Govt should fund work experience-based training for youths – Mbadiwe

Chief Executive Officer of Almond Careers, Mr Henry Mbadiwe, a project management  trainer in the UK, talks about making Nigerian graduates and professionals compete favourably in the global job market, in this interview with MUDIAGA AFFE

Why do young Nigerian graduates have problems getting plum jobs internationally?

One of the biggest problems that we have is that employers would want you to have work experience before they hire you. But nobody is willing to hire you so that you can gain the required experience – that is the problem. I went through that problem in the UK and after several searches I got a job, it was not because I had the experience, but the recruiter felt sorry for me. I did the job for four months after which I asked myself if this recruiter did not feel sorry for me, I would probably be doing what a lot of Nigerians who are in the UK are doing – working for care homes or security guards. At that point I took the decision that I was going to set up a company that would help people the way I was helped. It is about training people in project management. We train and give you work experience. It is no longer a matter of taking notes but practising what you have been taught. In 2017, we came to Nigeria and 80 per cent of our projects are federal projects. A lot of private companies that deliver projects here are finding it difficult to apply framework to do it right.

What is the driving force behind your success story?

It has a lot to do with hard work and good people. I have always had amazing employees working with me. They understand the vision and they do the work. I cannot be in all the locations at once. What we do is something that is needed. Ninety-five per cent of the people we have trained in the UK are Nigerians. Some of them are bankers, lawyers and other professions. I have seen people who have come to the UK from Nigeria and their salary might be N20m per annum, but because their wife and children are in the UK and due to persuasion, they quit their jobs and relocate to the UK. Unfortunately, the moment they get to the UK, they discover that nobody is going to give them any job. They are not getting the job because nobody cares about the experience that they had in Nigeria. You are a regional manager of a bank in Nigeria, unfortunately, your banking practice in Nigeria is not necessarily the type a bank in the UK would want. Your coming with 16 years of experience working in Nigeria does not make any difference to them. So, this guy finds himself becoming a CCTV operator. Basically, watching CCTV camera for people who want to shoplift – you can imagine that for somebody at that level in Nigeria. So, we would train people like this in project management in the UK and we give them a work experience that can be added to their curriculum vitae. We are doing the same in Nigeria. We have a lot of people in Nigeria who are good but they do not understand the basics.

You only become a project manager when you manage a project. The trend is beginning to change all over the world; you cannot deliver projects with just one framework. It has to be with the combination of a few others. My company has managed projects a number of big organisations. We have come in to change how things are done to deliver a project from the beginning to the end. I believe we can do this in Nigeria too because a lot of people think that with certificates you are good to go: it is great but backing it up with cognate experience is key.

How can the Federal Government tackle unemployment?

Nigeria has a great population. The present administration has been talking of how it wants to create more employment and other job opportunities. But I think if you really want to do that it has to be through education.

The Federal Government needs to empower Nigerians educationally in order to address this issue. Education is not all about going to school, but also an opportunity to learn real time in the work environment where our education system combines classroom learning with practical work. I read a publication that the job that 60 per cent of those in American universities will do when they graduate in the next couple of years does not exist today – the world is evolving fast as a result of technological advancement and that is how fast things are changing. I believe that the major challenge is that we are not investing enough in the experience and knowledge that our young ones will need to get.

Are you saying Nigerian youths do not have the required work experience?

We need to build an experienced youth. Majority of our graduate youths are not experienced. I have tried to hire developers in Nigeria; someone can write a piece of quotation and you think you are experienced; you are not. If we invest in training, what needs to be done thereafter is minimal. With such training, we have opened up our graduates to the international labour market just as Indians and Pakistanis are dominating at the international market scene. So, you can imagine one million Nigerians being hired all over the world because of their expertise and skills. Those Nigerians when they go abroad will send money back home to their families. I think our economy has the goldmine of natural resources but our major problem is education and work experience-based training. I think the government should fund this training. The UK government does it for young people who want to build capacity; they fund a lot of programmes for them. Some of the money that the Federal Government of Nigeria is investing in agriculture can be put in training and development; not the traditional way where someone is trained and they give you equipment to become electrician. When I talk of training programmes, I mean project management, business analysis, and software testing and data analytics, among others.

Multinational companies are expanding; Microsoft, Google, and they are picking up the best. If the government does not invest in the education of the youths, we can put as much money as we want in agriculture but at the end of it, we would just be a country of farmers.

More youths are reportedly getting involved in cybercrime. How can this be addressed?

It is really terrible. I saw a video of a young boy whose mother had asthma and he could not buy inhaler for her. He resorted to stealing one from the store. He was caught by the store manager and handed over to the police. But real intention of the boy was not stealing, but that’s not an excuse. If he was a successful young man, he would have bought the inhaler. I lived in Malaysia for three years and a lot of people come there to work; their parents sell their cars and land to send their children there. But when they cannot find the work, they resort to stealing. If you leave the youths jobless in this country they will continue to find a way to survive. They would turn to cybercrime and all other forms of crime because they are desperate. The reason why they are doing this is that they find it a very easy way to survive. So, lack of job is pushing them to do it.

We cannot stop cybercrime in one day in Nigeria; even in developed countries, they still have cyber thieves. The way to reduce it is by funding technical training programmes for those who have gone to higher institutions.

You can start tapping them as soon as they complete their compulsory National Youth Service Corps scheme. With that, you can help a million people in a year. If you target them properly, in 10 years, you have addressed 10 million youths. We need to be able to train and equip them. If we do that, we could get up to 200,000 of employable youths travelling overseas every year for plum jobs and you have money coming to the country. The 800,000 left could get good jobs locally. We need to be able to empower the private sectors to absorb them. Find out where these people fit in and pump money into the sector to get human capital development.

How can job seekers in Nigeria adopt standard methodologies that will make them attractive to local and foreign firms?

To be honest, we have a lot of project management training in Nigeria, but the basic is translating it to the practical aspects.