By Victor Gotevbe

Ronke Kosoko is an educator, an employment solutions strategist, motivational speaker,  author, trainer and consultant with a growing list of clientele. With educational exposure traversing economics, accounting and education, she is the Executive Director of Employment Clinic, Africa’s first Employment Solutions Company. Ronke spoke with Youthful Vibes about her passion and how she is translating it into action.

You are very passionate about youth employment. Could you share  this passion, and how it began?
Employment is a global issue but the Nigerian case is different because there are many fundamentals that were not being addressed which constitute the major cause of unemployment in Sub Saharan Africa and there was no organization addressing these issues, so I established Employment Clinic to fill the gap. Our ultimate goal is to redefine Africa’s employment profile.

With over 40 million unemployed Nigerians, we can no longer wait for the government to be the only answer to our national problems especially with the spate of policy shocks and policy somersaults that continue to aggravate unemployment in the country. People need to help themselves and also recognizing we can only change institutions first, by changing individuals. I started as an undergraduate through the annual Employment Summit in tertiary institutions.

What is growing up like for you?
Well, I’m from an average background, we were not too rich but we were comfortable,and I had all that I needed as a child. My parents had issues which affected us, and we had to start caring for ourselves at a tender age. That made me the responsible person that I am today because I started paying my school fees right from JSS 2.

Regarding education, I attended Ansar-ud-deen Comprehensive College, Ota where the present Olota of Ota was my principal. I finished secondary school in 1999 and proceeded to Adeniran Ogunsanya College of Education where I studied Economics/Accounting after which I went to University of Lagos, where I bagged my BSc in Economics. I’m presently working on some Postgraduate courses, but my work has not given me the liberty to travel out of the country for a long period  as Nigerian schools are a no-go area for me.

RONKE KOSOKO

What need(s) is your company addressing?
We are bridging the gap between the school system and the labour market, between employees and employers, between governments and the citizenry, between corporate/international organizations and Nigerian graduates as it relates to employment issues. To achieve this, we are working with stakeholders across industries, graduates and undergraduates, policy makers, partner organizations, industry stakeholders and the producers of human resources.

We educate, inspire and empower the unemployed  with knowledge, skills and strategies that will enable them escape unemployment and tap into available economic opportunities having discovered that the Nigerian educational system is the major cause of graduate unemployment in Nigeria as our schools are not equipping undergraduates with what employers, industry and the economy need. The system is raising underclass graduates who are incompetitive at the global level.

The challenge about this is that foreign-trained students are getting hired, expatriates are also getting the jobs and some of them earn the salary of a hundred Nigerians put together because they have the skills that an average Nigerian graduate does not have. If this trend continues unaddressed, then we are all sitting on gunpowder as youth unemployment will soon lead to an explosion that we may not be able to manage.

What has been your experience working with young people?
Hmmm! Working with young people has been interesting and also quite challenging. Interesting in the sense that Nigerians are brilliant people and they are willing to do great things, but like you and I know, the environment is not encouraging. Government is not playing its role, the private sector are distant from the school as against what you have in advanced country, so the Nigerian graduate is facing a lot of hell and they need help.

Challenging on the other side because a lot of them still have misplaced priorities. When you go into a higher institution to do an event, undergraduates don’t see why they should learn about the labour market before graduation. So, they spend more time on entertainment, gallivanting through life, they wait until they graduate, observe NYSC and then hit the labour market to face reality.

An average Nigerian graduate today spends about 28-36months before getting their life after school together. Remember, they are graduating at an age that the employer does not consider employable say 26, 29 thereabout having faced JAMB, WAEC issues, missing admission opportunities for several years.  So, bridging this gap between the school and the labour market was my greatest passion for starting Employment Clinic.

We see that you put together an employment summit for tertiary institutions. What is your motivation for this, and how do you measure the level of impact?

I would say that Employment Clinic is actually playing the role of the government in this context. Nigeria is becoming an industrialized nation, yet, unemployment still constitutes a major threat to the economy. The reason is that government no longer employs and even when they do,  36 states we have in Nigeria can’t possibly employ one million people annually. Unfortunately, to my mind the Civil Service does not have a reputation for management of both human and material resources. Hence, such enterprises go bankrupt and equipment pack up as the government require funds to maintain such public enterprises.. The government then has no choice than to privatize and downsize — Privatization.

The private sector meanwhile, does not only want to provide amenities; they also want to maximize profit. For such objectives to be achieved they will have to employ the best brains; people with high IQ and TECHNICAL skills but our schools are not inculcating these skills. So, you have organizations coming in with huge foreign direct investments but are not having any impact on the people because they don’t have the requisite skills.

In Brazil today, a 14-year old goes straight into a technical school to acquire industry specific training, same in China, a country with over 1,100 technical schools. So, you have a 25-year old Asian or Brazilian who is an expatriate ready to be imported to Africa while a 35- year old Nigerian is busy flaunting his certificate with no job. Technical skills are in short supply in virtually all aspects of the economy. The industrial and economic revolution that is taking place around the world is private sector driven and the Nigerian case cannot be an exception.

We have seen it work in the telecommunication sector, it is working in the power and energy sector, oil and gas, maritime, aviation, ICT, agriculture but the question remains, how many of our schools are raising people for those industries? Employers will not fold their hands and watch their investments rot away, so many big organizations are going abroad to recruit. So I go into the school to enlighten them about opportunities across industries, teach them how to strategically position for these opportunities.

What is your advice to the unemployed youth?
The solution is start learning about the labour market and the business world while you are still in school and understand that your BSC is just a paper, it should not define you. Young people should discover their true self. Who are you? What can you do? Develop your skills and personal gifts. Then consciously look out for organizations that may need your services. You can begin by volunteering, if you are able to prove your worth while volunteering, that may be your ticket to your desired job.  The jobs are there, and you can get one if you are rightly positioned.

YOUNG NIGERIANS MAKING THE DIFFERENCE
JOB AUGUSTINE TUBOKEYE, LAGOS STATE

Augustine (32), a native of Burutu in Delta State has an unwavering passion for youth development and empowerment. He holds a degree in Economics from The Lagos State University. He is the current African President of the International Federation of Catholic Parochial Youth Movement (FIMCAP); an organization that educates young people and children to share and work together, and to nurture their awareness of belonging to a world community.

TUBOKEYE

As part of pursuing FIMCAP’s objectives, Augustine has trained several Youths across Nigeria and various countries through various Youth events, programmes, seminars, symposium and conferences since 2001 in Nigeria, Ghana, Uganda, Australia, India, Germany, France, Kenya and Belgium.

He is a recipient of numerous awards for his meritorious contributions to Youth development. Augustine’s passion for youth development and empowerment began about twelve years ago. He was a former Lagos Archdiocesan President of the Catholic Youth Organisation of Nigeria (CYON); from there he rose to become the Lagos Ecclesiastical Provincial President of same organization and again became the National President of the Organization. He was a member of the Catholic Bishops’Conference of Nigeria (CBCN).

He presently doubles as the Regional Coordinator for North & Western Africa and the International Vice President of FIMCAP. He is also the Secretary of the Diaspora Committee of Youth Wing Christian association of Nigeria (YOWICAN)

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