Youth Development Arena
With Barnabas Akyenyi Usman
There Is A Problem
Like in other developing countries, young people in Nigeria are faced with the challenge of accessing quality jobs or opportunities and thereby struggling to live fulfilled lives. This is as a result of multiple factors, some of which are within the powers of the youths; others are totally uncontrollable by the youths.
Three common factors that stop young people from living fulfilled lives include are inadequate skills sets among youths, inadequate opportunities for youths and lack of appropriate framework for addressing the challenges of youth unemployment in Nigeria.
The issues around the inadequacy of opportunities for youths in the country require young people to take intentional and conscious steps towards preparing and banking on the few that exist. My last article addresses ways that young people can prepare for and take advantage of opportunities as they come.
This article will be in four parts for the next four editions; this particular edition will highlight the need for skills to succeed and will give a general working meaning to what I consider as the top 20 skills that youths need to succeed in the 21st century. The next three editions will look critically at these skills and I will give recommendation and suggestions on how young people can build these skill sets and making the best use of same. References here will be drawn mostly from the Nigerian context and recommendations and suggestions are perfectly suitable and fit into the same context.
With the lightning-pace of today’s market, young people need to have some capacities and abilities in key areas to keep up and succeed. These skills are essentially important because they are mostly what employers look out for.
Also, as a young person, if your dream is to become self-employed or running a personal business, these skills are required for you to be at the top level and thereby be able to provide quality service for your clients. These skills are what differentiate people at a work place, a quality service from a bad one, a good relationship and a bad one etc. These skills are not inborn, therefore young people have the opportunity to learn to learn, practice and work hard until these skills become part of them and translate to adding value to their lives and making people get the right opportunities, get promoted, get the dream jobs, start-up businesses and ultimately, live fulfilled lives.
If you look through different sources, the list for required skills for youths is usually inexhaustible, personally I have a very long list of skills that I consider are youths need to succeed, but for the purpose of my article, I have purified and selected what I consider as my top 20. In no particular order, the list is as follows:
- Communication and Interpersonal Skills
- Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills
- Creativity and Innovation
- Cultural awareness
- Digital literacy
- Media literacy
- Technology literacy
- Fundraising skills
- Leadership skills
- Organizational skills
- Valuing diversity and difference
- Working under pressure and deadlines
- Business management skills
Looking through this list, you will realize that the Nigerian educational system do not factor in most of these skills into either the curriculum or delivery methodology. Most youths therefore pass through tertiary institutions without being inculcated with these important skills, thereby making youths unemployable or not having the required skills to be self-employed at the least. Data from Nigeria reveals that at least 70% of Nigerian youths have passed or are passing through public schools. These schools are often equipped to teach based on subject areas and the design of the curriculum and delivery does not usually encourage youths to build some of these required skills. Furthermore, universities don’t make conscious efforts to build the capacity of young people in areas that will make them succeed. The emphasis and focus is usually on passing key subject areas with the required grade to graduate and get dumped in the labour market. Unfortunately the labour market is not friendly. First there is no one-size fits all manual on how to survive the labour market, therefore getting armed with the required skills is very important to succeed. Okay, success is not even totally guaranteed, with the right skills you are expected to work really hard and be strategic as well.
Breaking These Skills Down
Going a step further, here is a brief explanation of what each of these skills mean.
Critical Thinking and Problem Solving Skills: These two always go together because one comes because of the other. Critical thinking is all about finding solutions to problems. If you are running a personal business as an entrepreneur, what you are constantly doing is finding solutions to problems and banking on that to sell yourself or a product. Similarly, in a formal or informal work setting, an employer requires the employees, to have a level of critical thinking. This is important in the day to day activities of youths, including those who are still in school. Critical thinking goes hand in hand with academic writing.
Collaboration: “Alone we can do so little; together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller. This is what collaboration is all about. Working together to achieve greater results. Most people like to see collaboration differently from teamwork, but I like to see both as one. Both terms will be used interchangeably as I expand in the next articles.
Creativity and Innovation: simply put, thinking outside the box. Creativity is thinking of something new and innovation deals with the implementation of the new invention. This is a top skill that everyone needs to succeed. Not only youths. All over the world, creativity and innovation always rules.
Communication and Interpersonal Skills: this involves ability to explain what you mean in a clear and concise manner, whether through written or spoken means. Most people sacrifice spoken English for written English and vice versa. Both are equally important skills needed and together form the central tenet in communication. Interpersonal skills connects with communication because it is all about listening and relating to other people, and to act upon key information / instructions.
Cultural awareness: understanding difference between one’s self and other people from different background is important. This is what cultural awareness is. In a diverse country like Nigeria, this skill is necessary in working well with people within a controlled work space or even as an entrepreneur.
Digital literacy: simple put the ability to analyse and evaluate information from different medium. Working with other people means information will come from different medium, therefore being skilful in being able to analyse and evaluate the information as they come and make meaning with same is necessary
Media literacy: most people stop at the level of being able to surf the internet to find answers to questions or spend time on social media. What else? Media literacy goes further to deal with how much people are able to make use of the different types of media platforms to either be employed or make their lives easy.
Technology literacy: this is especially valuable for people who are tech-savvy. This is a valuable and it involves understanding how the different components of the computer machine works.
Fundraising skills: to run a business you need capital. But how to get this capital is where the challenge usually lies. Fundraising is all about raising money to fund an idea, a business or a cause you are passionate about. Most employers ask for this skill and so it is a valuable skill to have.
Flexibility: key question here is, are you willing to change something when the need comes in order to achieve a result or when something is not working? This is what flexibility is all about – Being willing and able to adjust to achieve a certain goal.
Adaptability: like flexibility, adaptability is about adjusting to new conditions. Adaptability is one skill that you see in most job adverts. Being able to adapt also refers to changing an approach or ways of doing things to achieve a result.
Leadership skills: people have different leadership positions. But what differentiates a good leader from a bad one is the level of skills required to achieve a result in that position.
Organizational skills: this is about managing different tasks consciously with the required amount of time, energy, mentality etc. Organizational skill comes handy whether as a self-employed or an employee of an organization. Lack of organizational skills is often visible at the output level of individuals.
Networking: exchanging ideas and building professional contacts is a key skill required to succeed in the 21st century. You will be amazed at the life time opportunity that comes with your ability to network properly.
Negotiation: most times you find yourself in situations that you need to make your point clear and concise without being emotional and achieving a win-win outcome. Negotiation skill is valuable for both junior and senior employees. Successful entrepreneurs are often good negotiators.
Working under pressure and deadlines: organizations always work within deadlines and often employees are under pressure to deliver. This means one need some level of skills in time management and planning in order to do well in this area. As an entrepreneur or self-employed, clients can need a service within a very short period of time, therefore developing this skill is valuable to succeed.
Business management skills: this is about decision making. It is about taking the right decisions, having the right capacity to manage people, resources and taking the right steps towards achieving the goal of an organization or a company.
Initiative: people who are able to use their own initiative are blessings to their employers. Every employee wants employees that can take initiative within their purview.
Productivity skills: this refers to delivering results in a timely manner and also being generally effective. Result delivery is the first step to achieving an organization’s objective, therefore productivity skill is paramount.
Developing these skills is about putting the necessary effort and amount of time. With the rise in technology all over the world, people are taking advantages of online courses, newsletters and websites to develop skills that they need for particular task and for some developing overall skills in different areas that will be valuable. As I write on each of these skills, I will be giving suggestions on how to develop these skills and also recommendation on resources that are accessible to all.