The National Directorate of Employment (NDE) has flagged off a special skills acquisition training programme, the School-to-Work scheme, to address the problem of mass unemployment among the youth and young school leavers.
The School-to-Work scheme is a new innovative scheme by the directorate; aimed at introducing the concept of skills acquisition training very early to the youths, especially the secondary school students.
The scheme was recently flagged off in Calabar, Cross River State by the Minister of Labour and Employment, Senator Chris Ngige, with a training for 150 secondary school students in the state.
In his keynote address, the minister said secondary school students from JSS2 to SSS2 have been selected to participate in a pilot phase simultaneously, running in six states which include Cross River, Kogi, Anambra, Bauchi, Katsina and Ondo States.
He said the scheme will enable them to acquire skills that will change their future in the absence of white collar jobs.
“The School-to-Work curriculum has been designed to deliver vocational, agricultural, entrepreneurial and life skills training to the trainees within the two months vacation period.
“Those who need up-skilling would be assisted during the next long vacation of the following year. Apart from skills acquisition, the scheme is also aimed at ensuring that these young ones are creatively and meaningfully engaged while on long vacation, thereby shielding them from negative and injurious behavioural practices.
“This initiative fully supports the policy thrust of the Federal Government through the Federal Ministry of Labour and Employment which seeks to fully entrench the decent work philosophy in Nigeria,” Senator Nigige said.
The minister said the scheme, when fully implemented, would have created a new army of young responsible Nigerians who are equipped with 21st century skills and are very willing and prepared to take not just their own destinies in their hands, but that of this great country.
He stated that their attitude to work, nation building and wealth creation would have been properly shaped to fully align with the change agenda of the All Peoples Congress (APC) led government at the centre.
“I have directed the NDE Management to expand the scope of the scheme next year to accommodate more trainees and to ensure that the valuable lessons derived from this pilot phase will be applied to enrich the content and form of the scheme subsequently. Let me therefore use this opportunity to appeal to Nigerians at all levels to give their maximum support to the policies of the Federal Government under President Muhammadu Buhari,” he added.
Senator Ngige pointed out that the Federal Government was not unaware of the high level of unemployment in the country, but he explained that the government has designed programmes and schemes towards skills acquisition for both graduates and non-graduates as part of measures to address it.
“To this end, it has launched websites which presently have registered well over 800,000 graduates in its database under the N-build programme. Under this programme, graduates and non-graduates who wish to acquire skills in construction related trades are advised to enrol in the programme,” he said.
Each state of the federation, according to him, is expected to recruit a total of 1,500 persons with the exception of such states affected by insurgency and states with high poverty index.
The minister advised all unskilled and unemployed persons to take maximum advantage of this opportunity offered to them by the government at the centre.
Acting Director-General of NDE, Mr Kunle Obayan, said the directorate has taken yet another important step towards repositioning the country for sustainable development, adding that the NDE is constantly preoccupied with providing initiatives that will address the ever changing forms and patterns of unemployment.
“The idea behind the School-to-Work scheme is a novel one which is conceived to provide diverse vocational, agricultural and entrepreneurial skills training for secondary school students during the long vacation period.
“We have in the NDE discovered through research and many years of experience that the best time to address the challenge of youth unemployment is at what we refer to as the ‘upstream level,’ other than the ‘downstream level.’
“The downstream level of unemployment occurs immediately youths complete their education and begin what most times may appear like a futile search for wage employment. To this end, if constructive efforts are made to mitigate the situation at the upstream level, we stand a great chance of reducing unemployment to tolerable levels.”
“Catching them young at the junior and senior secondary levels of education through the teaching of various skills will ensure that our youths would have acquired skills that will not only assist them to become useful citizens, but empower them to earn money which will assist them as they continue their educational pursuits beyond the secondary level,” Obayan said.
He explained that the scheme has been deliberately designed to engage the students in productive activities during their long vacation period thereby stopping them from taking to anti-social conducts.
“We intend to expand the scope of the scheme during next year’s long vacation based on the lessons we would have learnt from executing this pilot phase in six states selected from the six geo-political zones of the country,” he added.
He charged the trainees of the new scheme to apply themselves diligently to the ideals of the scheme, adding that the Federal Government considers them a critical factor in the development of the country.
This, according to the Director-General, is why the government has invested time and huge resources in providing this opportunity for the students to acquire skills while they are still in secondary school.