BY CALEB AYANSINA
There have been developmental initiatives across various sectors and tiers of government, to address the problem of youth unemployment in the country. However, these efforts have made little or no impact considering the enormity of the problem. Most of the initiatives fall short in terms of scope and scale.Today, the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) is probably the only government institution that has presence (infrastructure and personnel) in all the 774 local government Areas (LGAs) of the country, putting it in a position to be reckoned with, in ensuring youth empowerment.
Created 40 years ago, the scheme annually mobilizes and deploys over 300, 000 young graduates from higher institutions across the federation.
Recently, the scheme generated some controversy leading to the call for its scrapping by critics who cited insecurity challenges while others clamoured for its restructuring.
This scenario compelled the management to go back to the drawing board, to reinvent a scheme that is tailored to the security and socio-economic realities of the time.
In March 2012, to be precise, the NYSC leadership took a bold step by introducing skill acquisition and entrepreneurship programmes into the orientation course content, in order to raise an army of entrepreneurs that will drive the economy and not job seekers that will trudge the streets in search of scarcely available jobs.
To institutionalize this, the Federal Government raised the number of departments in the NYSC from seven to eleven with Department of Skills Acquisition and Entrepreneurship Development (SAED) as one of the new departments.
The project is a nationwide initiative, targeted at young graduates mobilized and deployed in a year mandatory service. Implementation of the project would be cascaded down to the states and LGAs.
Sunday Vanguard learnt that the project was designed to be implemented within the framework of camping exercise (in-camp) and the service year of the corps members (post-camp).
The in-camp component of the project would focus largely on creating the entrepreneurial and self-reliance spirit, helping corps members explore income generation opportunities available, with a view to identifying the one that best suits their personality/circumstances and professional training, some sort of hands-on training, as well as development of business plans.
The post-camp component would provide the platform for a more rigorous training of interested corps members, with a view to equipping them with the necessary technical/vocational skills, as well as business competence needed to start-up business; this would be carried out by various partner organizations with cognate competence and experience in the identified skills sets.
There are about 10 skill sets, according to the Director of SEAD, Mrs. Marry Damabia, which cut across various sectors of the economy, ranging from energy, construction, agro-business and environment.
Some of the NYSC members told Sunday Vanguard that they were trained on poultry, grass-cutter rearing, snailery animal husbandry, bees keeping, fish farming, plantain and banana sucker multiplication, bead making, tailoring, etc.
Not less than 131, 659 corps members were given skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development training in 2012.
Speaking at the opening ceremony of the 5th edition of the NYSC/MDGs War Against Poverty (WAP) at the NYSC orientation camp, Kubwa, Abuja, the Director General of NYSC, Brig. General Nnamdi Okore-Affia, said the scheme introduced skill acquisition and entrepreneurship development training for corps members, with a view to providing the graduate youths with skills, in addition to their academic skills for self-reliance.
“The level of youth unemployment called for serious concern. We will be glad if we can get all the help we need to properly drive this programme. It is our expectation that if this collaboration works, we would have contributed in no small measure towards driving national socio-economic development,” he said.
Okore-Affia explained that the project was meant to empower corps members with entrepreneurial and agro-enterprise skills, with corresponding interest free loans, to generate employment, eradicating poverty and hunger, as well as creating wealth.
“Through continuous training, the scheme would be producing successive and successful generation of corps entrepreneurs, who are expected to be vanguards in the process of nation building.
“This segment of the population is highly productive and highly creative, and if properly harnessed would contribute significantly to the developmental aspiration of any nation. Nigeria therefore cannot be an exception.”
Also, the State Coordinator, NYSC, Lagos State, Mrs. Adenike Adeyemi, said the introduction of SAED into the NYSC scheme had helped many fresh graduates to be self-reliant, creating employment opportunities instead of searching for non-existent jobs.
Recently, the scheme synergized with the Office of the Special Assistant to the President on Youth and Student Matters, to work out a more realistic approach to entrepreneurial empowerment for youths.
The two bodies jointly developed a model called the ‘Micro Enterprise Pack Model’.
The components of the new model were unveiled, when the SSA to the President on Youth and Student Matters, Comrade Jude Imagwe, visited the NYSC Directorate Headquarters in Abuja.
Imagwe observed that the previous approaches only brought people together for entrepreneurship programmes and dispersed them to their consistencies without any assistance.
Not only that, the NYSC signed a Memorandum of Understanding with a private company, JFK Consult, on post-camp skill acquisition programme for corps members.
Sunday Vanguard gathered that the training programme which also targets other interested youths in the society will commence on social-media from where qualified candidates are going to be selected for two weeks training at the entrepreneurial academy in Abuja.
The Chief Executive Officer of JFK Consult, Mr James Abiona, said it was important for corps members to get the basic entrepreneurial skills before they get through with their service year so that they would not remain job-seekers, but job creators.
At the signing ceremony, in Abuja, Mrs. Marry Damabia, who signed on behalf of the NYSC noted that the programme would build on the entrepreneurial lecture received by corps members during their orientation exercise in camp.
Meanwhile, Damabia decried the non-chalant attitude displayed by some government institutions which have direct bearing on the mandates of the scheme, but refused to cooperate despite several letters written to them, either for approval or partnership.
She noted that the scheme was facing some constrains ranging from inadequacy of funds to drive the programme, to lack of materials for practical hands-on training both in and out of camp, mentoring centres, among others.
Damabia therefore, appealed to them for change of attitude, while calling on corporate bodies and well-meaning individuals “to continue support us, so that the real purpose of NYSC can be realized”.