Demand-driven skills development model, panacea to youth unemployment

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Youth unemployment is one of the most significant development challenges facing governments and development partners in Nigeria today. The country suffers from a “labour market trio” of jobless growth, a growing population and unemployable youth. Despite decades of reasonably stable economic growth, the Nigerian economy has failed to generate the jobs needed to support its large and growing young population. Sustained levels of unemployment and lack of economic opportunities, especially for young people, have been linked to the many conflicts and youth unrest experienced in some parts of the country, such as the Niger Delta. Between 2009 and 2011, the Federal Government rolled out the Nigerian Youth Employment Action Plan (NIYEAP) to address the challenge of youth unemployment in the country, but with moderate success. The aim was to create an environment conducive to youth employment. As the relevance of the Action Plan diminished in the face of changing realities, other policies, such as the National Employment Policy (2017) and the National Youth Policy (2019), replaced it. However, none have been able to solve the problem in a sustainable way that would lead to a significant decrease in the youth unemployment rate. According to data from the National Bureau of Statistics, from 2014 to the beginning of 2020, the youth employment rate averaged 25.87%. However, with the rise of the COVID-19 pandemic, in the second quarter of 2020 unemployment rates soared among all demographic groups. For young people, it fell from 40.8% in April-June 2020 to 53.4% ​​in October-December 2020. In 2021, the federal government launched the revised NIYEAP (2021-2024) to tackle unemployment among young people in a comprehensive and coordinated manner based on lessons learned from the previous action plan. NIYEAP will focus on achieving a job creation target of 3.7 million jobs per year. Based on the failure of previous policies, sustainability, as well as impact, seems to be a vital issue. Therefore, to achieve this goal, it is necessary to have a model that will permanently solve the problems. The aim is to develop a competent and confident workforce and a body of local entrepreneurs who can sustain employment in the country. In this context, I propose Youth Employment Pathways (YEPs) – a demand-driven, evidence-driven, competency-driven model. It identifies the systemic constraints to youth unemployment vis-à-vis the particularities of the economy and considers the multiple pathways to employment. It supports a system of entrepreneurship; strengthens and relies on a network of stakeholders and actors. The YEP was launched by the Niger Delta Partnerships Initiative (PIND) in 2018 following extensive research to develop a youth training model in which marginalized youth are trained in market-relevant skills and then supported in sustainable jobs or businesses. It focuses on training young people in technical and soft skills to prepare them for the market while giving them access to capital. Let’s break down all the attributes of YEP. Demand-driven and evidence-based: One of the major challenges facing the development of the Nigerian workforce is the skills mismatch, with a significant mismatch between labor supply and demand -work. The YEP mode prioritizes systemic research and analysis to understand how the job market functions in a specific state or region and determine the particular occupations and technical and soft skill sets currently in demand. Once the critical sectors of the state have been identified, interventions taking into account the particularities of the economic environment are then designed accordingly. Skills-focused: The next step is to ensure that young people have the right skills and knowledge to integrate seamlessly into mainstream sectors. This involves skills building (technical and soft skills) and training where appropriate. A key criticism of technical and vocational training as a panacea against youth unemployment rests on the fact that most people often leave the trade after training. Some reasons are a lack of funding, peer support and formalization within specific sectors and industries, which challenges skills and structure. Therefore, the YEP model promotes a skills-based approach to technical and vocational training that ensures that those trained use their acquired skills and thrive in these sectors. The method involves forming partnerships with relevant institutions, such as the Nigerian National Board for Technical Education (NBTE), to develop a competency framework that would lead to accreditation of training programs and participants. The competency framework should align with the NBTE National Competency Qualification Framework. Multiple pathways to employment and support for an entrepreneurship system: The YEP model envisages multiple pathways to job creation and skills development. One broad pathway leads to formal wage employment, while another leads to self-employment/entrepreneurship. The model therefore includes post-training support that helps young entrepreneurs, emerging startups, and state business service providers navigate the harsh conditions of the business world. This support system could relate to business advisory services, market linkages or access to finance – in the form of investment or working capital for growth and expansion.

Build and strengthen a stakeholder network: The research and analysis phase of the YEP model includes stakeholder mapping and analysis of key players within the youth employment ecosystem: employers, government, private sector, policy makers, education and training institutions, civil society, media, and of course young job seekers. The model aims to strengthen coordination and collaboration, facilitate positive engagement, and provide support and technical assistance to these actors. This action ensures the development of an enabling environment for skills development training for employment or entrepreneurship to thrive and for nationwide/state adoption or adaptation of the model into community employment programs. respective youth. A combination of training specific to the needs of young people – including building the capacity of training organizations – together with their support for employment or entrepreneurship will not only move a cohort of young people from unemployment to a career, but also to stimulate the local economy through the rise in skills of companies as well as the strengthening of the ecosystem of actors and their interactions.

–Ekpe writes from Port Harcourt.

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