• Thursday, May 23, 2024
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How private, non-profit organisations tackle unemployment

WAVE’s 56 class graduation picture picture (1)

That unemployment in Nigeria stands at 23 percent as at third quarter of 2018, according to figures from the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), indicates that unemployment is a glaring stain in the country’s fabric.

While the government has done little to address this critical national issue, economic experts agree that government alone cannot provide employment for all citizens within the working age. This is why private and social sector organisations, in their own ways, are synergising to ensure that many Nigerians get employment.

One of the organisations in the lead of confronting the unemployment menace by using avant-garde ideas and innovative approaches to expand the frontiers of job creation and placement in the country is West Africa Vocational Education (WAVE), a not-for-profit organisation based in Yaba, Lagos.

In this clime where many believe that getting a job or creating one is seemingly difficult, the co-founder of WAVE, Misan Rewane, does not think so. One of the reasons she founded WAVE was because she enjoys challenging paradigms. 

“I like making the unthinkable thinkable,” she had said in a recent interview, adding that, “I see WAVE playing an ‘innovator role’ in rewiring education-to-employment systems across the continent, testing and designing new ways to deliver competency-based education in close partnership with industry.”

One of the striking aspects of WAVE’s learning space is the inspirational aura that it commends. Powerful motivational quotes on creativity and leadership that adorn the classroom walls are enough to set someone on the right track. One of the posters says ‘Wave goodbye to endless entry level job searches’. WAVE believes that, over the years, this declaration has been a promise kept because 70 percent of its alumni are in employments, entrepreneurship or furthering their education.

WAVE tackles unemployment from a single angle—through teaching hardworking young people skills they require to find work and, more importantly, to succeed at work so they could start a career and build a brighter future. WAVE’s philosophy is that competency is more valuable than credentials or certificates.

Its mission is ‘To level the playing field for underserved African youth by building an ecosystem that supports relevant skills development and increased incomes for work-ready youth.’ This it is achieving by influencing education to replicate the first part of its model: competency-based education driven by market demands.

Rewane spoke on the type of people qualified for the kind of services they offer and the type of companies or organisations they partner with to actualise their mission.

“All we ask of the jobseekers is literacy and numeracy skills, and a growth mindset,” she said. “The employers are only required to align ideologically with our terms and conditions. The organisations simply need to have a willingness to learn our methodology.”

WAVE believes that its students’ jobs start when they are undergoing training not after they graduate. Its pragmatic method of instruction that encapsulates its mission is reflected in one of its slogans: ‘Dream big, start small, learn fast, grow big.’ 

The modus operandi of WAVE is perhaps its most interesting and innovative story. Fortunately, the students do not have to pay for the one-month intensive-training fee if they cannot afford it. When they secure a job on their own or when WAVE finds them a suitable level-entry job according to their location, performance and interest, they would offset their fees, which could be done in three instalments.

However, in the event any of the successful graduates could not secure a job or offset the training fee within the stipulated time, there is room for negotiation. “This scenario is uncommon, because many of them pay within the time frame they are supposed to pay,” Kike Akintoye, one of the staff, said.

Rewane shed more light on how they get funding. “Our academies aim to cover their costs through a mix of philanthropy, training fees and recruitment fees. Our corporate training also serves to cross-subsidise our training of unemployed youths.”

The one-month training is split into two stages: the two-week classroom training stage and the one-to-two-week internship stage. The two-week classroom stage comprises five main instructional models and practicals. The models include communication, problem solving, managing expectations, teamwork and time management.

According to one of the employees, both in-house and visiting instructors handle these models. “Some resource persons come to teach and motivate the students. They talk about their success stories and how they got where they are. The students benefit a lot from these interactions,” he said.

The internship stage involves matching the trainees to short-term opportunities to develop practical skills and experience while shadowing existing employees in their assigned workplace. Currently, WAVE boasts over 300 employer partners across Lagos and other cities in Nigeria like Ibadan and Owerri.

