By Yemi Adeoye
EXXONMOBIL, a major player in the upstream sector of the nationâ€™s petroleum industry, has partnered with the Akwa Ibom state government to put smiles on the faces of about 450 jobless graduates, as part of its effort to give back toÂ society.
A visit by Saturday Vanguard to Uyo, the Akwa Ibom state capital, reveals how much needs to be done by government and other corporate organisations operating in the country, if the problems associated with unemployment are to be wished away.
Already, 290 jobless graduates are on their way to getting the first job of their lives with over half of this number already employed and currently earning a living.
Beneficiaries of the programme expressed their gratitude to the organisers of the Graduate Assisted Program (GAP), as it has transformed their lives.
In a chat with the Project Administrator, Mr. Ubong Akpabio, it was discovered that the idea, initiated by Knowledge Partners, a corporate Non Governmental Organisation (NGO), sponsored by Exxonmobil and supported by the Akwa Ibom state Ministry of Science and Technology, is what the thousands of jobless youths across the country would need, to put them in an employable position, either as entrepreneurs or as employees.
According to the project Administrator, Ubong Akpabio, the programme commenced precisely last year November 2008, as an assisted programme with the aim of building graduates in the state.
â€œFor instance, many of them finished school and they have not been able to be employed or been able to help themselves out in the environment.
They stand the chance of joining any group (Militants) and they may turn around to be a problem to this country. These is the vision of one of our sons, Pastor George Inyangette and we have passed on the proposal to Mobil Producing Nigeria, a subsidiary of Exxonmobil which later came to our rescue by way of sponsorship.
The programme is strictly for graduates, be it a polytechnic HND, or a Degree certificate. This means that before you are admitted into this programme, you must have gone through your National Youth Service Corp (NYSC), present a statement of result to say that you are actually a graduate.
â€œSo far, we have a total of four batches, and we just completed the 5th batch, and by next week the 5th batch, Instructor Lead Training (ILT) Will start.Â Each batch comprises 50 trainees, hence we have 200 graduates whoÂ have so far been trained.
Three months ILT and three months OTJ ( On The Job) training. They are taken to organisations to do what is called an IT.
We go into agreement with those organisations and at the end of the three months, they might decide to retain them.
We have a course outline for them and we have entrepreneurship, project management, actually to build their self employed skills in management of their own businesses.
And then we give them the basic IT training that will inspire them to deal with the real basics. We donâ€™t care whether you have had any pre-knowledge of IT before we train them on IT.
We take them on networking, system engineering, Lennox operating system, web designing and the XP operating system and we give them all these basics just to make sure that if they go out, they can actually build up themselves and become IT professionals.
The feedback has really been encouraging because when you do something there should be a drive, that is something that keeps you on, making you have the believe that the result you had has actually proved that what you had in mind would actually make such a mark.
Let me tell you about how the programme goes, when students are on their OTJ we have the programme manager pastor George Inyangette who makes sure that these students are visited at their places of work.
At the end of our first batch of 50 trainees you wouldnâ€™t believe that we had up to 30 of them employed and we are still doing a follow up of them.
weâ€™ve had of those ones that are not employed because we are also consultants, weâ€™ve also heard reports that when these people are interviewed they are good this is the feedback we have gotten from employees also many people have been calling on us to ask when we will be doing the next recruitment because the first one we did was published on paper that was when 290 of them were selected those are the one we put down into batches of 50, so when we complete this fifth batch we must have been done with about 250 of them already.
That is also because of the impact the feedback has on the community as to what effect this training has had on them. Many of them leave this place and those that are not certain of what they want to do for now are appreciative of them themselves that they have had an opportunity of learning.
In the second batch we recorded that as at the time of their graduation fourteen of them were already employed and we are still following up on these people and it has really been an impressive response.
Each time we do a graduating ceremony thatâ€™s part of the sensitization programme its is being announced. Being a new project I would say that I still believe there are people that are not aware of this programme, but I want to say that GAP has become a household name and I still believe that there are people who may have heard of GAP but perhaps do not have the complete information on what GAP is,Â or the impact its really having on the society, but GAP has come to be a household name in Akwa Ibom state.
As for the registration we do make a public advertisement on the national dailies, like on our last recruitment we had people from outside Akwa Ibom state basically from the Niger Delta area and we had about three to four people outside the Niger Delta area in the first batch. Most especially we have the people around the niger delta area because that is what ExxonMobil wanted, they needed it to really an have impact in the environment were they are operating.
So itâ€™s not completely an Akwa Ibom thing, it also spread to other Niger Delta areas.
There is no fee assigned, the forms we give out are free and during the training the student are being paid stipends for transportation and this is alsoÂ made available by ExxonMobil.
Akwa Ibom State government
The state government has been a good host to us, theyâ€™ve made the facility and accommodation available and some of the traineeâ€™s are sent to government establishment to have their OTJâ€™s in ministries and some other government establishments so they have been contributing to the progress of this project.
I also want to add that this project has been something that has been changing the mentality of the people in the community in the sense that when you finish school and do not have a job and IT training is being introduced to them there have being lots of challenges and if I want to reach out I would really want to reach out to my state government so that atleast they can assist them with laptops.
We have over fifty desktop systems provided by our sponsors, but IT is something that when you start you continually have to practice and we donâ€™t need a situation whereby people stay for three months without the ability to practice his skills.
