How policymakers can benefit from brain drain – YPC founder

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The National President, Young Professionals Club, Ayoola Jolayemi, shares insights with JOSEPHINE OGUNDEJI regarding the prevailing issues of unemployment and brain drain in Nigeria

 The Young Professionals Club’s conference is scheduled for next Wednesday. As the national president, what are the objectives of the event?

The Young Professionals Club Conference is a yearly event that aims to bring together entrepreneurs, innovators, and professionals from various sectors for networking, professional growth, and industry advancements. This year’s conference will be held on Wednesday, April 10 at 9 am at Balmoral Convention Center, Sheraton, Ikeja, Lagos state.

The conference’s primary objective is to explore the dynamics of relevant industries/sectors, particularly as it pertains to the growing population of young, talented individuals in Nigeria and beyond. The goal is to discuss how we can collaborate and support each other’s professional growth.

What led to the creation of a club targeted at young people?

The youth represent the larger percentage of the population in the country, and they have the strength, ideas, courage, and time to make a significant impact. If the youth are properly placed, trained, and groomed, it will result in positive outcomes across different areas.

We started this club to help young professionals learn from one another and gain valuable support they might not be able to access elsewhere.

How were the speakers for the conference selected?

The selection of speakers was based on their track record, faith, consistency, and their accomplishments in their respective fields. Based on these criteria, Ibukun Awosika, Dr Perez Araka, Bode Olanipekun, SAN; Dr Emmanuel Igbasan, Phoebe Dami-Asolo, Olugbenga Omojola, Ifeoluwa Obafemi, and Adetola Badmus were chosen from our list of an eminently qualified pool of professionals.

Their ability to guide others through the same path was also taken into account. We evaluated their values and what they stand for. Beyond competence, we believe character is essential and this is reflected in our selections.

How can young people navigate the challenges of unemployment in the current economy?

To navigate the current situation, young people must subject themselves to training, re-training, and consistent learning. They must learn skills that are in demand, and relevant, while they also position themselves to be found.

Recently, data annotation has emerged as a skill that is in demand, but not yet popular in Nigeria. It is the process of attributing, tagging, or labeling data to help machine learning algorithms understand and classify the information they process. Increasing your value, upgrading and updating your skill set, and positioning yourself for opportunities are key to navigating the challenges of unemployment.

How can Nigerian policymakers harness the momentum of the ‘japa’ trend to drive economic growth and foster opportunities for the country’s youth population?

To capitalise on the growing trend of Nigerian youths leaving the country, commonly referred to as ‘japa’, policymakers can approach the issue with a fresh perspective. Instead of seeing it as a brain drain, they can view it as a brain circulation, where returning youths bring back new skills, experiences, and networks that can benefit the country’s economic growth.

One way to encourage this is by offering incentives to Nigerian youths abroad to return home. Also, implementing targeted programmes such as reverse mentoring initiatives, where returning youths share their knowledge with local businesses and startups, can stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship. Another way to facilitate knowledge transfer and investment is by setting up innovation hubs or incubators in partnership with diaspora networks. This can create opportunities for collaboration and growth, empowering Nigeria’s youth population while driving economic development.

What initiatives do you advise should be implemented to address the brain drain of young professionals from Nigeria?

Talent exploration is key. There needs to be an intentional focus on training. Develop more software engineers, build learning hubs, ensure companies pay well, build a solid work culture, reduce toxicity around the workplace, respect labour laws, compensate talents, etc.

Young professionals who move abroad are merely seeking better opportunities, a better way of life, and a good working environment. Hourly pay for professionals should also be considered. When professionals are happy, they will be happy to stay.

What role can the private sector play in empowering the youth economically?

The private sector can play a significant role in empowering young people economically by actively encouraging innovation, job creation, mentorship, and internship opportunities.

What are the barriers preventing Nigerian youths from fully participating in the economy, and what strategies can be implemented to surmount them?

Inadequate infrastructure, tariff and non-tariff barriers to trade, and inconsistent policies are some of the barriers preventing Nigerian youths from participating fully in the economy.

