Digital Skills are Key to Youth Unemployment in Nigeria

By jaafarali

In Nigeria, 55% of the youth population is either underemployed or unemployed, in large part due to a mismatch between the job market and the skills youth are trained in. Practical, digital, and entrepreneurial skills that would better prepare youth for future (self-)employment are all lacking in the current education system. In fact, Nigerian graduates tend to feel better prepared for further education than actual employment, and rate themselves low on the competencies required to enter the workforce.

Employers seem to agree – research amongst 600 management staff shows a significant mismatch of 60% between expected and actual skills of graduates, especially in communication, IT, decision making, critical thinking and entrepreneurial skills.

Preparing for the future beyond COVID-19

It goes without saying that demand for 21st century skills, particularly digital and technological skills, is higher than ever.

“The coronavirus crisis has demonstrated how crucial it is for citizens and businesses to be connected and to be able to interact with each other online”, says Executive Vice-President of the EU, Margrethe Vestager.

Commissioner for Internal Market Thierry Breton agrees, explaining that data “shows that industry is using digital solutions now more than ever. We need to ensure that the most advanced digital technologies are deployed throughout the economy.”

The Nigerian government recently released Bouncing Back: Nigeria Economic Sustainability Plan. This plan puts emphasis on fostering a culture of innovation and creating a wide variety of technology and ICT jobs, focusing on the promotion of technology hubs, call-centres for business process outsourcing, and digitisation of processes – both in Government and the private sector. The presented Economic Sustainability Plan seeks to foster new ways of working, producing, learning, and managing public health and safety in the years to come. This includes building resilience across critical sectors and supporting the creation of jobs for youth through training specifically in digital skills to better prepare them for employment in technology sectors.

Nigerian employers in high potential sectors stress that they have unmet demand for both skilled technical workers and digital skilled staff. This demand covers both secondary and tertiary level skilled workers. Both technical and digital jobs are considered an important part of ‘the future of work’ and will likely offer a growing and sustainable demand for labour going forward.

More jobs are expected to be created due to automation and new technologies, and youth with the right (digital and technical) skills will benefit if they are prepared and supported through education. More importantly, training youth with the right digital and technological skills will lead to a more versatile, flexible, and resilient workforce.

“Digital jobs build on existing skillsets and offer an attractive working environment for youth.”

Empowering a skilled youth workforce to meet labour demands

There is clear potential for young women and men equipped with the right skills to find decent employment within selected labour categories. Rather than sector-specific opportunities, there’s need for jobs related to specific skillsets and ‘ways of working’. These types of jobs, notably digital jobs and technical craftmanship, are cross-sector (Technical craftmanship includes technically skilled manual labour, such as in construction and manufacturing.)

A recent scoping study conducted by The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment and funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs, calls out thirteen sectors with the most demand for future labour: Agriculture, Trade, ICT, Construction, Financial Services, Manufacturing and the emerging sectors: Renewable Energy, Transportation, Creative Industry, Automotive Industry, Entertainment, Education and Hospitality.

In addition to the unmet labour demand in these areas, youth also report that digital jobs and technical craftsmanship match their skill needs and interests. Digital jobs build on existing skillsets and offer an attractive working environment for youth. While technical craftmanship provides youth with a strong skillset that can be obtained through practical and locally available education. Both allow youth the flexibility to work across different sectors throughout their career, better preparing them for the ‘future of work’ and contribute to creating a resilient young workforce for Nigeria.

The Challenge Fund for Youth Employment (CFYE) is committing to matching, creating, improving or sustaining at least 200,000 decent jobs for youth across Africa and the Middle East. CFYE is funded by the Netherlands Ministry of Foreign Affairs and managed by Palladium, VSO and Randstad. We have opened our Call for Solutions for Nigeria on July 15th.