Impact of low-quality education on Nigeria’s corporate pipeline
Why has there been a steady increase in the unemployment rate among university graduates? What’s the long-term impact of the unemployment of university graduates on the development of Nigeria? Why do many organizations in Nigeria struggle to build a robust talent pipeline? How come employers have positions available, but struggle to fill these positions despite the abundance of unemployed university graduates? These are some of the questions that I have tried to answer and understand in the past four years.
According to an article from the United Nations ‘Africa Renewal’ magazine, “It is widely accepted that most of Africa’s education and training programs suffer from low-quality teaching and learning.” In particular, the impact of low-quality education has a far-reaching ramifications on the economic development of a nation. This is illustrated in a report by the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) on income inequality within sub-Saharan Africa, which shows that quality education has the potential to help reduce poverty by increasing the adequate skill acquisition of its recipients, thereby ensuring employability which will lead to higher income generation for their families.
In Nigeria for instance, even though research shows how soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030, less emphasis has been placed on the high-quality development of these soft skills within tertiary institutions. Thus, employers have expressed frustration over the skills mismatch exhibited by fresh university graduates when compared with the soft skills required in the workplace. This has led to a low hiring rate of graduates who were trained within the country. Rather, the focus has been placed on recruiting professionals who studied abroad and have experienced higher educational quality. This recruitment of professionals from abroad isn’t a solution that factors in the sustainability of human capital and the long-term economic growth of Nigeria.
Additionally, in a research paper that addresses the reason why corporate establishments in Nigeria prefer overseas qualifications for recruitment, O.R. Akanji et al posited that “There is this pervasive agreement in many developing countries that the government should provide most of the funding for public higher education. This is however different from what is obtained in some developed countries on account those economists have argued that the benefits from higher education accrue to individuals and were therefore of ‘private good’ for which individuals and families should pay accordingly.” This public-good position of Nigerians, which leaves the responsibility of curriculum development and delivery to the government, has led to a continuous decline in sustaining high-quality education which places premium focus on essential soft skills as desired by corporate establishments.
What modern students and professionals require at this time is an experience that would embody quality learning that focuses on both disciplinary knowledge and soft skills
To narrow the talent acquisition gap in the short term, organizations in Nigeria need to reimagine workforce skills development. Businesses can take a lead in some areas, including on-the-job training and providing opportunities for employees to reskill and upskill. In such instances, organizations can work with a finishing school that focuses on providing courses that close the skills gap. For example, residence courses deployed by BMGA Enterprise Limited (BMGA) via a dedicated online learning platform are designed to equip professionals at all levels with relevant skills, such as Business Writing, Emotional Intelligence, Story Intelligence, among others, which impact productivity and facilitate a mindset shift for the embracement of principles that are necessary for the current environment and the future of work.
Furthermore, businesses can also work with talent incubators that have a track record of transforming recent graduates into employable professionals regardless of the quality of education within their country of study. These talent incubators will provide customized training and courses for new recruits within corporate organizations which will enable their stellar job performance. Alternatively, corporate organizations can recruit new employees from the pipeline of talent produced from such incubators through a shadowing program for selected participants.
The BMGA Fellows Program is one example of a talent incubator that blends skills acquisition with gender mainstreaming in Africa. It is a social impact initiative designed to narrow the skills gap amongst university graduates. As a six-month online learning program, it provides young women with access to knowledge and resources required to gain fundamental employability skills that strengthen their marketability for a successful career in the 21st Century. Although the acquisition of high-level soft skills is a major objective of the program; however, the emphasis on a mindset change that is focused on a global outlook, self-actualization, and civic-mindedness, ensures that participants of the program are well-rounded professionals who are at par with their global counterparts and colleagues who studied abroad.
In the long term, major investment needs to be made to enable soft skills learning at the tertiary education level. The often-strict nature of tertiary institutions curricula can co-exist with new and evolving learnings that prepare young students for a successful professional career. This will be achieved by working with independent organizations that will provide students with paid access to well-articulated online courses that teach skills such as emotional intelligence, communication, business etiquette, people management, creativity, critical thinking, problem-solving, and negotiation. This digitized learning method does not only help students and professionals acquire soft skills which are important for the future of work but also makes digitalization a familiar concept for lifelong technological knowledge.
What modern students and professionals require at this time is an experience that would embody quality learning that focuses on both disciplinary knowledge and soft skills, with the latter being of higher value and non-negotiable if delivering quality education and sustainable talent development are the main goals. This is a crucial element that will champion a drastic reduction in the talent acquisition gap within corporate organizations in Nigeria and the African continent.