Most Nigerian graduates don’t plan for life after school—Stephen Chris, CEO, The Bluemason Group

Meet Stephen Okechukwu, the founder and Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of The Bluemason Group.

He is one of the many Nigerian youths blazing the trail in spite of inherent odds in the country.

A graduate of mass communication from the University of Nigeria, Nsukka (UNN) in Enugu State, Okechukwu is adding value to the society by using technology to solve problems.

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In this interview with CRISPNG, he talks about the birth of The Bluemason Group, unemployment situation in the country and other issues concerning the youths.

Tell us more about yourself

My name is Stephen Okechukwu Ogbonna. But most people know me as Stephen Chris. I am a Creative Developer with expertise in Graphics, Web Design and Motion Graphics. I’m also the Founder of The Bluemason Group. A creative firm where I try as much as I can to bring value and growth to businesses using my years of experience and skillsset.

How did Bluemason come about?

Well, The Bluemason Group has been a childhood dream which eventually materialised while I was in my 3rd year at the university. It was formerly known as ad-value. I started out selling ads in various magazine publications within the school. Then I took a course in digital marketing all I had then was a small Nokia C3 but I’m usually not deterred by challenges like that, then another course in graphics design which further fueled my passion. The thing is, I’ve always wanted to do my own thing… I have a weird mind and a curious instinct. I love technology. After that, I applied for an internship in an advertising firm where I became a motion graphics artiste and honed my skills the more.

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Tell us about what The Bluemason Group stands for (services…)

The goal for The Bluemason Group is to be a Creative firm with a focus on using technology to solve problems. As we speak, the core services of the company is in three fronts: Creative Designs, Web Development & Motion Graphics. Our approach is to provide easy and affordable channels for businesses to thrive and reach their target audience with ease while making profit. In the end everybody wins.

Looking at Nigeria, the unemployment situation is worsening at the thick of every second. The government is claiming most of the graduates are unemployable. On the other hand, the youths are claiming there are no opportunities. What do you make of the situation?

I see this as a-two-way street. By this, I am implying that both parties are guilty. Yes, the country is hard and the government is barely working to improve it. It can be frustrating on the youths and the young graduates. Really, it can be.

An upcoming event aimed at raising skillful individuals organised by The Bluemason Group

However, I also have to be sincere and unbiased and state that, truly a lot of our youths are unemployable. I know this because in have spoken with and interacted with a lot of youths like me and sometimes I am embarrassed. The fact remains that, a huge number of our youths who had the privilege of a university education rarely planned for life after school.

They mostly just want to graduate and get their certificates and then hope that, that document will get them the big jobs. Truth is, that’s not always the case with employers. In modern market situations, employers tend to focus more on ability than qualifications which is what most of the fresh graduates do not bring to the table. There needs to be a system that allows undergraduates to get hands on work experience, and I’m not even talking about internship that’s part of their curriculum.

As a student, the onus is on you to begin practicing what you intend to do after school right there in school. The school is your breeding ground

Using your own experience, do you think there are job opportunities in Nigeria?

Yes, I think there are jobs to an extent. The problem is that the available skill-sets aren’t commensurate with the available jobs. A lot of the people applying for jobs don’t have the right match for such jobs. Yes, they may fit into the academic qualification but when the chips are down, they are lost. I once worked with a graduate who didn’t know how to use MsWord and PowerPoint was like rocket science. This is not to put anyone down, I don’t have it all figured out as well, but there are basic skills that the school won’t give you.

That’s why you have platforms like YouTube, Udemy, Alison, Lynda etc. These platforms will enable you gain practical knowledge of what you are studying in school. All of the skills I have, I mostly learnt from watching YouTube videos and that includes programming in JavaScript. There are unlimited opportunities out there.

However, I also have to be sincere and unbiased and state that, truly a lot of our youths are unemployable. I know this because in have spoken with and interacted with a lot of youths like me and sometimes I am embarrassed. The fact remains that, a huge number of our youths who had the privilege of a university education rarely planned for life after school.

Let us slightly digress into politics. Do you think Nigerian youths can address the country’s challenges?

Yes, I see the youths taking over major sectors of the country in a few years time. We are already doing great things globally, like in the entertainment and sports industry. Nigerians youths are making giant strides already so I believe we are ready and capable.  If presented with the right opportunities and platform, then of course, there’s greatness ahead.

What advice to you have your youths in Nigeria?

For the youths, the advice is simple. Dream big, plan small and start now. There’s never a right time to eat a frog, so you could as well eat it now and either sink or swim. Don’t wait for everything to be perfect before you move. Just move! There’s greatness ahead of you.

Nigerians youths are making giant strides already so I believe we are ready and capable.

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