By Josephine Agbonkhese
Senior Special Adviser to Edo State Governor on Skills Development and Head, Edo Jobs, Ukinebo Dare, is the enigma currently changing narrative for young people the State. The 34-year-old has, in barely two years of her appointment by the state governor, catalysed business and industrial activities, thereby providing hundreds of job opportunities. In this maiden edition of AMAZON, Dare who holds a Bachelors Degree in Computer Science from Benson Idahosa University, a Masters in Management from the University of Bradford, UK, and a certificate in Business and Entrepreneurship from Clark Atlanta University, USA, speaks about her job, childhood and a lot more.
It’s your first time in government; what has the experience been like since your appointment?
I was appointed in October 2017, a year after Governor Godwin Obaseki came into office. The governor promised to create 200,000 jobs during his first four years in office and he has been very committed to making sure that is realized. So, ensuring that we attract opportunities to Edo State forms a major part of my job; as well as training and preparing people to grab those opportunities. So far, we‘ve reached a milestone of 100,000 jobs and we are looking very much forward to exceeding our target.
Such rise in job opportunities is unprecedented in the state; how did you pull that off?
One major thing we did was to provide young people with role models they could look up to; people that could make them believe in what they can achieve. Next, we got all those that were searching for jobs registered on the Edo Jobs portal. Over200,000 persons registered. We then designed programmes that would provide job opportunities based on their interests. We’ve also had investors coming to work with us as partners.
What sectors do you currently cover?
Weare working in five major sectors. This includes ICT; under which we strive to find the tech community in Edo State, build them up and create an eco-system. Thus, we created the Edo Innovation Hub. It’s been only one year and over 13,000 people have trained there. We partner with organizations like Amazon, Google, Curators University, Main One, Facebook, Uber, etc. What the hub has done is that employers now know where to go to when in search of people with good IT skills. Those who desire to horn their skills in IT too, now know they should go to the hub. The hub supports a lot of entrepreneurs.
We have the Agric Hub as well which works with farmers, aggregators and others to provide access to market, finance and training for farmers. We also have the Edo Youths in Agriculture programme which seeks to help young people explore opportunities in farming. Again, we have the Edo Production Centre which is for the work we’re doing in manufacturing and construction. The centre is equipped with 24-hour power supply for artisans, and also helps with access to funding for their equipment and working capital. We want to boost the skills of artisans and their ability to earn so that they can become employers. Finally, we have the Edo Creative Hub which is just kicking off. It is targeted at building skills and creating jobs in the entertainment sector. Recently it brought a lot of lead entertainers in the country to Edo State
Could you give a description of the average Edo youth prior to your intervention?
To be honest, there was a lot of hopelessness and desperation because we’ve hardly had any government that was concerned about human capital development. So, we needed to do a lot of sensitization, training and teaching to help people realise they can actually make a better life for themselves with the opportunities we were putting in place. I remember the first programme we had. We had only 1,000slots but over 3,000 people came struggling to participate. But over time, they have discovered there are different opportunities for different people and that these opportunities would even meet them in their own local government.
How has this impacted on illegal migration which the state has been notorious for?
This is the first time a government in Edo State is actually tackling human trafficking and illegal migration through job creation. We are getting positive feedback from the international community who now tell us the number of Edo people being migrating illegally has gone down drastically. We’ve got multiple congratulatory messages from different international organisations.
You’re young; 34-year-old precisely. What prepared you for this task?
Before now, I was actually in the business of job creation. I’ve been on this journey for about ten years. I started on my own by training young people and connecting them to jobs in January 2010. I was doing this in Lagos, Oyo, Edo states and a few other places as the CEO of Poise Graduate Finishing School Academy, a subsidiary of Poise Nigeria. I worked with higher institutions, individuals, youth groups, employers, and more. The programme became so successful that it was endorsed by the National University Commission in 2014 and also by the Presidency. In 2015, I won the Ford Foundation Prize for Youth Employment at the Future Awards Africa. In 2017, the United States governments elected me as a Mandela Washington Fellow. They were actually the ones that introduced all the chosen Nigerians to their state governors after training us on leadership and development. That was how I started working in Edo State.
What was growing up like for you?
I was born in Kano State but we moved to Lagos when I was about 8-year-old. Growing up, my parents were very strict. I remember my mum called every one of us when we were about going into university and said we must all learn a skill so that we won’t have to join bad gangs when in need of extra cash in school. I remember I worked in a cyber café where I perfected my computer skills. When I was in the university, I sold recharge cards, bread, gala, soft drinks, and more. I had a shop. It was a beautiful experience for me. My parents never lavished us with money on us because they wanted us to stand on our own. I remember my dad gave me a loan after I had sold for a year, to expand my business in school. The money he would have lavished on me, he gave to me as a business loan. My dad was working in Honey well Flour mills as the Project Director at that time and my mum was running her own organization, Poise Nigeria, which happens to be the first etiquette school in Nigeria. My personality is however 70 percent my dad and 30 percent my mum. My dad actually began teaching us very early in life about the principles of success.