to frustration and unproductive in work environment.

According to the 2018 Glass and Glazing Industry Outlook report, nearly 90% of glazing contractors in the U.S. say the skilled labor shortage has had an effect on their inability to find high quality craft workers.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics’ (BLS) Occupational Outlook Handbook projects that employment in construction and extraction industry will grow 11% from 2016 to 2026, faster than the 7% average increase across all occupations.

The consequences of low skills

  • It reduces labor force productivity.
  • Makes investment less attractive.
  • It decreases technology transfer.
  • It reduces technical “know-how” from high-income countries.
  • It perpetuates poverty
  • Private sector can’t flourish in a country that doesn’t have a skilled workforce to sustain it.

For Competency Development
There are 4 Major Categories of skills:

  1. Cognitive skills. This refers to the ability to understand complex ideas, adapt effectively to the environment, learn from experience of others. .
  2. Socio-emotional skills.
    This refers to interpersonal and social skills in order to relate effectively. These include, soft skills like Leadership, Time Mgmt, Teamwork, Adaptability, Communication skills etc
  3. Professionall skills refer to the acquired knowledge and expertise such as Project Mgmt, Structural/Civil Engineering, Architecture, Building Technology, Building Services, Land Surveying, Quantity Surveuing, Property Valuation, Estate Mgmt, Town Planning etc.
    These professions have to do with the knowledge of materials, tools, o& technologies.
  4. Technical skills such as Plumbing, Electrical, Masonry, Carpentry, Tiling, Painting etc have to go with. This is
SKILLS DEVELOPMENT: PANACEA FOR YOUTH EMPLOYABILITY AND EMPOWERMENT CHALLENGES BY BLDR ALANI ADEGOKE

Relevance. Technical and vocational education and training—which can last anywhere from six months to three years— can give young people, especially women, the skills to compete for better paying jobs. Nevertheless, a wide range of training programs exist, from teaching specific skills to sparking entrepreneurship and more needs to be done to ensure a relevant curriculum. Less than a third of training programs have positive results for earnings and employment and even those that are successful are costly, with returns that rarely justify the investment. Private sector partnerships and workplace training have been important in helping create programs that match the needs of the labor market and teach critical skills.

The Nigerian Youth
The youth are important to economic growth and development because they have the potentials to be innovative, willing to take risks, and the ability to learn and adapt in a changing world. In low and lower-middle income countries like Nigeria, the role of youths in economic productivity and sustainable development cannot be overemphasized. Nigeria, with its increasing population, more than half of which are young people under the age of 24 and a fifth of which are youths (15-24), have a potential to benefit from demographic dividends. This implies that a growing number of young people potentially in the workforce could trigger a boost in economic productivity.

However, the labour market in Nigeria is characterized by a significant mismatch between skills demanded by employers and those possessed by these young prospective workers, which has led to an increase in youth unemployment rates. Graduates of tertiary institutions remain unemployed for up to five years after graduation, partly because they lack market-relevant skills, and also because job creation has not kept up with the increase in the young adult population. Typical of most developing nations, Nigeria has experienced significant increases in youth unemployment rates over the past decade, with an average rate of 21.73 percent between 2014 and 2017. Furthermore, the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) places the number of unemployed youths at 6 million or 33.1 percent of total unemployed Nigerians in 2017—almost double the number in 2012 and representing the largest unemployed age group in Nigeria. The unemployed population in Nigeria is further increased with the number of underemployed youths, even larger when adding the number of underemployed youths.

The problem of high unemployment and low employability for young people results from deficiencies in the supply and demand sides. Contributory factors include dysfunctional educational system reflected in a failure to pass-on market relevant knowledge and skills to prospective young job-seekers, and poor teacher training among others. Moreover, young Nigerians who manage to possess few marketable skills are also confronted with the lack of vibrant industries to absorb them, a situation aggravated by flawed and inconsistent economic policies. In this article, solutions are suggested to bridge the current skill gaps in Nigeria— this is important to meet the SDG 8 and offers significant economic payoffs for Nigeria.

SOLUTIONS FROM SUPPLY SIDE

The Nigerian education system and curricula need significant reforms. Incorporating and re-integrating work-based learning models into the curriculum, as well as having career professionals as role models in the classroom present crucial steps towards improving youth employability. These could be complemented by programs and courses with practical market values similar to vocational schools in other economies. Replicating Germany’s dual education system, where young people have access to a combination of vocational education and work-practice education, could function as affordable and realistic path to meaningful employment.

Youths should see mentorship as a crucial support strategy for a successful career. Voluntarily seeking out mentors – those who are further ahead of their careers and have been fortunate to obtain good jobs and successful careers – allows for the development of non-cognitive skills necessary for successful employment. Mentors can enhance youth employability in two key ways: enhancing career readiness skills and providing guidance for professional challenges. More importantly, youths can stay engaged academically while preparing for a career path.

In order to gain work experience prerequisite for employment, the youth in Nigeria can also volunteer at jobs while in school. As an equal experience provider, volunteering in one’s field of interest, even if unpaid, prepares the young adult to join the labour market even before graduating from school by developing hands-on experience and networks within the industry. The aim is to have the record in their resumes as relevant work experience, and also to gain a deeper understanding of the skills required in the workplace.

SOLUTIONS FROM DEMAND SIDE

Investment in apprenticeship and work-readiness programs in collaboration with well-certified and credible training partners will provide new entry points for young people, tailor their talent to match the needs of firms and clear the hurdle of having no job experience. Rejuvenating the Nigerian GIS (Graduate Internship Scheme) is a step in the right direction, but the focus should be on sustaining these efforts over the long term. For instance, the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) can draw learning outcomes from the GAN (Global Apprenticeships Network) initiative in Switzerland- a program used to advocate and commit to actions around skills development and youth employability, through a coalition of stakeholders. Further, these collaborations could replace unpaid work-readiness programs, and provide soft loans for young people interested in entrepreneurship. While such programs are a foundation for career development, unpaid placements can leave young people embittered towards the concept of work.

Labour unions can effectively intervene through well-intentioned youth employment protection labour laws. In Nigeria, three out of four young people employed informally do not have access to employment-related protections, health insurance and other benefits. Without protective laws, active young job-seekers may not be enthusiastic about joining the labour market for fear of physical risks and uncertainty.

CONCLUSION
For many young Nigerians, entrance into the workforce is becoming far more challenging than expected. The growing misalignment between the demand and supply for skills means that both employers (demand side) and prospective young employees (supply side) must be willing to play their roles simultaneously to curb the dearth of youth employability in Nigeria.
Thank you all.

Bldr Alani Akinrinde is a former Chairman I’d Nigerian Institute of building Lagos Chapter.

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