The list of factors impeding production of competent youths and graduates in Nigeria is a long one, and frightening. The eroding family values, unavailable parents, poor quality of schools, declining societal values, wrong priorities of students, poor government policies, and a general misuse of technology for unviable ventures; have been identified. Virtually all the fabrics of the society are to blame for making our youths unprepared for a competitive labour market and our graduates half-baked to be attractive to employers. In some quarters, it is even contended that the graduates are less than half-baked. They are described as unleavened. And to make matters worse, the Nigerian educational institutions have not matured to that level of producing more than employment seekers. The world’s focus is now on empowering youths who would produce employment opportunities and engage labour.
With the present circumstances, how then do we prepare our youths for the task of continuing the arduous task of national and social engineering and avert a mortgage of the future of Nigeria? This is a pertinent question in view of the fact that we have much more to accomplish in a competitive age of globalization. The crucial quest now should be how to empower the youth to become an employer of labour. However, because of the corrective roles higher institutions can play in the life and future of the youth, we will rather explore the creative measures our institutions can put in place.
There is a need to provide workplace skills in our institutions. That is, skills required in such diverse areas as micro-businesses, hospitality and multimedia. Schools that provide relevant workplace skills are doing their students a real service. A higher institution should have a distinct philosophy of higher education. For instance, Covenant University clearly states its own: to depart from form to skills, from legalism to realism, and to transform mathematics to life-mathics. In otherwords, while knowledge is pivotal to personal and national development, it however has to be applicable to create an empowered individual, group, and ultimately society.
Universities should carefully develop a curriculum intended to make youths self-employed and increase their entrepreneurial skills. In recent times, the National Universities Commission (NUC) approved of Entrepreneurial Development Studies (EDS) courses that undergraduates at all levels must pass. The EDS should also be made compulsory for graduate students even at the doctoral level as it is done at Covenant University.
The EDS course contents should be reinforced by practicals at a Centre for Entrepreneurial Development Studies (CEDS), where forms are transformed to applicable skills. Every student has to specialize in a particular creative chore. The EDS would thus recreate the student and equip him with entrepreneurial skills that would make him self-employed, or an employer of labour. The CEDS would organize programmes for practitioners in the external contexts, in micro-businesses through skills acquisition workshops that are audited by regular students. Thus, the mix between the internal and external communities would increase the level of skills development of the undergraduates.
Closely following should be the compulsory computer practicals for students. Conscious of the fact that unique computer skills are the basic attractions for employers in this age of technology-driven entrepreneurship, computer practicals should be compulsory at all levels. The computer laboratories and media centres should be free accessible. The internet should be controlled to ensure that it is not misused by students or become a source of academic distraction. For instance, pornographic and extreme social network sites should be blocked. The net would thus be strictly for skills development and light social networking.
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The institution should also build its students in hospitality and diplomacy. At Covenant University for instance, there is a group of students across all disciplines specially trained, established since 2005 to engage in taking University Guests on guided tour of the university. The CU Tour Guides (as it is called) well-suited and in red tie (male or female), are trained in hospitality courtesy, diplomatic finesse, good command of the English language, and capacity to keep records of places, events and dates. Such category of students are inspired or nurtured to do well in hospitality business such as tourism or hotel business or in a diplomatic career if they so choose in the future. I know of a student who proceeded to read Tourism at the graduate level in Canada because of the inspiration and skills obtained as a member of the Tour Guides. And there is another student working with an international institution today because she applied her Tour Guides skills well at the interview.
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Against these backdrops, Nigerian higher institutions should expand their information technology base and engage in development activities. The evolution of a pragmatic curriculum is necessary. A pragmatic curriculum would lead to the production of the human capital that could effectively compete in today’s globalised economy with the entrepreneurial skills for job creation to alleviate the present high level of graduate unemployment, and underdevelopment in the country.
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