• Thursday, July 18, 2024
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Certificates over competence pushing people to focus on attaining degree, instead of building competence – Adeniji

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Modupe Adeniji, also known as Dupe Adeniji, is the founder and Managing Director of TEM Nigeria, a leading human capacity development and training company, she has established herself as a visionary leader and transformational entrepreneur.

Driven by a passion for unlocking the full potential of individuals and projects, Modupe guides TEM Nigeria in delivering exceptional value to its clients. The company specializes in helping individuals and organizations efficiently identify, develop, and enhance their skill sets and abilities. In this interview with IFEOMA OKEKE-KORIEOCHA, she speaks on her passion for human development, how she helps connect prospective employee with the right skills with employers of labour through TEM Nigeria and what universities should do to ensure graduates remain employable.

Take us through your journey of founding TEM Nigeria and what needs did you hope to address through TEM?

My journey started many years before TEM Nigeria officially started. I was preparing for Law school when my mother broached the subject of lucrative business prospects in a market that is yet to be tapped in Nigeria. We would discuss almost every business possibility as she was a businesswoman herself. We eventually decided to open a finishing school in Nigeria and the need for a partner arose. We began a partner search which would eventually take about 10 years. Most Etiquette companies in the UK didn’t want to have anything to do with Nigeria then. I was rejected so many times but didn’t give up. We changed strategies at some point and started searching for an etiquette brand that would sell us their franchise. Many of them told me that they had been advised by security and government agencies not to do business in Nigeria or with Nigerians but I kept on pushing. They extended a hand of friendship but declined doing business in Nigeria. I would meet with them frequently when I was in the UK and one of those times I thought, well, let me get their then managing director. I took him around Lagos, to my home, had fixed meetings with firms and potential clients in the banks, law firms, and government agencies and generally took him around Lagos. I showed him who we are as Nigerians and impressed on him that not all Nigerians are fraudsters. That was how we signed the agreement by the fifth day of our guest’s trip. Over the years, we have grown into a soft skills consultancy and training company, and now run two arms of the business, TEM Nigeria which focuses on soft skills training and The English Manor Nigeria which focuses on etiquette trainings for a diverse group of people, ranging from children to groups and companies.

TEM Nigeria is said to specialise in helping individuals and organisations efficiently identify, develop, and enhance their skill sets and abilities. Are there specific skills you focus or specialise on or is it all skills you help enhance?

At TEM Nigeria we focus on soft skills training. We understand that soft skills are a necessity and the foundation of any professional development plan. We focus on; Communication skills, both oral and written, interpersonal, presentation & listening skills. Emotional intelligence, covering emotional regulation, impulse control, empathy, handling stress, and dispute resolution. Critical thinking and problems solving, adaptability and flexibility, cross-functional collaboration, networking and teamwork, leadership and management, cultural competence, diversity awareness, environmental and social sensitivity, customer service, negotiation and persuasion, and finally digital literacy, which covers familiarity with distributed Teams technologies, networking etiquette or manners as they apply to the use of computers and the Internet. Balancing the work worlds while working remotely.

How do you help connect prospective employee with the right skills with employers of labour ?

Among some of what we do at our organisation at TEM Nigeria which aims to assist the ‘unemployable’ graduates who lack the skills to fit into the workplace is a blend of education, training, mentorship, and support. We implement some of these strategies; Gap Analysis and Skills Assessment: where we carry out surveys in a bid to ascertain defects of graduates in certain skills. We employ these tests in order to develop intended training and development programs based on the participants’ deficiencies.

We also offer customised training programs, internships, mentorship programs, soft skills training, career counselling and guidance, networking opportunities, and various platform for continuous learning and development. TEM Nigeria actively partners with educational institutions. At the moment, I am also in negotiations with some universities regarding the placement of certain curricula in industries, as I believe that for our institutions to produce more competent talents we have to work together to transform the educational system in Nigeria. We need to create curricula that have components in experience and project implementation.

Is it possible that we have graduates from the Nigerian universities that lack skills to fit into the workplace today?

Yes we do, and it is fast becoming a pandemic. I mean something you hear many business owners talk about is how hard it is to source and retain great talent. This speaks to your question on the level of unemployability we are experiencing in today’s workforce.

If the above is true, what could be the reason?

To the best of my knowledge, some of the reasons include; the usage of outdated curriculum in our educational institutions, specifically the higher institutions in Nigeria. A significant percentage of the educational institutions in Nigeria still implement a curriculum which is not harmonized with skills required in the job market and the level of technology today. Most of these curricula have a theoretical focus, hence our graduates end up lacking practical and problem-solving skills. I also believe that there is a significant disconnection between educational institutions and the industry, and this doesn’t give room for the curriculum to be frequently revised to fit the market necessities. On the part of employers, there has been an emphasis on certificates over competence which pushes more people to focus on attaining degree, instead of building competence.

