United Way Nigeria, member of a global movement focused on giving the less-privileged empowerment opportunities in education,income and health, has called for a shift to vocational training to engage the growing number of unemployed youths in the country.
Speaking at the forum in Lagos, attended by representatives of the Lagos State government, educationists and entrepreneurs, Janet Butler, vice president, Africa Region, United Way Worldwide, said the movement would ultimately work out a strategic plan involving donors, service providers and community leaders that would reverse the stigma associated with vocational education.
“If, for instance, there are a million young people unemployed today and we need to cut that number in half in five years’ time, then based on the community conversation and research, we will formulate a strategic plan with actions that will pull all the people we need to the table to begin to achieve that particular outcome,” she said, adding that effective change was long-term and would involve regular research and feedback to carry communities along like United Way currently does.
The event, which was an interactive session, engaged participants on their ideas regarding a possible attitudinal change to vocational training also collated suggestions drawn from students, parents, institutional/government ranging from call for reduced focus on tertiary education in favour of vocational training, remodeling of school curricula and sensitization workshops, to government funding for existing vocational centers, among others.
Mr. Olawunmi Gasper, executive secretary and CEO, Lagos State Vocational Training and Technical Education Board (LASTVEB), highlighted the state government’s giant strides in encouraging vocational training,while soliciting for more partnerships with the private sector to speed up the attitudinal change process.
“This Community conversation on vocational training is to enlighten us on the next step, where we’ll begin to look for partnerships with the private sector and work with the vocational schools already on ground to change the mindset of people who think negatively about vocational training,parents who force children to go through the university and children themselves so they don’t feel less than people that have gone through university,” quipped Managing Director of United Way Nigeria, Ndifreke Okwuegbunam. “We want to work with organizations, institutions and individuals that can help us evolve from a society focused on white-collar jobs and formal education to one that is thinking of the skills they can offer the society they live in.”
On her part, Mrs. Yetunde Akin Taylor, Principal of the Skill Acquisition Center, under the aegis of the Ministry of Women Affairs and Poverty Alleviation, advocated for students to engage in vocational education alongside their formal education so that “what the youths cannot do with their head, they can do with their hands”.