With the unemployment statistics in Nigeria shooting through the roof, a hands-on approach is required to tackle this menace. BABAJIDE OKEOWO in this report takes a look at how skills acquisition is fast bridging the unemployment gap.
Tolulope Folorunsho has been combing the streets of Lagos looking for a white collar job for close to a decade since bagging a B.sc. in Sociology from the prestigious Ladoke Akintoloa University (LAUTECH), Ogbomosho, Osun state with no luck. After falling victim to many dodgy employment recruiting agencies that had milked her of her scarce resources, and with no end in sight to her unemployment status, she embraced soap and hair cream making out of desperation.
Today, that decision is paying off as she is the proud owner of Global Care Creation, a small business interest that employs no less than 10 people. She is quick to tell whoever cares to listen that her fortune changed the very day she decided to embrace skills acquisition.
Vocational training to the rescue
Everywhere you turn, you are inundated with various vocational training institutes. From the smallest to the grandest, they dot the landscape of the city of excellence and beyond. From these institutes skills like soap making, hair dressing, bead making, barbing, hair cream making and various other skills are learnt. Products made from these vocational training centers are available in the markets.
Along the Ogba-Agege route in Lagos mainland, you must have come across a familiar parade of youths and adults clad in black and white uniforms. One may be quick to conclude that they could be students of a learning institute of some sorts and let it go at that, but they are not.
A recent bus ride with one of the students, Tolulope, one bright Monday morning, provided this reporter an ample opportunity to interact with ‘these set’ of students and she let him in into their world.
According to Tolulope, she is not the conventional student, but a student of a vocational school instituted by the Lagos state government for women development but has since been restructured as a strategic institute for battling youth unemployment.
Unable to secure a job after graduation, Tolu had tried to run a little shop but proceeds from her sales quickly diminished. Left with no job and no capital for business, she ended up seeking vocational skill acquisition. She is presently training to become a certified hairdresser which she believes would guarantee her an even steady source of income to supplement her income from soap and hair cream making which she confided in this reporter she also learnt from the institute.
According to her, “my skills will always be a part of me, unlike my capital which got exhausted, my training will be my new capital and it will always be intact,” she revealed.
In the beginning
Women Development Centre – was established as an agency under the Lagos State Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation.
The centre is one of 17 in number and can be found in Epe, Badagry, Ikorodu, Surulere, Egbeda, Mushin, Igando, Ojo etc; in fact they are spread across almost all the Local government areas of the state.
Each centre is unique in its own way and offers specific programmes. At the Agege centre, which is the pilot centre, eight courses are on offer and they include Catering and Hotel Management, Sewing and Fashion Design, Textile Design, Art, Bead and Soap Making. Others include Hairdressing, Photography, Barbing and Computer Training.
Training durations also vary and this affects the intake period. For programmes that run for one year, admission is usually in January while the six months programmes receive students in July and the nine months programme begins in September.
Computer Training, Photography, Barbing and Textile fall under six months while the other ones are 12 months or 9 months respectively. Sewing and Fashion is 12 months inclusive of a 3-month industrial attachment.
Kayode Sofowora, a Business Studies HND holder from Lagos State Polytechnic who is learning Fashion Designing from the institute told this reporter that the learning is quite intense covering all aspects of fashion designing and sewing.
“After I graduated and I was unable to get a job, I knew exactly what I needed was to acquire a vocational skill that would help me set up my own business and that is why I am here today. We have masters and even PhD holders here and they are still learning,” he revealed
Another HND in computer science graduate Bimbo, found herself in the fashion department because of her love for colour combination and interestingly she revealed that the centre was far more advanced than the standard out there.
“Before I came here, I used to be amazed at how wonderful my tailors made my clothes, but coming here, I began to spot errors in most of those clothes; before now, I really couldn’t spot them,” she said.
According to her, the learning is so impactful that even before one graduates it is possible to have carved a niche out there with just the little practical knowledge being acquired.
This reporter gathered that between 500 and 800 graduates are rolled out from the school every year ready to start earning incomes on their own.
Skill acquisition; key to unemployment …Stakeholders
Speaking on the importance of the initiative, a ministry official who does not want his name in print noted that “Unemployment is a big challenge in this country; youth unemployment is on the high side and that is the problem we are facing in this country.
“Unfortunately our country is a country where we believe so much in certificates but people are now seeing that the only way we can stop youth unemployment is by vocational skills acquisition and gradually we are getting there,” she said
According to another state official, the centre at Isheri trains refrigerator technicians, electricians, furniture makers, shoe makers and leather workers while in Badagry they have mat weaving, farming etc
“In addition to some of the courses we do there, Most of these traffic lights you see everywhere were done by the Isheri students and Lagos state government buys from them.”
For those still scheming and waiting for employment in the state ministries and local government councils, Tolulope has a piece of advice: “it is better to get a vocational skill now. It is no longer news that governments now go a borrowing cap in hand to pay salaries,” she volunteered
The biggest winners are the individuals who recognise the golden opportunity vocational training represents. The second winner is the state government which is trying to build a secure and empowered society and thirdly the society that would benefit from the professional services of the graduates will provide as opposed to quacks who parade themselves as technicians and skilled artisans.
Indeed, while you pass these mature youths wearing black and white uniforms and wonder why such grown-ups should still be wearing uniforms, what you don’t understand is that they are strutting their way out of poverty, unemployment and disillusionment in a very dignified manner for all to see.