The first challenge facing our youth is unemeployment. What is the government`s approach and policies in this respect? Here the administration`s approach is four fold. First was the adoption of a comprehensive youth employment policy, which entails a conglomeration of programmes, and policies designed to generate jobs and transform them into employers of labour. This policy was reinforced with the approval of a new National Employment Programme which entail employment clauses in government contracts, a programme of massive public work programme and collaboration with state governments in the implementation of job generating projects and programmes. To this, 50 billion naira has been earmarked in the 2011 budget.
The second approach has to do with the introduction of nationwide clusters of youth development centres and skill acquisition programmes nationwide. Such centres, many of which are already training our youth in skill and vocational programmes, are designed to make the youth employers rather than job seekers. Part of this programme is the introduction of the National Entrepreneurship Centres in the nation`s tertiary institutions and the enhancement and harmonisation of the apprenticeship programme of the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) and National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP).
The third approach is the introduction of a new National Secondary Education Curriculum which emphasises technical and vocational skills for Nigerian students. Here, the students are exposed to vocational skills early in their educational lives. The expectation is that more students will be guided to embrace trade skills so that more and more will be self-employed and employers of labour. The new curriculum has already been launched by the Federal Government.
For graduates of tertiary institutions, the administration is expanding a programme of agro-entrepreneurs currently operating under the National Youth Service Corps. Thousands of graduates have benefitted from the programme. The programmme, which entails a take-off capital for trained corps members, is to be expanded to accommodate more serving corps members in addition to an on-going programme to link fresh graduates with seed capital providing institutions.
The fourth approach is the direct engagement of the Organised Private Sector as a key partner in taming the joblessness crisis. The on-going implementation of the report of the Dangote-led Committee on Job Creation in this respect is already yielding positive outcomes. Despite the worldwide challenges, several business outfits in Nigeria are already announcing job creation plans with incentives from the FG.
I must add here that a very holistic approach is involved in the employment policy of the administration. A coordinated investment in infrastructural revival is on-going with expected effects in economic activities which in turn will enhance small scale job creation nationwide. Here, the administration is investing heavily in the power sector and railway regeneration alongside series of revival funds for such sectors of the economy as textile, transport, entertainment, among others. All these no doubts have the potential to sustain existing jobs while creating new ones nationally.
The administration`s approach to tackling youth joblessness is thus divided into short term, medium and long term phases, an approach that conform with best practices all over the world.
Beyond a well-coordinated agenda on job creation and engagement which are already under implementation, the administration is also focusing on expanding access to education for Nigerian youth. First was the introduction of more than 150 almajiri schools to specifically take our youth off the streets especially in the Northern part of the country. The project has already taken off.
This was followed with the establishment of nine new universities to expand available paces for admissible students into universities. This is in addition to the upgrading of some polytechnics into federal universities of technology. The new universities were then accompanied with a programme of revitalisation of existing universities through injection of billions of naira. We are also aware that more private universities are beig licenced to complement the government.
President Jonathan has spearheaded the introduction and implementation of a National Youth Mainstreaming Policy which makes youth a major consideration in government policies and programmes. He is pushing for the enactment of law for a new National Youth Policy, which was midwifed, under his watch. The youth law is to make implementation of the new youth policy a must for all stakeholders.
Nigerian youth at a National Youth Manifesto Workshop held in Kaduna recently attested to the many giants strides of the administration. This was after Mr. President attended a National Youth Summit where he was endorsed as their choice for next month’s presidential contest.
Eventually, the Kaduna workshop attended by over 200 youth development experts and activists crafted a National Youth Manifesto which has been presented to Mr. President. Let me note that the contents of the Manifesto conform with the3 on-going policies and programmes of Mr President for the empowerment, engagement and development of Nigerian youth.
The above schemes have shown President Jonathan to be the most youth friendly president so far the nation has ever produced. Both in term of existing policies and proposed programmes, the records of the administration is unrivalled. Hence, continuity from enlightened self and public interests is the best path for Nigerian youth.
Senator Olasunkanmi, the Minister of Youth Development, sent this piece from Abuja.