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Skills for the Nigerian workforce

OlubodeI_ProfilePicIyadunni Olubode is Executive Director of LEAP Africa – Leadership, Effectiveness, Accountability and Professionalism. Through training programmes and publications, this organisation reaches out to thousands of Africans – predominantly youths and business owners. Their range of programmes, encompassing youth development training, leadership ethics and civics, and business leadership, have helped young people and entrepreneurs to acquire vital skills, share advice and practice, challenge corruption and implement over 1,000 social change projects. A keynote speaker at eLearning Africa 2014, the News Team caught up with her to get her views on her work, her country Nigeria, eLearning and more.

interview by Steven Blum

I’ve read that despite a booming economy, 61% of Nigerians were living on less than a dollar a day in 2010. How do you think Nigeria’s economic growth could be more inclusive to those who aren’t working in the well-established oil or finance sectors?

The case of Dutch Disease in the Nigerian economy is now well established. While oil revenues continue to lead in terms of contribution to GDP, the potential earnings from oil and gas can be increased by developing refining capacity in-country and exporting petroleum products rather than crude. There are also opportunities to generate jobs through the development of local capacity to support the industry. That said, it is obvious that long-term sustainability demands a mixed economy.

As Africa’s most populous nation, Nigeria presents a huge consumer market. There is a huge opportunity in the manufacturing sector just by the sheer size of the population. Agriculture also has the potential to support economic growth on both the demand side and supply side. By encouraging and supporting investments in agriculture, government can create the right environment for growth in that sector. These areas can only be developed through effective Public-Private Partnerships. Diversified economic growth will be hinged on collaborative efforts.

In your opinion, which economic sectors in Nigeria hold the greatest promise for job creation?

Agriculture and information technology have the potential to engage a significant proportion of Nigeria’s growing manpower army.

Agriculture presents a huge opportunity across the entire value chain from farm to fork, in securing local and global food supply. Reviewing Nigeria’s food import bill, there are opportunities to retain value in country. Statistics show that more than half of all farm produce is wasted due to underdeveloped supply chains and low processing capacity. Furthermore, there is an abundance of uncultivated land. Changing the perceptions of Nigerians about agriculture, from a “dirty” job for illiterates to a profitable venture will be critical to attracting talent in the sector.

Nigeria’s youth are embracing ICT at an increasing rate. By developing their competencies in areas such as software development and other digital jobs, opportunities to leverage technology in the local economy can be maximised while opening up Nigeria to the global outsourcing market.

The World Bank has called Nigeria’s large number of underemployed youth a “serious threat to the economic and political stability of the country”. How does Leap Africa help young people gain the skills they need to participate fully in Nigeria’s economy?

Each year, thousands of fresh Nigerian graduates join the army of the unemployed. Compared with the number of applicants, there are few jobs; nonetheless, we find many employers complain about not being able to fill vacant positions. Many graduates lack work ethics and soft skills in areas like communication, teamwork, emotional intelligence, which support their ability to obtain and retain jobs. This is because employability training and work experience through volunteering or internships do not form part of the school experience for graduates of many Nigerian tertiary institutions.

This is what inspired the launch of LEAP’s Employability Programme in 2008.  The programme bridges this gap by equipping young people with soft skills to increase their chances of employment and enhance their performance on jobs. LEAP also connects beneficiaries of the programme with real experiences in the work place in the form of internships or volunteering position to assist them in acquiring practical on the job skills and developing strong work ethics and interpersonal skills to succeed.

Even after five years of delivering this curriculum in eight states to over 3,000 young people, these activities address a small fraction of unemployed youth. In a bid to reach more people, we have published HOW TO GET A JOB, a book that provides tips and advice to readers on preparation for entering the job market and progressing through a career. Our next efforts are on developing an eLearning course to that can reach more people and teach employability through interactive games and exercises.

Can you provide a few examples as to how LEAP Africa integrates eLearning into its training techniques?

As an organisation focused on changing mindsets, we recognise that eLearning tools, including audio and video materials, are critical in reaching our audience of over 80 billion Nigerian youth and entrepreneurs. In 2008 LEAP, in partnership with African Leadership Initiative West Africa (ALIWA), developed Naija Junction, a presentation of four possible futures for Nigeria by 2025, as an eLearning tool to engage Nigerians on the need to take an interest in governance. This video has been used by LEAP and other key influences to facilitate leadership training. The success of this tool and Nigeria’s growing population of internet users have encouraged LEAP to embark on a project to develop eLearning courses on Ethics and Employability.

Another demonstration of LEAP’s use of eLearning is its collaboration on the “Powering the Impossible” Project. The initiative is aimed at enhancing teaching and learning in a public secondary school in Lagos State through the use of technology.  Teachers are trained to use technology tools to teach LEAP’s youth leadership modules and other core subjects in a solar-powered computer lab. The training provides teachers with technology support to develop teaching plans. It also exposes them to flexible options to meet the learning objectives of their students.

Last year, LEAP collaborated to launch a monthly online webinar series for young people. The LEAP Career Corner Speaker Series enables real-time audio and visual exchange between career role models and youths in Nigeria and across the globe. It has been quite successful, with an increasing subscription each month.

What do you hope to learn at eLearning Africa 2014? Are there any topics you’re particularly interested in?

Although I have never attended an eLearning Africa Conference, I am familiar with the outcomes from the 2013 conference. It was particularly insightful to learn about the continuing relevance of radio and that incorporation of indigenous languages is still quite low.

In anticipation of eLearning 2014 in Uganda, I am looking forward to learning new ideas for how ICT can deliver scale to skill development efforts and about the latest ICT tools to support teachers. I am excited about sharing LEAP’s work and gleaning useful information from eLearning case studies other participants will be presenting.

Visit the programme page and find out more – or get to know other eLearning Africa keynote speakers here.

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