What do you think our universities could do to ensure people do not just graduate but also remain employable and have entrepreneurial mindset after their studies in the university?

Universities need to foster more industry partnerships and collaborations, to ensure that they have enough information about the innovations and changes happening across diverse industries, and then reform their curriculum in a way that gives students a more practical experience with the market. I personally think that some of these initiatives can be targeted at students right from senior secondary school level, and even offer them a 6-month to 1-year internship opportunity in their fields of interest even before they move into the university. This will help them approach learning with a mindset to apply their knowledge to solve problems in their fields of interest.

There also needs to be ample exposure to global trends. We need to give our students access to information on exchange programmes and inter-affiliation functions as these help the students to interface with current practices from the global world. Encourage the participants in almost all their related gatherings such as international conferences, workshops and seminars. Enrol them in research endeavours and other related activities such as research competitions, and hackathons amongst others. We also need to enhance and implement appropriate career services that include resume writing and mock interviews, job search services and coming up with career guidance services to assist the student to relate the most suitable career with the course he/she is undertaking. I know that this is currently being implemented in certain universities, but we can do more on that front.

Why the passion for human development?

Capacity development is an essential component that forms the basis for individual, organizational, and social change. It enables people to make their own decisions, stimulates economic and social development, and assists communities and countries to construct a stable and sound future. I am very passionate about empowering people to be better and do better, and this passion is expressed through TEM Nigeria and The English Manor Nigeria.

What remarkable success stories have you recorded from TEM Nigeria?

We’ve recently closed applications for our free employability training, and we are heading straight into the program in a few weeks. I am very excited about the transformation that is about to happen with our 35 selected participants. This is a one-day training on various soft-skills needed to thrive in today’s job market and the future of work. I am very proud of how far TEM Nigeria has come, securing partnerships with both local and global industry leaders, and delivering stellar trainings and consultancy to multinationals, government agencies, as well as private entities. But we are just getting started.

Did your upbringing or family influence your choice of career path?

I would state that my family had a rather large impact on the career I have chosen. As I pointed out earlier my mother played a very influential role in my current type of business and as for Law, it was both parents.

Could you mention some of the clients you manage and how have you been able to sustain these major clients?

In a bid to sustain the relationships with the clients of TEM Nigeria, which is of course a training consultancy firm, we have and will continue to apply several strategies that are aimed at creating value, especially in communicating and creating trust with our clients. We make sure that there is frequent contact like scheduling and having subsequent meetings that cover updates and developments, Individualized Treatment, in which clients’ peculiarities are taken into account when interacting with them and providing services. We also attempt to create value with a relatively low volatility. And, of course, flexibility and adaptability, as we are always ready to change/truncate your services according to the client’s needs or other crucial circumstances. We have indeed been privileged to work for several companies and public organisations including but not limited to Bank of Industry, Nassarawa state, Lagos State, and some of the ministries, TETFUND, NNPC and some of what they call subsidiaries, Polaris Bank, FBN Trustees, FCMB, ACCESS Bank, Nestoil OandO Dangote Sugar, Sahara Energy, EkoDisco etc. And even such celebrities who decided to preserve their identity unknown to the public.

Is the Japa wave in Nigeria currently affecting your business, especially as skilled workers seek greener pastures in other countries?

The Japa trend is definitely affecting us. While we cannot blame our young people for actively seeking greener pastures, the effect of this mass migration is evident. Many businesses have lost top talent to this trend. But I’d like to think that this also offers multiple opportunities for the people who are still here to upskill, improve themselves, and step into more impactful roles that have been left vacant due to this Japa trend.

Do you think relocating out of the country is a better way to address the current employment gap in Nigeria?

Relocating is NOT a way to address the current unemployment gap in Nigeria. To address the employment gap, we need to transform our education system, provide more practical opportunities for our students to gain the skills that are most relevant in today’s workforce, and encourage an enterprise mindset in our youth.

What sets you apart from other human capacity development firms in Nigeria?

Customization and adaptability make us different from other capacity development firms in Nigeria. With our detailed understanding of diverse industries, we can design, develop and deliver customized programs and initiatives to each unique client. Our approach to training is creative, based on integration of practical and fun activities to enhance participants learning styles and retention.

We also offer a business-like strategic approach where we strive to achieve set goals and confirm the set ROI for customers.

Finally, long-term cooperation based on trust, direct transparency of the offer and strong reliability for the client help us to maintain great business-customer relationship.