Nse Akwuawo Essien now a staff of First City Monument Bank (FCMB)
GAP is really an interesting programme and we are happy to be part of this programme in the sense that it has actually given us graduates who were unemployed at a time the opportunity to learn basic skills in computing in some project management skills and entrepreneurship development skills equally and for most of us that were fortunate to get jobs after the training I think it is also a thing of joy at the moment-Nse Akwuawo Essien works with first city monument bank(FCMB).
Before and after the program
There is a big difference. The Nse before was not so computer literate, the basic thing he knew was internet.
But now he can deal with Microsoft office tools like excel, PowerPoint, word etc. and this has really helped him in his work place, in that he has certain task to do which he uses those packages which he learned and the fact that he also learned project management has been able to help oversee issues in the office and take up various challenges and task given to him. in essence I think Nse now has really improved and is more efficient in any work place he would find himself courtesy of the GAP.
Esu Johnson, now staff of First City Monument Bank (FCMB)
The benefit of the programme has been enormous, it has really broadened my perspective and enabled me to perform my work much better, especially based on the fact that very organisation is going computerized . My work is highly technological and GAP has enabled me to carry out my work effectively.Â Â Â Â
Â Sponsoring the GAP
I think sponsoring this programme on the part of ExxonMobil is a big plus because it is an educational programme and when you do an educational programme you are working on the mind and the psychic of the people.
When you build the minds of the people you give them an opportunity to explore and bring out the best in them. I think this programme is very good and should be encouraged and promoted amongst youths.
Advice for other Graduates
I would like to encourage graduates that knowledge gained can never be lost so its important for them to come broaden their perspective and enlighten themselves and gain this knowledge because the knowledge is not only for paid employment, those that have siblings who are writing project can help out with their experience on project management.
I have assisted someone in building three website project since I finished this programme apart from bring me a little fund it engages me and makes me feel proud of my self that am able to do something new out of what I actually studied in real formal education so I think its very good for the youth and government too should encourage them to find away to embrace this kind of project.
I would like to say thank you to Exxonmobil and their partners for allowing me be part of the programme for I really benefitted much from it.Â The fact that I got a job from this programme I really appreciate them for it.
Secondly I would like to say let there be a continuity of this project because there are many people out there who have not really been as lucky as we were and would give anything to be part of this programme so there should be a continuation to assist this sort of people.
Akanimo Iyang a staff of knowledge partners limited
From the acronym GAP, the programme has actually lived to expectations byÂ filling up a gap in my life, because IÂ am this kind of person that even though I studied marine engineering I have this flair for computers not just computers but Information Technology.
I have had the privilege of working in a cybercafÃ© and have been curious to know how these thing work, and when I came in here, with the course content and the packaging of the programme I couldnâ€™t ask for more because it really cemented every part of my career life that was needed to be touched, hence the Akan before the training was 40% but after the training Akan has gone beyond 100%.
Youth restiveness in the country
I think if a person doesnâ€™t have a reason to live or what to live for like Mark Mouris said that purpose is not known, abuse is inevitable. So if they donâ€™t have a purpose for living they can venture into anything.
Now with the GAP programme I want to use this opportunity to thankÂ Exxon Mobil for this initiative because Corporate Social Responsibility could not be better than this.Â It is not enough to give money or to give fish but if you can teach that person how to fish it would be a lot better.
In other words I would say that tarring a road and street lights are the basic necessities, those are things that ought to be, anybody can wake up to tar a road but nobody can wake up to acquire knowledge and be impacted in something that can in turn affect the society.
Humanâ€™s intellectual capacity building is the best that could be done to the people of Akwa Ibom state and even Nigeria at large, because the way I am I can never, no matter what Iâ€™m being offered, venture into militancy because I know what Iâ€™m expecting, what am working on, how Iâ€™m developing myself and where I am going to, so such a thing with what GAP has done, with the state government partnering with ExxonMobil it has really eradicated such in me.
I would say that government should step in and do more by assisting them in broadening the scope of the programme and accommodating more youths.
Sera Duke, staff of Knowledge Partners Limited
I finished from Benson Idahosa university in Benin. I studied accounting served and stayed in the house for a year before I finally came in contact with GAP which has changed my life because I never had computer interest but today I can stand anywhere out there to compete with people. I canâ€™t be lost when I come in contact with computer.
The way the program is structured is very okay, three months intensive in house training is okay but for the job training I feel it should be extended to six months because you canâ€™t use three months to show the world what youâ€™ve learnt so far.
As for me it is not enough, but if given six months you should be able to fill in that vacancy because from what we are being taught here in GAP it is not just the IT aspect alone we are going into project management, entrepreneur development, So you should be able to look at the need of a company and be able to fill it up.
Advice to other graduates in AKS The way Nigeria is going right now your BSC and masters degree is not enough to secure a job.
You have to build up and broaden your scope, I want to advice them to explore this opportunity that has been granted them because so many states donâ€™t have this opportunity so they should explore their opportunity in other to be better persons.
We shouldnâ€™t just keep thinking of working for people but think of doing something that can accommodate people, we should have people working for us.
In Nigeria I have discovered that there are not enough industries to accommodate graduates, we need a lot of industries and GAP is also doing that for us too, teaching us how to stand on our own using entrepreneur development. The graduate youths of Akwa Ibom state should use this opportunity to explore those potentials theyâ€™ve got in them.