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“ Start Small, Learn Fast, and Grow Big”

An Interview with Molade Adeniyi, CEO, WAVE

The Nigeria Bureau of Statistics (NBS) reports Nigeria’s youth population eligible to work is about 44 million, out of which only 19.7 million are fully employed. The youth population is also about 64% of the total unemployed Nigerians; this means that the most agile working-class population remains unemployed. Molade Adeniyi is CEO of WAVE. An organisation focused on leveling the playing field for young people to access the skills and the opportunity to become what they imagine. She is responsible for setting business goals, strategies, and direction to generate opportunities that deliver continuous impact, sustainable revenue, and growth value to the organisation. Molade’s experience includes Business Development, operational and strategic management of special projects in line with the organisation’s strategy for growth, Learning and Development, Marketing & Communications, as well as People Management. A Registered Pharmacist with the Pharmacists Council of Nigeria and the General Pharmaceutical Council UK. She has completed the Senior Management Program at Lagos Business School. She holds a post-graduate Diploma in Pharmacy Practice with specialisation in Strategic Management & Marketing from Kings College, University of London, UK. Molade is a 2021 Perennial Leadership Fellow as well as a 2021 West Africa Acumen Fellow. As WAVE Turns 8, she spoke to Lehle Balde about vocational training, the unemployment gap in Nigeria, and more.


Wave at 8. That’s huge. What does this mean in terms of the direct impact on youth unemployment in the country?

We are excited to be celebrating our 8th anniversary. It has been eight years of working with youth and our Growth Partners to give them the relevant skills required to find work and improve their livelihoods.

Over the last eight years, WAVE has trained over 50,000 youths both directly and through our Growth Partners. At least 70% of the youths trained have either been connected to work, started their businesses, or found work independently. This is 50000 young people that were otherwise locked out of the job market due to a lack of university degree and relevant work experience.

Many organizations have the objective to bridge the unemployment gap. You help Nigerian youth move from financially precarious work, like urban street hawking, to more stable jobs in the formal economy, such as shop supervisors or restaurant managers – jobs that maximize their potential and provide steady employment. Can you talk us through the WAVE model specifically?

At WAVE, our model is simple—screen, Train, Match, and Support.

Over the years, we have developed strategies to find youth within their communities, and we have tools to screen the youth for drive and commitment. After the admission process, which lets us admit the youths who are truly ready to transform their lives, they go through a 12-day practical training session on the soft skills (some call them life skills) necessary for work. Graduating youths are then sent on a 1 – 2-week job shadow/ internship, which allows them to get relevant on-the-job experience and practice all the skills learned. We work with employer partners across various industries and connect graduated youths with open vacancies across our growing employer partners. WAVE alumni continue to receive on-the-job support through coaching and mentoring, ensuring that they continue to excel.

Read also: Call for skills revolution mounts amid rising youth unemployment

Youth unemployment is a silent problem that requires involvement from many stakeholders. How have you worked with relevant industry stakeholders?

Three years ago, we started our Ready4Work movement. Through our ReadyForWork initiative, we aim to build a movement of diverse stakeholders in Nigeria who recognize the value of competency-based hiring. WAVE provides stakeholders with the knowledge and tools to facilitate more inclusive hiring practices and grow a network of trainers, educators, employers, and government ministries dedicated to developing market-relevant skills in Nigerian youth.

The shifts in hiring attitudes and practices are vital to creating systemic change that will give underserved youth fair and equal employment opportunities. We are also working with the relevant stakeholders to push for a total reform of our curriculum across all education levels so that our youth graduate with the appropriate job-ready skills and the technical skills they already have. Over and over again, employers have mentioned that what is lacking in graduating youth are these soft skills which make all the difference to job performance.

We, therefore, tackle the problem of youth unemployment holistically.

