Bridging the Skills Gap through Volunteering
One of the greatest challenges facing the Nigerian economy is unemployment, which has maintained a rising trend over the years.
In a recently released unemployment data report published by the National Bureau of Statistics, it was stated that Nigeria’s unemployment and underemployment rate at Q2 2020 is at 55.7% combined.
Several factors may be responsible for this predominance of youth unemployment in Nigeria, including, deficient school curricula and poor teacher training which isn’t preparing students with the appropriate skills to make them employable. Young people are caught in a viscous cycle, besides not having the right skills to get the available jobs, most employers required work experience from fresh graduates. With this comes in the problem of skills gap.
The World Economic Forum in 2015 (WEF) defines the “skills gap” as the space between skills job seekers currently have and the skills employers are seeking.
The skills gap is a complex problem that requires attention not just in Nigeria but in many developing countries and the number of young people especially fresh graduates who are affected by unemployment due to a lack of both hard and soft skills are increasing daily. To bridge this growing gulf between the skills young need and the available job vacancies, we will need an unconventional approach: this is where volunteering comes in.
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What, though, does volunteering mean? According to Wikipedia, “Volunteering is a voluntary act of an individual or group freely giving time and labour for community service.” I like to define volunteering as the act of giving the gift of your time to a cause.
After over a decade working in the nonprofit space in Nigeria, I have seen firsthand how volunteer work broadens and deepens experiences of volunteers, providing them skill development in a way that is often not possible or available to them elsewhere, and even though some people still see volunteering as a pass-time, this can be redefined.
The difference with fresh graduates who were active volunteers on campus with organizations such as AIESEC, ENACTUS, Junior Chambers International (JCI) etc and those who are not, is clear. In my experience, volunteering with these organizations on campus enhances the personal skillset, attitudes and knowledge of their members that can potentially help them in the labour market.
Volunteering helps young people become competent, develop skills which prepare them for life and work, build their confidence, widens their social circle, and helps them creates broader network of contacts that could be beneficial later in life. Among everything else that volunteering can offer, it’s an amazing way to prepare young people for work opportunities in the future and this can bridge the skills gaps.
With the unemployment and unemployment rate in Nigeria at 55.7%, young people are desperately looking for jobs, particularly recent graduates, and knowing many employers don’t train anymore, the experience and skills gained from volunteering with nonprofits can be invaluable.
Graduates who volunteer actively while job searching can develop soft skills such as presentation, team building, goal setting, problem solving and adaptability, while trying out new things in a relatively risk-free environment.
Since volunteering is, well, voluntary, employers and recruiters tend to see it as a sign that the candidate is motivated and takes initiative. Without the compensation of wages, volunteering indicates personal motivation to contribute to the lives of others.
Volunteering is not the only solutions to solving the unemployment crisis, but an approach that has worked over the years. It will not end the crisis, but is a step especially for anyone without work experience and skills.
Raquel Kasham Daniel
Raquel is a community mobilizer and development strategist with over a decade of experience working in marginalized communities in Nigeria focusing on education for children and sexual & reproductive health for adolescent girls. She is the founder of Beyond the Classroom Foundation, author of “Flow: A Girl’s Guide to Menstruation” and “There’s a New Virus in Town: A Corona Awareness Book for Children”.
She has a Bachelor’s degree in Education from the University of Lagos, and also obtained a Certificate from the Enterprise Development Centre of Pan Atlantic University in Social Sector Management as a Coca-Cola Scholar. Her passion for volunteerism led to start Nzuriaiki; a platform that showcases volunteer opportunities in Nigeria. In her free time, Raquel loves reading, spending time with family, travelling, and chasing after new adventures.