Call for skills revolution mounts amid rising youth unemployment

Nigeria needs to upgrade its 19th-century industrial Britain skills and focus more on 21st century skills to address the country’s rising youth unemployment, experts say.

According to the experts, the need for the upgrade to digital skills, such as software engineering, Artificial Intelligence (AI), robotics, payment solutions, creative design, digital applications, data analysis etc. have become even more urgent as the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many businesses to go digital in order to survive.

“Education in Nigeria needs to be updated and made fit for purpose. The roots of Nigeria’s education system lie in 19th-century industrial Britain, where the aim was to produce workers for factories and provide a kindergarten for parents who were already working in them,” Andrew Alli, the chief executive officer at African investment bank SouthBridge said.

Alli believed that digital skills will help people who are hit the hardest in terms of job losses.

Nigeria’s economy is currently grappling with a high unemployment rate of 33.3 percent; and this number could increase further.

The investment banker insisted that greater emphasis must be put on technical skills, such as electrician training and computer literacy, as opposed to academic subjects.

Also, Jennifer Oyelade, director of Transquisite Consulting, a UK and Nigerian registered Recruitment and Training Consultancy, told BusinessDay that a lot of organisations in Nigeria were still doing things manually and relying on folders and files in order to retain information.

Read Also: Talents discovery will reduce Nigeria’s youth unemployment rise – Chukwuogo

“Once Nigeria starts adopting more digital practice in the workplace and when digital transformation comes, Nigerians will have that skill set to be able to absorb the opportunities that the transformation will bring,” Oyelade said.

The World Economic Forum predicts that by 2030 some level of digital skills will be required for 50-55 percent of jobs in Kenya, 35-45 percent in Cote d’Ivoire, Nigeria, and Rwanda, and 20-25 percent in Mozambique.

The relevance of digital transformation has made top tech companies like Google invest one billion dollars in Africa’s digital transformation. Also, in 2020, Microsoft introduced a global skills initiative to provide digital skills to more than 25 million people worldwide.

In a recent tweet, Iyinoluwa Aboyeji, the co-founder of Andela tweeted that in 2021, close to $3 billion will be pumped into the tech industry in Africa. “Those numbers will only be getting bigger. Do your future self and your generation a favour and switch to tech.”

Nigeria has a young and vibrant youth population of over 65 percent but a huge digital skills gap exists among them. A report by International Finance Corporation (IFC) highlights the existence of a skills gap, out-dated curriculum in engineering programmes and lack of opportunities for students to apply skills learned in the classroom in most African countries including Nigeria.

Additionally, a recent 2020 National Youth Survey shows that out of a total of 23.4 million people surveyed, 21.8 million can browse the internet. By using that same total number of 23.4 million people for each category of computer literacy , 9.7 million said they have skills in word processing, followed by 3.6 million, 2.7 million and 1.3 million who have skills in graphics and design, specialised software packages and certified IT professionals respectively.

For skills to be upgraded, investment is important. But Africa’s biggest economic investment in education is poor compared to its neighbouring countries.

“We are spending less on education than Ghana and I am not talking in terms of percentage of the budget but in absolute terms, even the Ghanaian economy is much smaller than Nigerian own,” Muhammad Sanusi, the former governor of the Central Bank of Nigeria said at the closing ceremony of the Kaduna Investment Summit held last month.

Over the past few years, budgetary allocation to education has not been more than seven percent of its total budget. The United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) said the country has 13 million children out of school, the highest in the world.

“A greater focus on technical skills would equip Nigerians better for the future without breaking the budget,” Alli advised.

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