By Najib Ahmad, PhD
Some remote jobs require intermediate or advanced skills, such as machine learning, computer vision, and natural language processing. These need you to have a good understanding of some areas in mathematics to solve computational problems. Design and analysis skills in Electrical, Mechanical, Civil, Building and Architectural disciplines also require one to have adequate skill in learning-related software such as Matlab, Simulink, Ansys, Autodesk AutoCAD, StormCAD and ArcGIS, 3D Studio Max, Blender, among others. Besides all these, adequate knowledge of computer programming skills is essential. Always utilise the opportunity for an internship or industrial training or student industrial work experience schemes assigned by the school because they are good places for learning and engagement.
Skills acquisition does not only stop in science and tech-related areas, as I earlier mentioned. Whatever major you study in school, there is a skill to gain in it! So grab the opportunity while you still can. Everyone you admire now started somewhere. For instance, if you major in social sciences or arts and related disciplines, acquiring effective communication skills, excellent writing skills, and outstanding data analysis skills can take you to places you never anticipated.
And most importantly, from any discipline, you need to possess sound knowledge synthesis and critical thinking skills. There are good websites to look for a job that matches your skills, such as www.fiverr.com, www.upwork.com, www.freelancer.com, and www.flexjobs.com. The point is: whatever you study, there is a skill to add to it! Just be damn good! The ways to learn them are lengthy yet straightforward. For some, you may need up to six months of dedication or even a year or more to master a particular skill. What matters is, put your best effort as you usually do to pass your university/school courses exams.
In some cases, some people want to advance their careers, and these are all for you. And always remember that age does not matter in this journey. Even if you find yourself somewhere in mid-life, it’s not too late. So many people have had a rethink about their choices and goals in life much later and still make it.
Earlier I remarked that these skills are for everybody who wants to do good for himself. School education (higher education) and skills acquisition are not mutually exclusive; you can blend and achieve both at once. You may have seen that some people argue about which is better between the two, especially in times of uncertainty like now when jobs are scarce. Their point can only be substantiated when the goal was to compare learning a particular skill for a single purpose through extensive training or vocational training education and the school education system in Nigeria. However, you can begin to craft different skills at any level of your study because the current curriculum limits and is not in tune with the current reality about jobs. Hence, I titled this piece ‘Skills Beyond School’.
Arguably, most people wrongly perceive that skills, perhaps largely if not all, are intended only to be technical (Tech skills), and it is for technical people. That is a wrong, misleading impression. ANYONE can learn and master a skill in (or out of) their field of study. It is not rocket science. The energy you use elsewhere – or on social media – can be channelled to where you would surely benefit, even if not for financial gain, but knowledge gain.
For instance, anyone can learn entrepreneurial skills. But, in this case, do not seek short-term rewards! Even the owners of Microsoft, Google, Tesla, and Apple and most likely other ‘big names’ in this field you hear in your locality started their entrepreneurship journey by learning computer programming and other skills. So, begin something somewhere; no matter how little it might be, the change would surprise you one day.
And as you are reading this, I know you are thinking about the possibility of acquiring the skill desirable to get these kinds of jobs and finally be able to work for someone who didn’t even know you, especially outside Nigeria. The fear is normal – many people have shared this doubt at the beginning. I have friends (yes, my friends) who are currently doing remote jobs and cashing out monetary rewards in different fields of skills! Huh, I sound very promising. Because I believe you can also do it. One of these friends is managing a big project remotely. Isn’t that interesting? Imagine in this economic phase, and you have an extra job that provides you with additional benefits, considering that they are all employees of other sectors. FYI, students or graduates like you in southern Nigeria have been enjoying these remote jobs for ages. So, wake up.
What if you believe that everyone doing an online remote job is a potential criminal? In that case, the thing is, you are deceiving yourself. It is particularly irritating for me to see that we like to excuse our premeditated and comforting laziness (pardon the word). Besides, learning some skills can even give you an upper hand in applying for a master’s or PhD scholarship worldwide.
Finally, to reduce the gap or, in other words, to balance the economic growth between men and women, particularly in the North, we need to encourage girls to join the do-it-yourself kinds of skills acquisitions right from secondary school. If I am to be candid, I would tell you that we are left behind in everything. However, it is not too late for us to change the situation for the better. Don’t forget that life goes on even if you do nothing, and it is up to you to catch up. Just wake up!
Dr Najib Ahmad is a Postdoctoral Researcher at Shandong University, China. He can be contacted via email@example.com.