‘We prioritise human capital development, employment as key to achieving sustainable economic development’

Arinze Chilo-Offiah, is the special adviser to the Enugu State governor on SME Development and Investment Promotion, as well as head, Enugu SME Centre. Since his appointment in 2019, he has worked to refocus the interest of the youths in the state, train and empower them to earn good living and impact the state economy. In this interview, Chilo-Offiah unveils to Obinna Emelike, feats at the SME Centre, the novel e-YES initiative, among other empowerment schemes in the state.

Congratulations on your appointment. How has it been at the SME Centre and what is e-YES all about?

The SME Centre is all about job creation and empowerment. It has been a wonderful experience engaging and helping people to realize their ambitions.

Moreover, since the commencement of my tenure as the Special Adviser, SME Development and Investment Promotion & Head, Enugu SME Center in November 2019, we decided to refocus our strategies on the following impact areas: access to credit (Enugu Loan), access to job creation schemes (Enugu Jobs) and access to capacity development programs.

Well, the Enugu Youth Employment Scheme (e-YES), is one of the many programs in our result-oriented Enugu Human Capital Development Loan scheme.

The e-YES program is a partnership with Wild Fusion Limited, an IT and technology company, through its Wild Fusion Digital Center to up-skill hundreds in several certified digital marketing capacities.

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It is expected to run for 4 weeks and consists of in class sessions, offline sessions. However, after the training period, some applicants would be assisted in getting job placements. Others would be supported through the Gig economy where the program would provide access to jobs for these “entrepreneurs”, tracking, and enabling repayment of the human capital development loan (HCDL).

Why the focus on youths and digital economy?

The youths constitute almost half of the state’s population and engaging them productively implies more productivity, positive impact on the gross domestic product (GDP), and most importantly, reduction in crime and restiveness in the state.

Also Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi (Gburu Gburu), the Executive Governor, Enugu State, has the interest of the youths in mind, hence the initiative is part of his critical human development projects.

We are focusing on the digital economy because we are a forward-looking government and we have also recognizedthe place of technology and digitization, which are obviously the new currencies in the world today. As well, the digital world offers limitless opportunities and space to everyone to work from anywhere and earn a living.

What makes e-YES different and how sustainable is it beyond the first phase?

The difference is our realistic approach and the commitment of our working Governor Rt. Hon. Ifeanyi Ugwuanyi to the empowerment of youths across the state. Also, we are not going the whole mile alone. We are partnering with a renowned technology company, but the HCDL program will definitely make the scheme work because it is practical and deliverable.

There are many youths from the state who may be interested in the initiative, how do you ensure that those who really need it are engaged in the training and empowerment?

We run an open system devoid of any form of nepotism and that is why we made the training open to all youths from the state. Registration is free. Again, it is limited to jobseekers and youths who are interested in acquiring digital skills in areas such as: Advertising, Digital Marketing, Internet Promotion, SMS Marketing, Search Engine Optimization (SEO), Analytics and Content Marketing. Moreover, Wild Fusion is a competent partner and it is helping us to get the right people and the best out of the training.

It is stated that the state is providing the training loan, why loan and how are the beneficiaries going to repay the loan?

At the Agency, we have taken the radical step of identifying Human Capital as the most important sector for funding. We have prioritized human capital development and employment as key to achieving sustainable economic development in the state. The Loan-For-Jobs Scheme is for youths, unemployed and underemployed to access training. In conjunction with a private sector anchor, we shall conduct intensive up-skilling training programs across various competencies in all sectors. These newly evolved human capital then get retained by the private sector firms that have partnered with the program. We then recover the loan for their training through small monthly deductions over 6-10 months (depending on the cost of the training) from their monthly salaries. This would ensure they take the program seriously and gives comfort to the employer with respect to the retention rates.

Who are you engaging to do the training on behalf of the state and what is their track record and competence?

Our private sector partner, Wild Fusion, is a certified and experienced trainer with affiliation to the Digital Marketing Institute of Ireland; a globally recognized digital training body, to equip the youths with the gainful digital skills. Moreover, the outfit has an international certification and validation to deliver quality digital marketing training among hundreds centres around the world. It has also trained thousands over the years who are gainfully employed and delivering value to their employers. We are optimistic that Wild Fusion will deliver and help the trainees to find their feet in the digital economy.

When is the training commencing and how many youths are you targeting?

We are done with the registration process. The training will start any moment from now. We are starting with 300 youths in the first batch, but we are targeting thousands under the e-Yes program and several other innovative job programs under Enugu Jobs®.