Department of Agricultural Education,
School of Vocational and Technical
Education, College of Education, Oju.
In Nigeria, youth unemployment has assumed a serious dimension with its social challenges. Concerted efforts are required to curb it. Therefore, vocational education with its laudable objectives is being suggested to help in overcoming youth unemployment problems. This can be achieved through the training of youths, using vocational schools and their allied programmes like NDE, SUREP and other similar agencies. For the successful implementation of vocational objectives and attainment of employment, the authors are of the opinion that government should be more consistent in her policies, tackle the issue of corruption and provide more funds in her annual budget for the execution of vocational education and its programmes.
Key words: Youths; Unemployment and Vocational Education
In Nigeria, unemployment has become a social problem. This is because the current system of education being practiced in Nigeria continues to turn out graduates into the labour market who seek white collar jobs. These graduates have little or no skill to enable them venture into private business as a way of self employment. Therefore, when they are not employed by the government or companies, they constitute unemployed labour with its attendant consequences such as social vices (armed robbery, political thuggery, kidnapping, terrorist activities like Boko Haram, etc).
It is hoped that proper vocational education that is well mounted and implemented to salvage the country from the shackle of unemployment. This is because vocational education has been tailored towards self improvement, self sustenance and being useful to the society through its contribution to the socio-economic, and political well being of the society. Any education acquired which cannot meet these objectives is worthless in the present socio-economic realities of Nigeria. It is not surprising that more attention has been focused on vocational education in Nigeria since 1982, when the 1981 National Policy on Education was revised (Unongo, 2013).
The importance of vocational education in providing skill acquisition for individuals who can stand on their own business-wise and hence lessen over dependent on government as the sole employer of labour can not be overemphasized.
Unongo (2013) reported that over 50% of the Nigerian graduates (youths) are unemployed. These groups of people are without any meaningful skill or entrepreneurship to sustain a living. The solution to this perennial problem requires the use of well designed and sufficiently implemented vocational education programmes. This is because the acquisition of appropriate entrepreneurship skills, abilities and competencies, both mental and physical are pre-requisites for the individual to live and contribute meaningfully to the socio-economic development of the society. It is therefore, of great necessity to develop effective and functional workers who can begin to do something on their own and not necessarily looking up to government as the sole employer of labour. Hence, to overcome youth unemployment in Nigeria, it demands the use of vocational education skill acquisition for self-reliance.
Concept of Vocation Education
Vocational education has been described and defined by different individuals in various ways based on purposes. Ayodele (1984) describes it as the education that is geared towards the transformation of inputs into outputs which involves rational organization and incorporation of scientific knowledge into a system of production.
Makoju (2003) defined vocational education as all man’s activities which enable him to acquire a particular skill in dealing with scientific, industrial, commercial or even traditional methods and their use so that he may become a productive human being or citizen. Denga (1983) had earlier affirmed that “there is a need to introduce a system of education (vocational) with the aim of developing entrepreneurship abilities, skills, attitudes and understanding that will make the youths and adults intelligent and occupational participants in the changing economic life”.
Furthermore, vocational education, according to Olawepo (1992) is the type of education or training designed for preparing the learner to earn a living, that is to be self-reliant or increase his earnings in an occupation where technical information and an understanding of the laws of science and technology as applicable to modern designs, production, distribution and services are essential for success. The author went further to define vocational education as the aspect of education which utilizes scientific knowledge in the acquisition of practical and applied skills in the solution of technical problems. Again, vocational education is defined as the acquisition of practical and applied skill as well as basic scientific knowledge which prepares individuals for gainful employment as semi-skilled, skilled workers or technicians (Osuola, 1981). The last two definitions seem to be more appropriate as they illustrate vocational education as intellectually- based.
Therefore, the aim of vocational education is to produce skilled, semi-skilled workers or technicians who will apply the acquired knowledge towards improvement and solution of their environmental problems, thus making the environment more useful and convenient to man. This is in line with the notion that the economic and technological growth of any nation depends on functional education in terms of vocational education. The concept of vocational education emphasizes the importance of entrepreneurship and skill acquisition on vocational occupation in areas such as Agriculture, Business Education, Home Economics, Technical Education and Health Education. Others include Industrial Education, Computer Studies, Fine and Applied Arts and Textile Design (Osuola, 1981).
The importance of vocational education programmes in providing skilled workers to modernized production is recognized in Nigeria, and has found expression in the National Policy on Education (1981:28) which has its broad objectives as follows:
(i) To provide trained skilled and semi-skilled workers in the applied sciences, technology and commerce, particularly at sub-professional grades;
(ii)To provide the technical knowledge and vocational skills necessary for agricultural, industrial, commercial and economic developments;
(iii)To provide skilled workers who can apply scientific knowledge to the improvement and solutions of environmental problems for the use and convenience of man;
(iv)To give an introduction to professional studies in engineering and other technologies;
(v)To give training and impacting the necessary skills and entrepreneurship leading to the production of craftsmen, technicians and other skilled personnel who will be enterprising and self-reliant;
(vi)To enable our young men and women to have an intelligent understanding of the increasing complexity of technology. Odeh (2003) elongated the list by adding that vocational education should (vii) provide the learner with good general education to enable him communicate fluently and also have an understanding of the various sectors of economic and social life.
