Problem: What problem is this project trying to address?
Although official statistics put Nigerian youth unemployment at 38 percent, realistically almost 80 percent of young Nigerians lack formal employment and many remain idle with little hope of securing work. Secondary school graduates, in particular, account for the majority of unemployment in rural areas. Although Nigerian schools, universities and technical colleges continue to churn out graduates, they lack the job-ready skills demanded by employers today. As a result, there is not only a shortage of jobs for the number of job-seekers but many existing jobs remain unfilled as the graduates lack the practical experience required by employers. The post-graduation joy and aspirations of many young Nigerians are gradually diminished as they become frustrated by joblessness. Idleness and frustration often push young people into illegitimate activities to ensure an income, further exacerbating the social and economic challenges that Nigerians face today.
The average Nigerian graduate is not employable because they do not possess the practical skills and training needed by employers. The educational system is highly theoretical in nature. Thus, even though students may have the content knowledge for a particular job, they do not necessarily have the quick thinking and problem solving skills that is often acquired through applying knowledge in practice. In addition, there are no formalized services to provide young students with the information they need to make decisions about their career paths or with information on what is required by employers for their chosen professions. Many students lack clarity on their post-graduation goals. Although there are many careers to choose from, young people feel limited in their options especially because they are uninformed on workplace requirements, underestimate their own capabilities, or are unaware of the range of workplace accommodations that can broaden their career paths. Career education and guidance are needed to overcome these obstacles and prepare them to make choices relevant to their personal strengths and interests. Many adolescents do not think about jobs at all until they are faced with the challenge of obtaining one. This is a negatively reinforcing cycle because when youth are unprepared for what is expected on the job, they perform worse, resulting in inefficiency, low productivity and frustration for both them and their employers.
Esther believes that the choices that young people make during their school years have major implications for the education and work options available to them later in life. She is working to encourage young people to begin thinking about this and acting on it during high school and in doing so, improving youth employability and facilitating a smoother transition from academic to work life.
Solution: What is the proposed solution? Please be specific!
Esther is building a movement to inspire and support young people to take charge of their career development. She has developed a system where young people incorporate career planning and skills development into their lifestyle long before they are ready to enter into the workforce. In this way, youth are encouraged to pursue their passions and find the appropriate training to do so from an early age, thereby preventing the frustration and idleness that many young Nigerians experience upon graduation today.
She is also opening up unconventional ways for young people to improve their employability, specifically through volunteer and internship opportunities, and demonstrating how young people can make an easy transition from school to workplace. These volunteer opportunities offer young people the space to apply their theoretical knowledge in a practical setting and to acquire those skills that are best learnt on the job. She is shifting the focus of young Nigerians away from the mere acquisition of academic credentials and encouraging them to combine career planning, practical training and traditional education to improve their employability and to prepare them for the workplace. She is working with companies and organizations to develop internship and graduate-trainee programs and demonstrating that by doing so, they are ensuring prospective employees for themselves and contributing to resolving the national youth unemployment crisis.
Esther has partnered with the Ministry of Education to implement her model and is currently working with thirty schools in the city of Calabar, Nigeria. She is working to expand her model across the Cross River State and has partnered with a former participant to scale to Ekiti State. Esther is also focused on broadening her model through an online platform which provides information to young Nigerians on available opportunities and will, in the future, house an e-mentoring program that is currently under development.