By Aderonke Adeyeri
Since its inauguration, the National Directorate of Employment, NDE, which was meant to serve as a clearing house to link job seekers, fill vacant positions or provide opportunities for self employment has been combating the scourge of unemployment with a measure of success but yet unemployment level continues to rise.
The Lagos State Co-ordinator of the agency, Joseph Modey maintains that the level of unemployment in the country is not less than 23%, adding, “in defiance to all our toiling to reduce or eradicate unemployment in the country, it is on the increase. It is defying every method applied to curb it.” Excerpts
The primary objective of this agency is to combat unemployment in the country but a close look reveals that the level of unemployment in the country is on the increase, what is your organization doing to combat unemployment?
Unemployment has become a significant problem in the country and the federal government through its various agencies has developed and is still developing different strategies to address the problem of unemployment which also led to the creation of this agency in 1986 as an institutional response to the issue of unemployment. National directorate of employment has been working day and night to reduce the level of unemployment in the country through various programmes.
When we came on stream, the first thing we did was to study the structure of unemployment as it was then in the country and we discovered that this problem has spread through various levels of the populace especially in terms of age and education. In terms of age, we found that most of the unemployed citizens were young people between the ages of 17 to 35years old. On the part of education, we got to realize that the graduates of higher institutions were significantly affected by unemployment .
At a lower level, most of the people affected were secondary school drop-outs and those who do not have any formal education. So, we designed our programmes to take care of unemployment at the various levels and we are making progress even though some think it is a slow pace. For people with little or no formal education, we embarked on skills acquisition programmes because we realize that the fundamental basis for employment is the possession of skills. Hence, we concentrated more on vocational training and over the years, we have trained more than 25,000 people in different vocational trades like auto mechanics, hair stylists and many other professions in Lagos.
The interesting part of this is that many of them become independent and even employ others to work with them hereby reducing the number of unemployed citizens of Lagos state. For the unemployed graduates, we have embarked on entrepreneurship development training programmes where we re-orientate, instruct and advise them to concentrate on self employment .
To this effect, we have been able to assist young graduates to manage their own businesses and even become employers of labour.
Can you give statistics on the current level of unemploy-ment?
For now, the level of unemployment in the country is not less than 23%.
Do you mean the level of people who are willing to work but without job in the country is not more than 23%?
Yes. Or do you think it is above that? The sad reality that we have to admit is that in defiance to all our toiling to reduce or eradicate unemployment in the country, it is on the increase. It is increasing faster than every method applied to curb it. The reason is not far fetched. In the 1970s, we had only five universities which produced few graduates.
During this period, potential organizations visit tertiary institutions to get potential students even before graduating but following the federal government massive investment in education, we have over hundred universities apart from the numerous polytechnics, monotechnics and colleges of education in the country and each institution produces hundreds of people who will seek employment from the government or the private sectors.
Also, our population is increasing on a daily basis and because of the harsh economy, the private sector who should be the absorbent of labour is not expanding as rapid as it should.
As the state coordinator, what could be the saving measures to this crucial problem of unemployment in the country?
The best approach to this problem that seems insurmountable is to rapidly expand the private sector. At this level, Nigeria unfortunately is still a consumer nation. We must learn to transform our raw materials into finished products. I mean the country must intensify our level of industrialization and reduce the level of consuming products we are not manufacturing.
Many Nigerians need to be orientated especially our youths through modification of the educational curriculum from the primary to the tertiary level about self employment. I also want to stress that this task is not a one agency business but a collective service to humanity. All hands must be on deck to achieve this.
In the course of this struggle against unemployment, what challenges does this agency encounter?
Our challenges are cumbersome. There are deficits in our infrastructure. We experience inadequate financing to tackle a massive problem. For instance, we have the mandate to train people in entrepreneurship but often lack the fund needed for the person to start the business. Most times, when we encounter such challenge, we refer people to other finance institutions like the Bank of Industry, Bank of Agriculture, etc .
Also the mindset of the unemployed people we are dealing with at times stand as a challenge for us in tackling the problem of unemployment. Often times, an unemployed graduate who has been groomed with the intention of getting a job in one government organization often finds it hard to face the reality of the labour market. Young graduates will be reluctant to face the real world.
What percentage of the budget is allocated to this agency?
We accept whatever we are given. The federal government has many things on his hands and as such is often short of funds.