How does someone get involved with WAVE?
For Job Seekers, we run our training program both online and in-person, and our training program runs throughout the year. For more information on our training program, visit or contact our admissions team on 0817 723 6925
Partner with us in increasing the number of employable youths across West Africa and be a Growth Partner for WAVE’s demand-driven training model.
Volunteer at WAVE and help us with web development, social media management, community building, and other initiatives.
Be our Ambassador for the competency-based hiring movement and help push for more inclusive hiring and employment practices in Nigeria.

Become an Employer Partner and support us by providing internship opportunities for the youth and also job opportunities, especially for your entry-level positions
Donate and see how your generosity helps us make the world a better place for young Nigerians. Your donation can support trainers through the training and, ultimately, help us reach more Nigerian youths.
Visit our website for more information

In your view, what needs to be done early on to ensure that youth are employable and directly contribute to the betterment of the national economy?

Interesting question. We need a total reform of our education system right from primary school level to university. Our curriculum across all layers of education needs reviewing and revamping to incorporate life and leadership skills, so that youth are ready to embrace the world of work. The future of work is changing,g and as we have seen, more and more emphasis is placed on these life skills; he could not afford to go to university as he continues to support his parents to look after his siblings and put food on the table. Despite looking for work in other industries and places, this was the only employer willing to offer him employment. Every other place he tried, he was met with the same narrative. He needed a university degree and at least two years of work experience to be considered an entry-level role in a non-technical field. Emmanuel had neither of these and was effectively locked out.

Without any other option or person to help, he reluctantly accepted the gas station attendant job to support his family and himself. One day, he heard about the WAVE training program on the radio while at work, and what caught his attention was the statement, ‘Looking for work, speak to us today.

He traveled the 100 miles to the WAVE academy, where he met with one of our outreach and admissions coordinators who explained the process to him. Emmanuel will have to undergo a simple assessment to check for eligibility (ability to speak and comprehend basic English, writing basic English, aged 18-35, personality tests such as grit, diligence, and willingness to learn). After completing the assessment, he will have to engage in a 2-week in-class training on employability skills and a 2-week job internship placement before being considered for open job vacancies.

Emmanuel was initially skeptical because of the time commitment, but he decided to give it a shot. He found a close friend to stay with and walked the 30 minutes to the training centre every day for the 12-day training period. Emmanuel was determined to squeeze every juice out of the training. He fully immersed himself in all the learning opportunities, participating in activities that highlighted employability skills from communication skills to teamwork to emotional intelligence. The sessions are a combination of teaching, and practical sessions, including trainee-led sessions.

At the end of the 12-day training session, Emmanuel was matched with an employer to complete his 2-week internship. He was so diligent and used the principles from the training session, and after his internship, the employer offered Emmanuel a full-time job. This was the beginning of a turnaround for Emmanuel, who was now earning ₦125,000 a month. Over the next few years, Emmanuel attended the weekly WAVE alumni sessions to continue improving their skills. Now he is in is a position to feed himself and his family and is getting ready to return to full-time education to train a chef.

Emmanuel is one of our WAVE stars, and I am proud to say that there are many more like him. He fully typifies our motto of Start Small, Learn Fast, and Grow Big.

Integrity, Putting People First, Teamwork, Accountability, Manage Expectations are part of your core values. Can you elaborate on why these values are essential to the success of your organisation?

Our core values are the bedrock of our work. We believe in not just talking about them but walking the talk. Putting People First means thinking of how our actions or inactions will affect our colleagues, trainees, employers, and everyone we come in contact with. We believe that Individuals who show integrity in the workplace understand right from wrong and practice it in all they do, from showing up on time to admitting mistakes and using them as a learning opportunity. There is no I in our team; we win together and learn from our mistakes collectively. We do not pass blame. We take responsibility for our actions at all times. We do not believe that we have all the answers, and we are a team that is always looking to learn new things. We manage each other’s and our stakeholder’s expectations as a way of building and maintaining trust. All these together are what have kept us in line with achieving our vision.

As CEO, what does success look like for you?

Success for me is encapsulated in our vision as an organisation which is ‘A world where every young African has the skills and the opportunities to become what they imagine.’

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