The Concept of Unemployment
The economy of any given society is characterized by both active and in-active population. The economically active persons refer to population willing and able to work and include those actively engaged in the production of goods and services and the inactive ones are those who are unemployed. According to Ochepo and Igbanyam (2013) unemployment refers to a situation where people who are willing and capable of working are unable to find suitable paid employment. It is one of the macro-economic problems which every responsible government is expected to monitor and regulate. The higher the unemployment rates in any economy the higher the poverty level and its associated welfare challenges.
Factors limiting self employment
Unongo (2013) reported that various governments of Nigeria have made concerted efforts to create self-employment without significant success. Laudable programmes were mounted with the hope of generating self-employment and reducing unemployment. For instance, the National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) was established in 2001. NAPEP was vested with the responsibility of training the unemployed youths under Capacity Acquisition Programme (CAP). These youths were trained in areas like painting, repair of motor tyres, motor mechanic work, carpentry, fashion design, radio mechanic, electrical works, GSM repair, agricultural works, irrigation, boat making, soap making, cosmetics and so many other areas.
University graduates who were enrolled for the programmes were exposed to a mandatory attachment programme so that they learn basic vocational skills on how to set up a business and manage it well with minimum capital. At the end of the training many of these graduates were given grant between N100, 000.00 to N300,000.00 to start businesses of their own (Unongo, 2013).
Obaden (2001) had earlier observed that the Nigerian government has made several attempts to enhance self-employment through the introduction of many programmes to generate self-employment among youths. Some of these programmes have been identified by Nwachukwu (2005) as cited in Unongo (2013) as National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Agricultural Employment Programme (AEP), Directorate of Food, Roads and Rural Infrastructure (DFRRI), Family Support Programme (FSP), Special Public Works programme (SPWP) and Subsidy Reinvestment and Employment programme (SURE-P).
Despite these laudable programmes and in spite of the huge financial resources invested, self-employment generation has not been achieved or sustained as more and more graduates are being turned out yearly in search of government jobs. Generally, the failure of these programmes has been attributed to so many factors.
There are several opportunities for our youths to generate self-employment to improve their life. Ekpong (2008) identified some inhibitive factors preventing individuals from generating, sustaining and benefiting from self-employment ventures. He identified such negative socio-cultural attitudes of youths as impediments which include:
(i) The fear to take risk and the stigma of failure prevent many from engaging in serious ventures, impatience and the urge for quick returns make many to abandon their small businesses for crime.
(ii) Also, many youths have no access to entrepreneurship or vocational education. Some engaged in businesses without vocational skills and sooner or later crashed out due to lack of skills.
(iii) Access to funds to finance their choice of vocation is another major challenge. Most of the youths do not have take-off grants, and credit facilities from financial institutions cannot be accessed by unemployed youths because of stiff conditions and high interest rates.
(iv) Furthermore, youths have very poor saving culture. They spend their lean resources on alcohol, social life and early marriages. Financial institutions demand some level of savings as collateral requirement for securing loans.
(v) The “get rich quick” syndrome has become the culture of Nigerians. Therefore, it is a waste of time to labour for money. Instead, they prefer to follow corrupt politicians as thugs in order to make quick money. Some others engage in oil theft, illegal smuggling, armed robbery, kidnapping etc.
(vi)Unongo (2013) further reviewed other factor to include double taxation by government revenue collectors, high inflation rate, insecurity of lives and property and high rent charges by landlords.
Ways of Achieving Employment Opportunities using Vocational Education
Vocational education produces highly skilled, semi-skilled workers or technicians, therefore proper government policies and implementation devoid of corruption would realize the objectives of vocational education and thus, solve the problem of unemployment among Nigerian youths.
Vocational education at the University, Polytechnics and Colleges is expected to produce skilled and semi-skilled workers. These classes of workers under proper government policies and implementation will train the graduates and other classes of unemployed youths without skills including secondary school graduates who could not further their education and school drop-outs.
The authors have identified some important areas through which skills can be imparted into the trainees with the view of bringing out good technicians and artisans who will really do their work well and reduce unemployment in Nigeria.
Federal, State and Local governments through the National Directorate of Employment (NDE), Subsidy Re-investment and employment Programme (SURE-P), Non-governmental organizations (NGO) and other related agencies with similar objectives can be involved in the training of youths with the use of informal sector operators such as master craftsmen/women as training outlets for unskilled school leavers through apprenticeship periods long enough for them to acquire the pre-requisite skills. This should also involve the deployment of well- equipped mobile workshops to train unemployed youths in different vocations as identified below using the rural areas where informal training outlets are either inadequate or non-existent. This type of programme, according to Ameh (2012) is meant for school dropouts/secondary school leavers and graduates of tertiary institutions who desire to acquire functional and marketable skills. The authors further maintain that the programme should be implemented through the following schemes:
(i) National Open Apprenticeship Scheme (NOAS): Under this scheme, unemployed graduates, school leavers and other group of youths should be recruited by the NDE and SURE-P and attach them to private and public training centres for periods varying between six months and three years depending on the trade. The practical and vocational training provided by these centres can be supplemented with Saturday theory classes (STC) for grooming them in theoretical work. There may be need for supervision of these trainers and trainers’ capabilities.
