As the fang of unemployment continues to spread across the country and afflict the youths unabated, it is highly necessary for policy makers and the generality of Nigerian youths to embrace vocational education as a means to drastically reduce unemployment in Nigeria.
Though so many reasons have been ascribed to the rising rates of unemployment across the country, it is my humble opinion that our attitude and prejudice as a nation towards artisans and vocational education have contributed in no small measure to the rate of unemployment in the country.
Hence, the majority of the youths are attracted to the profession our society fancies and applauds even though it may not be fulfilling or adding much substance to the Nigerian economy. They get admitted into the University for any Course that is available without recourse to their natural abilities.
This has made the number of qualified and competent artisans to shrink day by day. And since nature abhors a vacuum, rooms have been created for other artisans from other neighboring West African countries to fill up the space.
It is a pity that many young people in Nigeria are just comfortable being unemployed because of the stigma that comes with being an artisan. Whereas those who have discovered their vocation and purpose are smiling to the bank as they add value and get paid commensurately.
Research has shown that that the average university graduates will be making a career change approximately 5-7 times during their working life. These graduates devote more time and energy transitioning from one job to another.
The reason is simple. We have an army of people who are just interested in pursuing educational and paper qualification without requisite skills and upon graduation become part of the growing statistics of the unemployed.
When they manage to get a job just to survive and keep body and soul together, they are likely to change career many times because they are quickly frustrated and not fulfilled.
As survival is the lowest need of man, the moment a graduate begins to meet the survival needs, he wants to crave for more and the moment he doesn’t get it there he goes for another job.
On the other hand, the research have shown that an average informal or vocational graduate begins his career in a particular area and he is likely build specialization and skills for a lifetime.
Those who have discovered their purpose, acquire relevant skills and refine it with personal development and trainings always find fulfilment in their chosen career.
Nigerian youths must understand that while education is the process, vocation is the path. Education is the process that leads to the path. The moment you discover your path you can be able to decide which or how fast you are going to run on that path.
The youths must stop going to school and start doing their job. Every elder in the society; every institution, every organization should start encouraging the youths, and start advocacy beyond what I am doing now for youths to stop going to school and start doing their job.
I have seen or heard of many who get fed up with their education or employment to pursue their vocation but I am yet to see anyone who got fed up with their vocation asides for personal development to pursue education because it is difficult to run from yourself. You can’t be fed up with who you are but you can be fed up with what you do.
The youths will move further and faster in their educational pursuit when they discover their vocation. Education becomes an inspiration with vocation. But education becomes frustration when vocation is not discovered.
When the youths have discovered their purpose or vocation in life, I think all they need from us as a society is to encourage and patronize them instead of looking at them with disdain and prejudice like we always do which has made a lot people in turn look with prejudice and disdain on vocational education and its graduates.
Nigeria has no reason whatsoever sliding into recession. It might interest you to know that despite the recession, two sectors (agriculture and construction) of the Nigerian economy populated by artisans and vocational graduates were not affected.
It is an industry that can absorb everyone that have acquired one skill or the other. And if we had much more numbers of those people in that industry, our recession would have turned to prosperity. The agricultural sector and the construction industry are more thriving in a time like this than ever before.
Nigerian youths are not unemployed or unemployable, they just have not discovered their purpose!
With the aggressive adoption of vocational education by the Nigerian youths and policy makers, unemployment challenge in Nigeria will be a thing of history.
John Assagba is a vocational education advocate and Managing Director of JOHNEVERGREEN Group