It is for certain that not everyone will be educated. And definitely, not everyone who got an education will end up using the certificate to seek for paid employment. In Nigeria, a society where there are millions of young graduates competing for the few available jobs, it is now key, more than ever, to look to other means of employment. This is where vocational skill acquisition comes into the big picture.
It does not only provide employment, but it also checks escalating youth crimes. This is one of the methods of getting employment where a person does not necessarily have to go to school in order to get the required skills that are needed. In present day Nigeria, there are different sets of skills that can be acquired. People, especially graduates will not have to limit themselves to mostly white collar jobs, which requires a formal education.
Thus, a person can decide to learn more than one skill and there are a many skills acquisitions to pick from; tailoring, barbering and hairdressing, catering, carpentry and woodwork, mechanical, bricklaying, tiling, painting, and even repairing electrical gadgets and appliances, just to mention a few.
Right from time, it has been deeply entrenched in the history of Nigeria that parents who do not have enough funds to sponsor their children to tertiary institutions, end up sending them to learn and acquire these skills. It then depends on the willingness of the child to learn and make a name for himself or herself in that chosen field. Pastor Michael Akindele Olamilekan, a civil servant, working with the Ministry of Education under teaching service in Oshodi, Lagos, shared his experience.
When he was young, he started learning an entrepreneurial skill, which helped him with most of his financial needs when he was in a higher institution. Olamilekan recounted: “I learned hairdressing when I was in Senior Secondary School (SS3) and I also learned tailoring about seven years ago. I got admission immediately after I graduated from secondary school, but I had already become an expert at plaiting and styling hair. When I was in the tertiary institution, I was always going to the female hostel to plait and style hair for the ladies. I also styled hair for women who were about to get married.
That really helped to ease the financial burden on my guardian.” Although he doesn’t work as a professional hair stylist at the moment, he still makes clothes for himself, his immediate family and people who come to him to engage his services. This is just one of the many benefits that can be got from learning a vocational skill at a young age; honest financial independence.
Olamilekan, encouraging parents to let their children and wards acquire a skill, said: “The world is fast turning into a digital village and with the rate at which the development is taking place; very soon computers will be able to do the work of 10 people. When that happens, the only way to still be relevant at work and the society at large is by showing what other skills you bring to the table and this is where vocational training comes into play.” Learning a trade is also a way of life for the South-eastern people of Nigeria. It is very popular for the young – both male and female – to be given out in apprenticeship to people who have made a name in a particular line of trade.
The Igbo people mainly specialise in trading on vehicles’ spare parts, importing and exporting and retail activities. An average Igbo male trader always has a set of people who are doing their apprenticeship under him. Over the years, this system has evolved, and now when the trainee completes his apprenticeship under his master for a specified period of years, the master is expected to assist him with some money to start his own business. This is common among the Igbo people and this method has saved many lives and families.
It is well known that an idle hand is the devil’s workshop, and the only way to avoid being used by the devil is to engage in productive activities. Many young people who would have been left to wander the street and maybe engage in illegal activities are now family employed and are useful to themselves and the community as a whole.
With the dawn of civilization and modernization, many parents now see vocational skill’s acquisition as a dirty practice and rather prefer their children to be engaged in white collar jobs. This misconception has been greatly fuelled by the lack of proper awareness on the current situation of the country’s financial and unemployment rate. According to some experts, a child that is training to become a doctor could also have a passion for knitting or sewing, and by denying him/her that liberty to take on a different career, you might be limiting the productivity of that child. Hannah Adegoke, a young lady, who started learning fashion designing at the age of 15, agreed that it was one of the best decisions her parents ever made on her behalf.
She said: “Learning fashion designing has opened my eyes to so many opportunities, and over the years, it has helped to start actualizing some of my other goals in life.” Though she started her vocational training at a young age, she said it did not affect her studies in any way. She explained that creating a balanced schedule and knowing that both academic and vocational training were priorities and this helped her to be able to give her best in both endeavours. With the delays that the COVID-19 pandemic caused in the academic calendar in recent times, many aspiring undergraduates were forced to start learning vocational skills.
Young people easily get restless and this became a solution to the new problem caused by the pandemic. Moyosore Ajakaiye, who finished her secondary school education just before the beginning of the pandemic, had to start learning hair-styling. “I didn’t know I would like it so much.
At first I just went because I was bored at home and I wanted to spend time away, but over the months, I started to develop real interest in hair styling and now I’ve been going for training, off and on for about two years now,” she said. Ajakaiye further said: “If parents will just recognise that some skills need to be developed outside of academic grounds, more and more children will get the necessary vocational training they need. In a society like Nigeria, where most parents force their children to choose a certain career path because they think the child will excel in that career or because they want their children to take over the family business, many children end up not living up to their full potential. Most of them obey their parents but they are never happy in that chosen course, while some out rightly disobey their parents and walk away.
This could lead to conflict.” A Nigerian musician, Folarin Falana, popularly known as Falz studied Law at the university but he is now pursuing a career in music. He is one of the big names in the Nigerian music industry at the moment. Similarly, Tiwatope Savage, popularly known as Tiwa Savage, studied Accounting at the University of Kent in England, but she is now making waves in the music industry. There have even been cases where children obey their parents and when they graduate, they hand the certificates over to their parents and go back to study their dream courses.
Now, with vocational training in almost all fields, the child can get to satisfy their parents, while also pursuing their own dreams. This way everybody wins and the society benefits from the wide range of abilities that her citizens possess. Identifying what the child is passionate about and encouraging him will be in the best interest of everyone. The Executive Coordinator of the Ajoke Ayisat Afolabi Foundation, Mrs. Foluke Ademokun, while speaking about the work her foundation does for young adults, stressed that education had gone beyond just focusing on one course and creating a career from that. She opined: “To have a well-rounded education, you must not only focus on the academic parts, but also on getting vocational and entrepreneurial skills.
In this technological age, you have to be innovative and productive. Everyone has to be a producer of either a service or a product and that is what is going to make you stand out.” According to her, that was part of the reasons why vocational skills were now a thing of importance. She explained that her foundation provided skill training for recycling, using tyres to make furniture, bead making, cane furniture and the most important of all, computer training.
“One of the things that the COVID-19 pandemic has taught everyone in Nigeria is that wherever you are, you can market your product as long as you know how to use your online platforms well. Training young people to use social media and other online platforms in a productive manner is the icing on the cake,” said Ademokun.
She went on to point out another reason those who pursued a career in an academic field needed vocational skills is to build their confidence level. Her words: “There have been cases where young people who graduated from university find it difficult to get jobs because they lack the social skills to communicate and they also lack confidence. These training sessions would help their interactions with people and help secure their finances.”