By Seun Bisuga
The 2018 Graduate Skills ranking by the World Economic Forum, placed Nigeria on 135 out of 140 countries, this simply shows that most Nigerian graduates don’t have the requisite skills, experience and knowledge for the dream job that they crave, even worse, is the fact that most of them are not professionally aware of the sector they seek to work in.
Personally, I have had firsthand experience with many Nigerian graduates in the last two years, interviewing them and also asking basic questions but the answers I get are rather fascinating. They appear to have little knowledge of the main course they studied in school and very little of what policies and programmes are happening around them.
Hence, the cliché that Nigerian graduates are “unemployable” is sometimes apt, when you see graduates who cannot write proper English or even speak; you sometimes wonder how they graduated. I understand that no one is a master of both written and spoken English but everyone is expected to know the basics if they did four years in a tertiary institution.
So, I’m going to proffer a solution to solving the unemployment gap in Nigeria; how our graduates can acquire more skills that will eventually prepare them for their dream jobs when they graduate and why we must do away with over-reliance on government.
Let me give you a little background here. During our time in the university, every holiday was a time to catch up with friends from other schools and chatter away. We were near redundant because we did nothing but talk and play, so, therefore, we never acquired basic management or administrative skills, and we also never had any work experience. Upon graduating, we were furious with Human Resource Department adverts that demanded that we had two years working experience to apply for a job, even worse, was the fact that we should be 28 and below, when ASUU/NASU strike alone took two years of our four years, not to talk of NLC or cultism activities.
Back then, Tuesday and Thursday Guardian Newspaper adverts were hotcake, there was no social media as we have it today and cybercafés were next to heaven. Waiting by the newsstand for papers to arrive around 6am, we discussed how HR managers were not living in our world; we recounted how many ASUU, NASU, etc strikes we had in school. How do they expect us to still be 24, 26 or even 28 years? How would they expect us to have work experience?
Little did we know that our formative years where somewhat behind us and sadly I still see this trend today. Many students go through school and come out unemployable, they blame everyone but themselves. They blame ASUU, the VC, the Rector, the government, especially the government. I must agree that all these players have a hand in a graduate’s plight but the man in the mirror has most of the blame here.
How can we help our graduates to be employable? This is especially for parents, guardians, big brothers, big sisters, etc. Upon admission into school, a student should be made to use their time very judiciously.
They must be indoctrinated into understanding that every holiday is an opportunity to acquire new skills and experience.
How can we achieve this? Irrespective of where you live, there is an organization or business in and around your vicinity or not too far from you; it could be a bank, a hospital, a bookshop, a newspaper house, a textile industry, etc. There is always going to be an organization that is N100 away from you. So, therefore, we should encourage our undergraduates to go to these organizations and offer to work for FREE, yes for FREE.
You can walk into a bank and explain that you are an undergraduate seeking work experience and would be more than willing to hand out tellers, forms, coordinate the queues, etc in exchange for acquiring banking experience. Once you’re not demanding a salary and you dress the part, your chances of getting a job is high and this is what civilized societies do. They start working once they are teenagers, but we start working when we are in our mid-twenties but it’s the former that is the real empowerment.
These organizations are glad to not pay a dime for the service being rendered but working for free will give undergraduates some experience, skill set, and even responsibility they ordinarily would be acquiring 10 years later in life. If the organization is not willing to pay the bare minimum, it should be the responsibility of the parents or guardians to pay the transportation cost and feeding of that undergraduate.
Expose them to the corporate world early, let them know what it is like to work and have responsibility. This will plant something in them, something that naturally helps them to become better students in school, something that makes them more focused, something that helps them to spell out their future pretty well.
Imagine that in 100 level, an undergraduate gets his or her first working experience, by 400 level, that student would have had four different working experiences.
People say there are no jobs but this is not true, it’s more like there are no qualified persons to employ. Ask HR managers and they will tell you the comedy they enjoy during interviews, those eventually hired are the best amongst the lot, and it’s not that they readily fit the profile or job description on the menu.
Let’s not deceive ourselves we need to do more for our children. We need to help them plan their future early; we need to even get them working from their secondary school. This is where they learn punctuality, discipline and even maturity. There are so many fields that are untapped in Nigeria and it’s because we over-rely on the government.
Let’s always remember this, if the founders of Walmart, Facebook, Microsoft, Amazon, etc were moaning about government this, government that, those companies won’t exist today. If the Nairaland founder was also moaning about government, we won’t have a Nairaland.
It’s time we do more work than talk and pray, in any case, faith without work is DEAD. Watch out for part 2.
Seun Bisuga is a journalist and writer, he can be reached via Twitter @bisuclef