Committed to changing lives for the positive, Bukola Idowu, the Executive Director of Kimpact Development Initiative has influenced many youths through training and mentorship. The Social Entrepreneur, Trainer, Business development consultant and Human resources professional in this interview with Kemi Busari, discusses issues of unemployment, employability and the prospect of the teeming Nigerian youths who are looking for job.
Why are there many youths without employment?
In Nigeria today, we may not have sufficient jobs, but we have sufficient work that can go round. When you talk about jobs, they are the paid employment and work deals about problem solving. For example, I can submit my CV to a company for a job but when I start doing something in the company that has changed to work. Unemployment keeps increasing because many are looking for jobs and not work. In Nigeria today we have a lot of problems that you can proffer solutions to and you get yourself employed.
What about those who cannot get a work?
Let me start by sharing my story. My first appointment as a graduate was in a bank as a messenger with a salary of N13, 000 but I had to take it up as against staying at home. I later got converted from messenger to staff when there was a vacancy in the same bank. What I’m trying to say here is that graduates should learn to switch to secondary skills when the primary is not available. For instance, as a mass communication graduate, the fact that you can’t get work in the media doesn’t mean you should stay at home for years waiting for the right job. Start something else until you have the opportunity in your field
Is it fair to pay a graduate N13,000, isn’t it demeaning?
To be frank, it’s unfair but we can’t keep blaming the government. The government you are blaming cannot even hear you. They have lots of problems, so you have to do some things yourself. A friend of mine who usually see me knot tie came to me with his CV and when I told him what I do he ran away, he said ‘over my dead body’. But by the time I change from the first bank to the second, up to 5 years, he was still looking for job. I got converted from messenger to staff when there was a vacancy. If you can take the little beginning, you will always climb the ladder.
Are Nigerian graduates employable?
I have been recruiting for companies for over 6 years and that put me in a position to see things first hand. I have conducted interviews, did aptitude test and read CVs of many graduates. The truth is, there are opportunities but a large number of Nigerian graduates are unemployable.
The issue of employability goes beyond what you study, it goes beyond the acronym Bsc, HND. Your qualification is just to open the door of opportunity for you. For instance, if a company advertises positions for B.Sc holders, what that means is that you can apply but that does not mean you will get the job. What gets you the job is your performance at the interview and the skills you possess.
What makes one employable?
Employability goes beyond certificate; there are some skills you need to possess. First of them is the ability to work as a team. You must be a team player because you cannot work in isolation. You must also have leadership and communication skills. Most times, we don’t blame the graduates for not possessing the needed skills, we blame the system. Our tertiary institutions are preparing us to look for jobs they did not train us for. Institutions do not necessarily need to be academic but in Nigeria, what we have is pure academic with an obsolete curriculum. There should be a review of the curriculum. This exercise must involve the private sector and the employers of labour. Make every student enterprising; don’t just teach them academics, teach them skills.
Many companies do state years of experience as condition, in this situation, how does someone get a job as a fresh graduate?
Let me first say the reason why companies want employees with experience. It’s because most of the companies no longer spend millions on training so they want somebody who will come in with the skills they need and start work immediately. This is where I find fault in the NYSC scheme. Apart from serving my fatherland, NYSC supposed to be an opportunity where I’ll get experience for one year but the fact that they post people to places different from their disciplines does not allow this. Experience means activities done within a particular time, not necessarily professional. As a corps member, you should try and go somewhere and serve for free just to get the experience, at the end of service, you would have had one year experience added to your CV ahead of others. Even if you are posted to a school, leave by 2.pm and go to where you can get experience in your field.
What’s your advice to job seekers?
If you are looking for job, first put yourself in the position of the CEO, ask yourself, can you employ you? If you can’t answer yes then it means you need to improve on yourself. Improve your communication skills, pay attention to details. Make yourself a problem solver because that is the primary purpose for considering you for employment. Try and know something about everything so that you can fit in to other roles if there is no opportunity in your field.