Improving Skills among Youth: A sine qua non Condition for Enhancing Agricultural Diversification, Entrepreneurial and Employment Prospects for Youth in Nigeria
“Skills development reduces poverty and better equips young people to find decent jobs. It trigger a process of empowerment and self-esteem that benefits everyone”. – United Nations Secretary General, Ban Ki-moon
Contributed by Margaret Adesugba (IFPRI Senior Research Assistant) & George Mavrotas (IFPRI Senior Research Fellow and Head of Office), IFPRI-Nigeria Strategy Support Program (NSSP) Abuja Office, Nigeria
One of the key challenges toward achieving agricultural diversification in Nigeria is the low level of skills and innovations which are essential in order to truly diversify the sector. With a growing pressure to diversify agriculture in Nigeria in order to reduce dependence on oil revenue and involve more youth in agriculture, acquiring the right skills for innovative agricultural diversification becomes very important.
As we celebrate the World Youth Skills Day with the global community today, there is an urgent need for stronger commitment from the government sector, educational institutions and private sector employers to increase the skill acquisition rate among youth in Nigeria. Developing well-tailored entrepreneurial skills for youth entering the job market would increase the employment prospects by increasing also productivity. There is also need for skill development to be tailored through problem-based learning that will increase youth employability in Nigeria.
About two-thirds of the youth that enter the labour market in Nigeria have limited job experience and low skills to make them suitable for employment by prospective employers. As shown in the graph below, there is an increasing gap between the number of youth that enter into the labour market annually and the number of jobs created with more youth becoming unemployed or underemployed. Lack of skills make youth vulnerable to underemployment as they struggle to transition from school to productive work. This also influences the rate of business and entrepreneurial innovativeness for job creation among youth.
Source: Authors’ calculation based on NBS Open Data on Labour Force, NBS Annual Abstract 2012 and NBS Labour Force Survey 2010-2015.
At the same time, the centrality of enterprise-specific vocational training to improve the skill levels of youth in Nigeria cannot be overemphasized. A recent NSSP Working Paper No. 31 shows that there is a skills mismatch between what youth in the labour force can supply and what employers demand. The tendency for youth with higher level of skills and access to an enabling environment in terms of finance and ease of doing business to start up innovative entrepreneurial ventures that will in turn create more jobs for youth is high. While youth literacy level in Nigeria has increased significantly in recent years, illiteracy rates are still high among youth in some geographical areas and among females. Apart from formal education, vocational training could also increase the employability and entrepreneurial ability of youth that have no formal education.
To conclude, the current youth education and skills gaps in Nigeria call for both urgent and long term attention. The likelihood of bridging the employment gap without questioning current educational systems and skills development mechanisms in Nigeria is almost zero. Thus, there is an urgent need for reforms in the Nigerian educational sector to break the “skills-gap curse”. Incorporating more job-related and entrepreneurial skills into the education curricula of students in Nigeria could substantially increase their level of employability by prospective employers and prepare them as future entrepreneurs and employers themselves. Apart from comprehensive vocational training, there is also a need to revamp the agricultural education curriculum in both lower and higher education institutions to better prepare students of agriculture for the agricultural job market in Nigeria. This will also help substantially in the long run to enhance capacity development in this crucial area at sub-national and national levels, while at the same time making agriculture an attractive employment sector for the Nigerian youth.