By Aminu Mohammed
I must confess that I wrote this article due to a post made by a Facebook friend who just completed the NYSC scheme in Jigawa state. In the post made last week, he mentioned his readiness to fall back on his skill as an iron bender to fend for himself, pending when something better comes up.
I was impressed by his sense of reasoning and his zeal to drop his certificate and embrace a vocation to escape idleness and poverty. This has become apt given the current realities in Nigeria, where jobs are pretty limited and difficult to come by.
I know many people, especially recent graduates, will sneer at me for commending this young man for the courage to take responsibility for his own life. They may even wonder why I praised him for choosing to do a “menial job” below his status as a graduate.
But the reality today, coupled with the dwindling economy and limited opportunities for the teeming youths in the country, warranted me to write this article. The era of youths waiting for white-collar jobs is over. Many graduates are roaming the streets looking for elusive jobs. Typically, the few jobs available will be taken by the best candidates and those with a connection at the high places. Thus, most applicants are left with the option of either staying idle at home or embracing any vocation or skill to earn a living.
Let me clarify that I am not a motivational speaker, and neither do I claim to have a magic wand to turn silver to gold. But I believe in pragmatism, and the ability one has to achieve his goal if he has passion and works towards it. Passion is the only thing that can keep a man steadfast in his pursuit of success irrespective of the difficulties on his path. Your certificate will amount to nothing if you cannot shun pride and seek a means to earn a living.
I still recall my NYSC days nostalgically in the Numan, Adamawa state, 19 years ago. I did my primary assignment at Government Secondary School Pare, Numan, which gave me ample opportunity to engage in external activities. I kept myself busy outside school hours by selling clothes and shoes to augment the N7500 NYSC monthly allowance. I didn’t spend much out of my monthly stipend throughout the service year because my side business could cover my living expenses. I completed my NYSC in 2003 and engaged in various activities to earn a living for three years before I got my first job in August 2006.
During the service year in Adamawa state, I observed a stark difference in the mindset between some southern corps members that I interacted with and their northern counterparts. While some southern corps members engaged in all sorts of activities to earn income, some of their northern colleagues see those activities as demeaning to their status as graduates. Some of the southern corps members then decided to stay in Adamawa after the service year to continue their hustle, and many have prospered.
I still remember a friend we served in the same local government area, Mr Ifeanyi, a pharmacist from Anambra state. He did his primary assignment at the General Hospital, Numan and subsequently moved to Yola to set up a pharmacy after the service year. He was able to prosper a few years after the NYSC scheme due to his doggedness and zeal.
I decided to narrate this story to encourage our youth to shun pride and find a means or trade to improve their wellbeing. Acquiring education is just a means to enable you to unlock your potential. That you have a degree should not make you despise other vocations. Instead, find a work you are interested in and try to acquire the requisite skills to support yourself. Life after NYSC is tough, and the labour market is almost saturated due to many unemployed people seeking jobs.
I am not saying that our youth should focus only on entrepreneurship alone and abandon their certificate by not seeking jobs. Of course, not everybody has an inclination towards business and entrepreneurship. But for those that have no interest in entrepreneurship could learn other skills via the internet. Skills such as digital marketing, affiliate marketing, and web development are there for people interested in learning to earn an income.
In Germany, young people acquire skills in various fields through the vocational system popularly called “Ausbildung”. I admire the German Ausbildung system because a student attends school and works simultaneously. The student acquires theoretical and practical knowledge during the duration of the apprenticeship, which usually lasts three years. The training focuses on practical skills for actual work and includes several skills such as plumbing, software development, landscaping, mason, baking, painting, salesperson, nursing, care for the elderly, and electrician.
Those who completed the training earn very well just like their counterparts who obtained a degree in Germany. Ausbildung is highly valued in Germany, and the need for craftsmen is always on the rise here. German society has been structured so that virtually all jobs are accorded due respect. Nobody looks down on a painter, electrician, carpenter or mason in Germany, unlike what we do in Nigeria. Most of our youths, especially graduates from the North, shy away from doing those jobs as they see them as not befitting their status. Some prefer to remain idle at home while hoping to get a job. There is dignity in labour, and it is quite normal to see a female painter, mason or female plumber in cities across Germany.
Therefore, the onus is on the youth to follow their passion and strive to achieve their personal goals. Efforts should be placed on personal development through reading and skills acquisition. For instance, if you have an interest in baking, do not hesitate to go and learn it to support yourself, likewise any other skill. Life favours the meek and those who shun societal pressures and go after their passion and dream.
I will also urge our young men, especially new graduates, to leave their comfort zone. If you think that opportunities are very limited in your locality, there is no harm in moving to another city to take advantage of better opportunities there.
Do not hesitate to read good books, as it opens your mind to great possibilities. Scholarships are also available for those who are interested in studying abroad. You can use Google to search for scholarships in various universities across Europe, Asia, Canada and the United States. There are multiple scholarships worldwide for you to apply for, and there is no harm in trying. You could be lucky to get one if you meet the requirements and expectations even though it is highly competitive. Do not be discouraged if your application is rejected but continue to persevere and reapply to other scholarships. I also faced many rejections while seeking admission in Germany.
Take a look within your locality and find something to do. You can volunteer your time and energy to learn something new or even work on a farm. Don’t bother about what people will say; so far, you have a target and a dream of where you want to go. Try to get busy with something no matter how small it is, pending when you get the desired job. Remember that many big organisations and establishments that you see today started small several years ago. May Allah bless our hustle and efforts as we strive to achieve our goals this year.
Aminu Mohammed is at the school of Sustainability, Christian- Albrechts- Universität zu Kiel, Schleswig Holstein, Germany. He can be reached via firstname.lastname@example.org.