(ii)School-on-wheels scheme (SOW): The aim of this scheme is to train unemployed youths particularly those living in the rural areas thereby strengthening and broadening their technological base especially at the grass root level. The training which should cover a period of three months can be carried out inside well equipped mobile workshops by NDE, SUREP and other related agencies. This training is expected to cover different trades as identified below. These mobile workshops should be well equipped for optimal use by the trainees with the view of appropriately imparting the desired skills in them.
(iii) Waste-To-Wealth Scheme (W-T-W-S): The scheme is designed principally to teach the participants the strategies for converting the hitherto neglected waste materials such as shells, horns, cans, aluminum etc. into decorative/ornamental objects.The above vocational entrepreneurship training can be mounted in vocational disciplines as identified below:
(i)Agriculture: Idoko (2013) identified the following areas of vocation:
- Crop production: root tuber (cassava); stem tuber (yam); cereal crops (maize, rice, guinea corn, millet, acha); pulses or grain legumes (cowpea, soyabean, pigeon pea, groundnut); vegetables (onion, tomatoes, okra, amarathus); fruits (citrus, banana, pineapple); beverages (cocoa, tea, coffee); spices (pepper, ginger); oil crops (oil palm, shear butter); latex crops (rubber); fibre crops (cotton, jute, sisal); floriculture (growing of flowers and ornamental plants) and others (sugar cane).
- Animal production enterprises: Poultry (broilers, layers, cockerels); goat rearing, sheep rearing; pig rearing; fish farming (aquaculture); apiculture/bee keeping and snail farming; fattening of small and large ruminants and livestock feed making; marketing of crop and animals also form aspect of agriculture enterprises etc.
(ii)Business education: Abene (2013) identified the following vocational entrepreneurship skills which can be acquired in business education: Typing/photocopying studies; Stationery store; Hair dressing salon; barbing salon; Catering outfits; Computer centre and Sale of books of all types and establishment of vocational schools etc.
(iii)Vocations in technical education are: Roadside motor mechanic works; Motor electrical work; Household electric work; Vehicle upholstery; Fabrication of farm equipment; Vehicle motor tube mending; Radio mechanic work (radio/television); GSM repair; Shoe making; Carpentry work; Welding work (gas and electrical); Mason work, plumbing work, glazing and Pipe-fitting, panel beating and blacksmithing and music playing etc.
(iv)Vocations in Fine and Applied Arts: Painting, sculpture, clay and ceramic work, tiling and interlocking work, carpentry work, landscaping work, dyed fabric work, wood work, calabash carving, bead work, drawing and painting work, colouring work, photographing, bead making, raffia crafts and needle craft work.
(v)Vocations in Home Economics are: Tailoring work, catering outfits, cake and bread making, wedding and other ceremonial cake making, fashion designing etc. Other fields in which vocational entrepreneurship skill can be acquired include computer, industrial and health works.
It is pertinent to know that government and companies cannot cater sufficiently for the employment of the teaming Nigerian youths who are unemployed. Therefore, to reduce unemployment in our society, concerted efforts should be geared towards tackling the issue of unemployment through vocational entrepreneurship skill acquisition. This will enable individuals to venture into one type of business enterprise or the other to earn a living and lessen the burden of overdependence on government as the sole employer of labour.
For successful vocational entrepreneurship skill acquisition for self-reliance, thus overcoming youth unemployment, the following suggestions have been made:
- There should be collaboration between the Federal, State and Local Governments in setting up well equipped mobile workshops in each Local Government Area of the federation to help the youths in skill acquisition.
- Soft credit facilities should be provided to train the youths to enable them start doing something on their own and avoid wandering from place to place.
(iii)Credit facilities should be given to the trainees immediately they have had their training instead of directing them to commercial banks.
(iv)Government should be more consistent in her policies to sustain programmes like NDE and SUREP.
(v)The three levels of government should be more honest in handling the issue of unemployment instead of playing politics.
(vi)The issue of corruption in this country should be tackled religiously on the part of policy implementers so as to ensure sufficient success of some of their policies and programmes.
(vii)Federal Government should provide more funds in her annual budget for vocational schools and Centres since vocational education and its programmes are cost intensive.
(viii)Vocational training both in schools and at the training Centres should be more practical oriented than theoretical.
(ix)Successive governments should try to sustain some of the employment programmes to help reduce unemployment.
(x)Private individuals, organizations and NGOs should assist the government in providing employment opportunities for youths as a way of complementing government efforts.
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