How we are fighting unemployment in Nigeria —WAVE founder, Rewane
West African Vocational Education (WAVE) Academy, a not-for-profit organisation based in Yaba, Lagos, is one of the leading organisations that is confronting the unemployment menace by using avant-garde ideas and tools to expand the frontiers of job creation and placement in Lagos and in the country at large.
In this clime where many believe that getting a job or creating one is seemingly difficult, the co-founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of WAVE, Misan Rewane, does not think so. One of the reasons she founded WAVE was because she enjoys challenging paradigms.
“I like making the unthinkable thinkable,” she had said in a recent interview, adding that, “I see WAVE playing an ‘innovator role’ in rewiring education-to-employment systems across the continent, testing and designing new ways to deliver competency-based education in close partnership with industry.”
One of the striking aspects of WAVE’s learning space is the inspirational aura that it commends. Powerful motivational quotes on creativity and leadership that adorn the classroom walls are enough to set someone on the right track. One of the posters says ‘Wave goodbye to endless entry level job searches’. WAVE believes that, over the years, this declaration has been a promise kept because its students get jobs immediately after they graduate.
WAVE tackles unemployment problem from a single angle—through teaching hardworking young people skills they require to find work and, more importantly, to succeed at work so they could start a career and build a brighter future. WAVE’s philosophy is that competency is more valuable than credentials or certificates.
WAVE’s mission is ‘To level the playing field for underserved African youth by building an ecosystem that supports relevant skills development and increased incomes for work-ready youth.’ This it is achieving by influencing education to replicate the first part of its model: competency-based education driven by market demands.
Rewane spoke on the type of people qualified for the kind of services they offer and the type of companies or organisations they partner with to actualise their mission.
“All we ask of the jobseekers is literacy and numeracy skills, and a growth mindset,” she said. “The employers are only required to align ideologically with our terms and conditions. The organisations simply need to have a willingness to learn our methodology.”
One of the things that makes WAVE stand out from their like is its conviction that its students’ jobs start when they are undergoing training not after they graduate. Its pragmatic method of instruction that encapsulates its mission is reflected in one of its slogans: ‘Start small, learn fast, grow big’.
The modus operandi of WAVE is perhaps its most interesting and innovative story. Fortunately, the students do not have to pay for the one-month intensive-training fee if they cannot afford it. When they secure a job on their own or when WAVE finds them a suitable level-entry job according to their location, performance and interest, they would offset their fees, which could be done in three instalments.
However, in the event any of the successful graduands could not secure a job or offset the training fee within the stipulated time, there is room for negotiation. “This scenario is uncommon, because many of them pay within the time frame they are supposed to pay,” Kike Akintoye, one of the staff, said.
Rewane shed more light on how they get funding. “Our academies aim to cover their costs through a mix of philanthropy, training fees and recruitment fees. Our corporate training also serves to cross-subsidise our training of unemployed youths.”
The one-month training is split into two stages: the two-week classroom training stage and the two-week job shadowing or internship stage. The two-week classroom stage comprises five main instructional models and practicals. The models include communication, problem solving, managing expectations, teamwork and time management.
According to one of the staff, Andrea Idhegbo, both in-house and visiting instructors handle these models. “Some resource persons come to teach and motivate the students. They talk about their success stories and how they got where they are now. The students benefit a lot from these interactions,” he said.
The job shadowing stage involves the placement of the students into companies or businesses for internship. Currently, WAVE boasts over three hundred company and business partners across Lagos and other cities in Nigeria like Ibadan and Owerri.
Some of these businesses—which are mainly hospital industries, bakeries, restaurants, supermarkets and boutiques—include, but not limited to, House 34 Hotel, Hands and Rene, Nock and Alara, Sweet Kwi, Mr. Price, Artist and Scientist, Nylas and Catering, Amazon Spur, Fitness Fair.
“We are currently planning on synergise with other businesses in Abeokuta and Abuja,” Akintoye said, adding that, “Sometimes, many of our partners end up retaining some of our graduands.”
Recently, WAVE graduated 48 students of its 56 class. Since this year, it has graduated about 350 students and placed many of them into entry-level jobs. In their graduation ceremony, amid joy and confidence, the graduands spoke about their lives before WAVE, their challenges and what they wanted to become in the near future.
Asked why WAVE has ‘West Africa’ as part of its name, but seems to operate only in Nigeria, Rewane stated that it serves as a reminder that they have aspiration to serve young Africans, educators and employers well beyond Nigeria. “In 2018, we delivered corporate training in Ghana and began conservations with a prospective partner looking to replicate our training model in Ethiopia,” she said.