To overcome these barriers, we must intentionally tackle inadequate infrastructure, develop open laws, provide tax rebates to MSME owners, and strengthen links and coordination between education providers, the government, employers’ and workers’ organisations, and the private sector.

What policies should be implemented to encourage the youth to stay and contribute to the country’s development?

To encourage them to stay and contribute to the country’s development, policies should focus on providing education and student loans, putting an end to police harassment, engaging young people productively from the place of their strength, and strategically placing them.

We must also strengthen links and coordination between education providers, the government, employers’ and workers’ organisations, and the private sector. Also, there needs to be an improvement in the development and delivery of training programmes, the involvement of enterprises in apprenticeship programmes, and the establishment of public-private partnerships for skills development.

What measures can be taken to equip the youth to compete in the global economy?

To prepare young Nigerians for the global economy, several measures can be put in place. We need a reform in our education that will give priority to the development of skills such as critical thinking and innovation, instead of rote learning. STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) education and vocational training should also be given priority.

Moreover, young people should be provided with digital literacy training which includes internet access, computer skills, knowledge of digital marketing, and e-commerce. The government should offer support for entrepreneurship and provide seamless access to markets through trade agreements, export promotion initiatives, and networking opportunities. Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) should also be supported to expand internationally.

Finally, the development of soft skills such as communication, teamwork, adaptability, and cultural competence can enhance employability and career advancement globally.

What are the implications of youth unemployment and brain drain on the future of Nigeria’s economy?

Youth unemployment and brain drain can have severe implications for Nigeria’s economy. A rise in insecurity is one of the potential consequences, as jobless individuals may resort to illegal activities to survive.

Brain drain can weaken governance structures and public infrastructures, leading to impaired governance and development. Nigeria may become heavily dependent on foreign infrastructure such as healthcare, education, and investments if there is a shortage of talent in the country.

Mentorship programmes can be established by partnering with professionals in various fields who can provide guidance and advice to young people. The government and private sectors could work together to establish mentorship programs for Nigerian youth. These programmes can provide valuable expertise, investment, and job opportunities. For instance, the YPB Public Service Bootcamp by Pastor Poju is an excellent example of such a programme. It offers internship placements with Lagos House of Representatives members to its participants.

What role does vocational and technical education play in addressing youth unemployment in Nigeria?

Vocational and technical education plays a crucial role in addressing youth unemployment in Nigeria. By offering training in specific trades and industries, vocational and technical education programmes prepare students for employment in high-demand sectors, such as construction, manufacturing, agriculture, information technology, and more.  Investing in vocational schools can reduce pressure on universities and provide young people with the necessary skills to secure employment.

 How can the government and private sector collaborate to create a conducive environment for youth-led innovation and startups?

The government and private sector can collaborate to create a supportive ecosystem for youth-led innovation and startups. The government can provide funding, infrastructure, and regulatory support, while the private sector can offer mentorship, expertise, investment, and job opportunities. Initiatives like incubators, accelerators, public-private partnerships, and internships can foster a supportive environment for youth-led innovation and startups.

What strategies can be adopted to encourage investment in industries that have the potential to absorb a large number of youth workers?

To encourage investment in youth-focused industries, incentives such as tax breaks or subsidies can be offered to investors. Creating targeted programmes that provide access to financing and technical assistance can also attract investors. In addition, each state can promote awareness about the growth potential and benefits of investing in youth-focused industries to encourage investment.

How can international partnerships and collaborations contribute to creating employment opportunities for Nigerian youth?

International partnerships and collaborations can contribute to creating employment opportunities for Nigerian youths through knowledge exchange, technology transfer, and access to global markets. By collaborating with international organisations, businesses, and governments, Nigeria can tap into expertise, resources, and markets that can fuel economic growth and create jobs.

Joint ventures, research collaborations in education, and skill development programs can also facilitate the transfer of knowledge and technology, enhancing the employability of Nigerian youths in various sectors.

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