THE BIG QUESTION: What next after NYSC? — Corps members express fear over job uncertainty

By Victor Akuma

After rain, they say, comes shine.  But the reverse seems to be the case for many National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) members in Nigeria who, after their compulsory one-year service to their fatherland, are confronted with job uncertainties.

Among many Nigerian youths undergoing the scheme or those who have passed out, it is not uncommon to hear questions such as: “What will I do after youth service? “How long will it take me to get my dream job?” “Will I even get a job at all?” and so on.

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What ought to be a turning point for such youths — after many tortuous years of navigating through the country’s ill-equipped educational system – is gradually becoming a nightmare.

Enter the dreadful job statistics.

Unemployment is no doubt a global problem. But in Nigeria, with an unchecked rising population, the situation appears to be worsening at the thick of every second.

As of 2019, Nigeria’s unemployment rate according to statista.com stood at 6.11% — a rough edge compared to what it used to be some six years back when the country recorded 3.7%.

A survey by Jobberman, a leading recruitment agency in the West African region, revealed 47% of Nigeria university graduates are unemployed. According to the agency, Nigeria’s university system which holds about 150 tertiary institutions produce up to 500,000 graduates every year and there are also Nigerian graduates who study abroad who come home to compete for jobs.

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A recent unemployment report released by the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) showed unemployment among people with post-secondary school education has almost tripled within three years, from 12% in 2015 to 30% in 2018. It also revealed that even the most academically qualified Nigerian workers are struggling with unemployment with nearly 10,000 PhD holders said to be currently unemployed.

While Nigeria’s labour force grew by nearly 4% between 2010 and 2017, jobs remained at an alarming rate of just 1.6% in the same period.

These facts have unceasingly become sources of worry for fresh graduates in Nigeria, making their expectations for well-paid jobs bleak with many already scouting for some other means of survival.

In this article, some past and present corps members tell CRISPNG about their fears over the uncertainties that characterise the Nigerian job landscape.

According to Peter Pada, a graduate of Geology and a 2019 NYSC member, “The question in every serving Corp member’s heart is “what’s next after the service?” Reality presents itself before you. You are no longer expecting monthly allowance.”

“Yes, uncertainty creeps in. In fact, at a point, you feel blank, even with all the professional courses you did during your service. It’s worst when there is no job in sight. Only those who can do anything outside their certificate seem a little bit stable,” he said.

“But generally, it’s just a matter of time before that fear of the unknown leave your consciousness.” he concluded.

Also speaking, Julius Nelson, a graduate of Agric Economics who also did his NYSC in 2019 suggests that the Nigerian government must restructure and empower corps members during their serving period so they don’t have to worry much about being unemployed.

“The main fear of most fresh graduates in this country is unemployment because of the fact that there’s little or no job.”

“As an NYSC member, I had hoped to get employed.  The truth is that everybody must not be an entrepreneur, not even with the volatile nature of the Nigerian business environment, starting from bureaucratic bottlenecks in the capital acquisition.”

“I think the idea of one-year service is a very good initiative. The different cultural diversity and potentials in this country need to be harnessed to improve economic growth and development. However, there’s need for restructuring to ensure that the lives and properties of our youths are properly secured in their various host communities, that the corps members are better empowered during and after the service year. To ensure that any graduate who’s ready to work finds something doing after service. This is achievable if our leaders rejuvenate their moral conscience to work for a common good.  They could develop different potential sectors we have in this country especially in the area of agriculture,” he said.

In the same vein, Oforka Lucky, a graduate of civil engineering and who has completed his NYSC scheme, said: “Well the major fear I had as a corps member was the fear of what comes next. If I’ll get a good place as my PPA and if I’ll be retained after my service year is done”

“From the experience I had while serving, more than half of the people I came across with had that job uncertainty as a major topic of discussion most of the time. We were and still are well aware of the high search for jobs and low number of it.”

“I found out that it was hard to even get a place of primary assignment as a corps member. The worry was, if it could take someone looking for a place to serve months to get something meaningful, how long will it then take when that person is searching for a higher paying job which is already overwhelmed by the number of applicants for it?”

“So, for me. My major and may I say my only fear during service about what lies ahead was if I could get a good paying job and something in the line of my field of expertise.”

On the other hand, Otugo Lucky, a graduate of Mass Communication who is currently undergoing his service year said: “The worry exists in most Corp members mind aside the few from the “connected” families, if you understand what I mean.

“The fear on my part had its moments. But of a truth, though I studied Mass communication, that wasn’t my only area of interest. I have diverse interest which is one thing I thank UNN (CEDR) for. They opened my eyes for business and that’s where my main focus lies much at the moment. That’s not to say that if I see employment opportunities immediately after my service year, I wouldn’t take it. The only thing is that the zeal, passion and plans that I have for business now allays such fear.

As pointed out by Julius Nelson and Otugo Lucky, many have called for a shift in focus from paid employment to self-employment among young graduates, noting such is key to overcoming the country’s unemployment problems.

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