Some of these businesses—which are mainly in the hospitality and retail industries, bakeries, restaurants, supermarkets and boutiques—include, but not limited to, Hans and Rene, Nok by Alara, Sweet Kiwi, Mr. Price, Artist and Scientist, Nylah’s and Catering, Amazon Spur, Fitness Fair.

“We are currently planning to synergise with other businesses in Abeokuta and Abuja,” Akintoye said, adding that, “Sometimes, many of our employer partners have employed over 1500 youth across our programmes.”

Recently, WAVE’s Yaba Academy graduated 48 students of its 56 cohort, having graduated over 300 youths this year. In their graduation ceremony, amid joy and confidence, the graduands spoke about their lives before WAVE, their challenges and what they wanted to become in the near future.

Faith Avuru sought admission in two tertiary institutions, but could not get in. She felt disappointed. She heard about WAVE from a church member and showed interest. She learnt about communication, public speaking, negotiation, teamwork, and others.

“One of the challenges I encountered in WAVE was when we were asked to go outside and find ten things that are difficult to get around WAVE and its environs. That day, I came back with two items, and I was like wah, I tried,” she said. “I job shadowed at WAVE where I was in charge of outreach and admissions. In five years’ time, I want to be a chartered account. I’ll like to work in one of these big companies, Chevron for example, which I know is possible.”

Goodluck Etim was once a teacher, but due to some circumstance he lost his job and his house. That was how he got to WAVE. He thought everything would be simple in WAVE, but life became tough coupled with the class stress. He contemplated quitting, but summoned courage and saw it through.

”I’m here now saying WAVE is amazing and fantastic,” he said. “The most challenge I had in WAVE was when we were asked to design a paper bag and sell it to the public. At first, I thought it was a joke. But, I succeed in selling it for 20 naira—something I thought anybody would buy. I job shadowed at Mr. Price at Ikeja where I was a sales representative. In five years, I want to be a secondary school teacher. With the various skills I’ve acquired in WAVE, I should be able to do this well.”

Comfort Inyang worked as a sales representative. While on the job, a friend told her to come to WAVE, that she would get a better job there. Due to the fact she was not getting what she wanted from the sales job, she resigned and enrolled in WAVE.

“I learnt a lot of things in WAVE, including how to write a CV that is presentable to an employer. Before now, all I do is to go to cyber cafés and copy someone else’s CV and change some things in it without knowing what I was doing. I also learnt how to compose and conduct myself during interviews,” she said. “I Job shadowed at Craft Gourmet. Communication skills and teamwork helped me to blend well with the staff of where I was posted. In five years, I’ll like to be a military person. I want to join the navy, in their educational department.”

Within its six years of existence, WAVE has successfully graduated over 3000 youth, majority of whom do not possess tertiary education. It has partnerships with the National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) and Lagos State Ready Set Work Programme. Furthermore, over six thousand secondary and university students have benefited from employability skills training through WAVE partnerships with governments.

This is an indication that WAVE is making progress towards realising its vision: ‘A world where every African youth has the skills and the opportunity to become what they imagine.’

Speaking on WAVE’s challenges, Misan Rewane stressed that it is really challenging when your products are people and you are selling a variable product on both sides when what each side needs is certainty. A jobseeker wants certainty around the condition of employment. An employer wants certainty about the commitment and the ability of the candidate to perform on the job. She noted that these are factors they could only influence, not fully control.

“Certainty about employment conditions and candidate commitment is done through vetting. But there is only so much vetting WAVE, the jobseeker and the employer can truly do on each end,” she said. “This is just one of the many paradoxes in the work we do.”

Asked why WAVE has ‘West Africa’ as part of its name, but seems to operate only in Nigeria, Rewane stated that it serves as a reminder that they have aspiration to serve young Africans, educators and employers well beyond Nigeria. “In 2019, we supported training providers from Senegal to Benin (and beyond) in designing demand-driven training programmes,” she said.

 

Kingsley Alumona

 

 Alumona contributed this piece from Ibadan, Oyo State.