Job Creation: Okowa Leads A New Way

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EmmaOkowa, Olomu Kingdom, Okowa

Caught in the web of governments’ choked capacity for direct employment and the slow pace of industrialisation, especially in Africa, thousands of fresh school graduates join many more unemployed millions in the labour market yearly. In Nigeria, successive federal and state administrations are trailed with garbage of failed attempts to provide solutions. Often poor in strategic designs, sometimes merely politically motivated, they focused on providing handouts which only go to sustain consumption, rather than inspire production.

In 2017, job loss increased to 4.07m by the 3rd quarter and the unemployed rose further from 11.92 to 15.99m. Suffice to say these are just official figures on the formal sector as, no doubt, millions more are not captured.

It has been globally demonstrated, that the way out for nations is to inspire job creation through self employment rather than have millions marching the streets for non available white collar jobs, but matters are not helped here by the educational curricula that pay little or no premium to technical and vocational skills.The difficulty in Nigeria is compounded by the stifling business and investment credit system that disconnects with the people and encumbers enterprise. Even when credit schemes have been initiated, they have ended up as mere tools for political patronage and conduits for corruption.

Only a few governments are demonstrating the intellectual, technical and organisational capacity with the critical political will, sincerity and passion to provide strategic solutions. Delta State stands out in this category with its job creation scheme.

Launched within three months into the administration of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa as one of the vehicles for the delivery of his SMART agenda, the initiative envisions a new, stronger Delta with positive youth attitude towards life, employment and business.

It took off with the establishment of the Job Creation Office which, in conjunction with relevant agencies developed about five schemes for the engagement and empowerment of Deltans for the creation of micro and small scale enterprises and support for the sustenance and expansion of existing medium scale businesses.

Particularly directed at the youth are the Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programmme (STEP) and the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP). In simplicity, they entail the training of participants in the technical and business skills of their chosen vocation and providing them starter packs to establish their own businesses.

The truth, however, is that it is a unique socio-economic contract in which the government is partnering the participants to create thousands of small businesses, with government providing all the monetary and material investments for gestation and nurturing while the individual is required to contribute his self will. Even at that, the government invests in building that requisite new personality in the youth.

As the State Chief Job Creation Officer, Professor Eric Eboh, puts it, “the object of STEP and YAGEP is to produce entrepreneurs that have the right mind set, well-motivated and totally skilled and equipped for success. This involves life skills and personal effectiveness training to instil the right orientation for personal decision and own responsibility for entrepreneurship and responsibility.”

At the conclusion of the re-orientation programme for the 2017/2018 cycle, many of the participants enthused that they have been mentally reshaped to take their destiny in their hands after the life skill sessions with accomplished entrepreneurs like Mrs Shimite Bello, Executive Secretary of the Delta State Micro, Small and Medium Scale Agency, Chief Mrs Mary Iyasere, the state Commissioner for Commerce and Industry, Barr Mrs Omoise Siakpere, Chief Edward Mekwuye, Head of the State Youth Monitoring and Mentoring Agency.

At the conclusion of the hangs on practical training, the participants are again taken through critical entrepreneurship and business management sessions, to prepare them to manage their businesses independently, before their starter packs are issued.

With the job creation office constantly improving on the project design, the third cycle of STEP trainees are to enjoy expanded scope, to provide them more business options. While those enlisted for training in hairdressing will add cosmetology, those for building services will be provided comprehensive programmes in plumbing, tiling, roofing, inter-locking, POP installation and painting. Similarly, training in solar energy installation and maintenance has been added for those in electrical installation while those in ICT which hitherto offered only training in Hardware will now also be taught Software, data base and web development.

While the government insists on keeping close to the graduates even after they have established and running their businesses, the Governor has also instructed that ministries, departments and agencies should patronise them in their projects. In this regard, the list of businesses established through STEP and YAGEP has been sent to the MDAs for registration as contractors.

While all these are going on, the government has kept its sight on and commitment to the Graduate Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP) which addresses the functional relevance of university graduates to current jobs, and the Production and Processing Support Programmme (PPSP) which addresses support for existing medium farm holders to take their businesses to the next level.

The overarching objective of these initiatives is to consciously and concertedly pull Deltans away from the crowd by providing mental, financial, material and advisory support for the regeneration of a new army of self-determined job creators and change agents towards building a stronger Delta.

As with all programmes, they come with their challenges which demand constant innovation but the over 70% success rate of the first two cycles which have unleashed about 2,300 new businesses into the system with the multiplier effects testify to the effectiveness of the initiative, like none other across the nation. The new cycle has taken on 745 more trainees with bright prospects.

Not a few of the graduates have acknowledged the new self esteem  and change the programmes have brought to their personal and family lives just as the initiative has continued to elicit the applause of global institutions like the World Bank Nigeria State Employment and Expenditure for Results through its independent review and assessment.

Edoreh, Immediate past Chairman of the Lagos State sports writers Association, wrote in from Lagos.

The post Job Creation: Okowa Leads A New Way appeared first on Independent Newspapers Nigeria.


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