Tackling Unemployment Through Skills Aquisition

Story by Ovie smith yenagoa
Like most states of the country, Bayelsa has an acute unemployment problem, a problem that is intricately woven to the issue of poverty.
Apart from oil companies, that have their headquarters in Lagos and as such, have just a handful of Bayelsans working mainly as artisans in their rigs and flow stations, there are no companies, industries and factories in the state. So, government remains the major employer of labour in the state but try as the government may wish to, there is a limit to which government can employ.
Even as the main employer of labour, the entire workforce of the state government is less than 250,000 workers. Put side by side a population of about 2,394,725, the figure of 250,000 government workers, is less than two per cent of the state’s population. What happens to the hundreds of thousands of employable youths of the state? From this grim statistics, the unemployment problem is not only acute, it is real.
To tackle the problem of unemployment, the Bayelsa State Government under the watch of Senator Douye Diri has adopted the skills acquisition and empowerment approach and the government has boldly initiated no fewer than seven well-funded women and youth empowerment programmes.
One of such programmes is the Douye Diri Skills Acquisition programme, which trains women and youths in different vocations such as shoe making, fashion design, hair dressing and a host of others, and at the end of the programme the beneficiaries are given start-up packs to start their own businesses. A total of 814 youths of the state who were trained have been presented with start-up packs. On Thursday, October 13, 2022, another 850 youths, who were trained under the programme, were also presented with starter packs.
Another of the well-thought out empowerment programmes, involves the training of women and youths in integrated farming and agricultural extension at the CSS Global Farms in Nasarawa State. A total of 400 youths have been trained in two batches of 200 each.
The beneficiaries underwent a two-week intensive training in poultry production, fish farming, plantain/cassava farming, rice/maize farming, feed-mill processing, greenhouse and hydroponics as well as in ruminant fattening, agricultural business and financing, among others. Each of the trainees was empowered to start their own farms.
Apart from the CSS Global Farms empowerment programme, the state government, in partnership with the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN), trained over 3,000 selected farmers, allocated them farm lands and provided them with seedlings and other tools for rice, cassava, plantain and poultry farming.
To cater for the training of internet-savvy youths of the state, there is the Diri Digital Entrepreneurship Empowerment Programme (D–DEEP), which plans to empower 8,000 youths from across the eight local government areas of the state. The programme has already commenced.
There is also the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) programme, where the state government, in partnership with the Federal Government, trains youths from the state in various vocations. On Tuesday, August 23, 2022, start-up packs were presented to 366 youths who were trained under the SDGs programme. The training covered shoe making, fashion design and hair dressing among others.
Another government-sponsored empowerment programme is the Women and Youth Empowerment Programme for Small and Medium Scale Entrepreneurs, which provides the sum of N200 million monthly to 210 small and medium scale entrepreneurs from the 105 wards in the state. The business grant is intended to expand their businesses and boost the local economy of the state.
According to the Commissioner for Women, Children Affairs, Empowerment and Social Development, Mrs Faith Opene, who spoke during the presentation of grants to the entrepreneurs, “the state government has already spent over six billion Naira in the programme which started in February, 2022”. She further said a total of 3,150 Bayelsans have so far been empowered under this initiative.
The state government is also encouraging technical and vocational education. Under this initiative, government has established three new technical colleges at Igbeta-Ewoama in Nembe Local Government Area, Opume in Ogbia Local Government Area and Ofoni in Sagbama Local Government Area. In all three cases, the government took over existing schools to ensure immediate take-off of academic activities while the building of permanent structures for the three new schools is on-going and work has reached advanced stage in all of them.
Government is also building a new technical college each at Sampou community in Kolokuma/Opokuma Local Government Area and also at Ayamasa community in Ekeremor Local Government Area. These are in addition to the existing Science and Technical Colleges at Swali and Okaka communities, both in Yenagoa Local Government Area.
Earlier this year, government doled out start-up packs and cash to more than 500 graduates of the Science and Technical College, Okaka to start their own businesses. One of the graduates, Paul Eberedeni had this to say, “I wish to thank the state governor, Senator Douye Diri for the start-up packs that were given to us. I have friends who attended technical colleges in other states and were not given start-up packs when they graduated.
“I studied welding. The items in my start-up pack include a welding machine, a generating set, a welding vice or clamp, hand and hack saw and Alenki box, among other things. I do not have my own shop for now but I am using a friend’s shop, located along old Assembly Quarters Road, Ekeki, to do my business and at the end of the month I pay him a token for using his shop”.
Eberedeni, who is from Adagbabiri community in Sagbama Local Government Area of the state said the state governor deserves serious commendation for focusing on technical education and also for his interest in empowering the youths of the state. Continuing, he said, instead of waiting for civil service jobs that are non-existent, today he is a man of his own with a means of livelihood, adding that he hopes to employ three or four young Bayelsans as soon as his business stabilises.
The various skills acquisition and empowerment programmes will offer the participants a source of livelihood and they will become self-reliant. But over and above being self-reliant, the beneficiaries will eventually become employers of labour.
With a figure of 1,664 graduates from the Douye Diri Skills Acquisition programme; 3,000 from the CBN agric-partnership programme; 400 from the CSS Global Farm in Nasarawa; 366 from the SDGs; 3,150 from the small and medium scale entrepreneurs programme and 500 from the Science and Technical College, Okaka, a total of 9,080 women and youths have been removed from the army of unemployed youths.
This figure does not include the 8,000 youths the D-DEEP plans to train because the time frame within which the 8,000 youths will be trained is not known just as it is not immediately clear how many of the said number have already been trained.
What is certain however is that in another six years when the six technical colleges other than that of Okaka, must have held their maiden graduation ceremonies, the turn out of technical and vocational school graduates will hit 3,000 annually, in the least.
With the adoption of the skills acquisition and empowerment model and the encouraging number of graduates the various programmes are churning out annually, Governor Douye Diri is slowly but gradually reducing the problem of unemployment in Bayelsa State.

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