Advice To Jubilee Fellows: Seize This Moment, Achieve Your Best Dreams – By Yemi Osinbajo
About two years ago I had a conversation with Mo Yahaya, the dynamic United Nations Development Programme, UNDP representative in Nigeria, Otunba Niyi Adebayo, Minister of Industry, Trade and Investment and Dr. Yemi Dipeolu, our Special Adviser to the President on Economic Affairs.
The three of them had been talking about what to do about the challenge of solving the problem of graduate unemployment. This was an issue that our government considered perhaps the most important socio-economic issue, jobs. Mr. President had in fact said that he didn’t think there was a bigger problem that our country faced order than unemployment because according to him, it fed every other thing. It fed security, instability, and fed poor growth in the economy.
But the problem was not just finding jobs for millions of young people but more importantly, ensuring that young people had strong employability skills that businesses and public service require. In other words, the employer today is not looking for a string of degrees, but for a person who has the basic skills to be an asset in the workplace.
So, the three gentlemen proposed the idea of a paid youth internship mentorship programme. A programme where young men and women will work with private or public establishments for a year in which they will, by a process of on-the-job mentorship, imbibe employability skills, and be mentored by leaders in the host organizations where they work.
This we all agreed will be a partnership between the Federal Government, the UNDP and other partners. The EU joined the conversation and became alongside the UNDP our most committed sponsors.
Today that partnership has grown to include over 5000 businesses that are offering places for work and mentorship to our first set of Jubilee Fellows.
The President launched the Nigeria Jubilee Fellows Program in August 2021. The idea is to have every year, 20,000 Jubilee Fellows working in establishments all around Nigeria, learning work skills, and being mentored by entrepreneurs, business managers and experienced public servants. And they are paid every month for the entire period of their service.
The birth of the Jubilee Fellowship is an important statement on the new and dynamic way to solve economic problems today. It must be a collaboration between the government, private sector, civil society, development partners or what is called today the “third sector.” It must be individuals in these sectors, coming together to talk informally and then developing big game-changing ideas. This is how we have seen the Nigeria Jubilee Fellowship Programme come to be.
But let me also say a word or two to this powerful and energetic gathering of potential entrepreneurs, business leaders, public sector leaders, and the movers and shakers of business and industry today and in the future, and if you are one of these, potential entrepreneurs, business leaders, public sector leaders, and the movers and shakers of business and industry today and in the future, let me hear you make some noise!
The first piece of advice I would like to give you is this, so you are going into organized workplaces at a time when jobs are relatively scarce. The point then is that you must be prepared to make an impact on your employers and on your colleagues that makes you unforgettable.
You must make an impact that will get people to recommend you, perhaps not even necessarily in their own organisation but in some other organisation. In other words, how do you make yourself a valuable employee and a valuable colleague to your co-employees? The answer is to understand what is required in the modern workplace. You need to be a competent and knowledgeable team player.
What every employer wants is a good team, a team that works closely and the rule today as you have seen even how this programme was birth, is collaboration, working together. You need to be the employee who is willing and ready to work with everyone and not the employee who is trying to look better than everyone else. You should be one who sees the place of employment as a football team, working closely together your team scores goals and wins. No one person can make up the team, collaboration is so important.
A selfish, self-seeking player no matter how smart you are, will destroy the work of the team. But you can only be a good team player if you understand the game, or how the organization works and you are competent. Even if you are a receptionist at an organization, you must read up and ask questions to understand what the organization is about, what they are trying to achieve, how they work, what their strengths are, what their challenges are and how to help to solve some of their problems or how best to support those who are doing the actual work.
I once asked a young man who was working at a large establishment the name of the Managing Director of the company and he didn’t know.
There was another lady who served as a youth corper in a consulting firm but couldn’t tell me the substance of one single consulting job the firm was engaged in, according to her, she was merely an administrative officer. Yes, that might be the case but you must be curious enough, and interested enough in the business of your employers to go beyond what is happening on your desk. You cannot be competent if you don’t know your organization, the business it does and its goals.
The last but one point I will like to make is that competence today is not just knowing what you are trained to do, it is also about being knowledgeable about a lot of things and that is by being prepared to learn, study, and ask questions every day.
The best worker is one who can multitask. So let me give you an example, for instance, my photographer, Tolani Alli started off trying to be a doctor and abandoned it. Not only is she a good photographer, but she is also a storyteller and can write good stories. She can also fix electronic equipment because she learnt to do it. If anything goes wrong here, she can fix it because she learnt to do it. She is also good at writing computer programmes because she learnt to do them.
Even if I sack her today and say, thank you, your services are no longer needed as a photographer, she will simply pivot to the next job and make a living for herself.
Today, what is required is to be a multi-tasking person, there are so many opportunities and you have got to learn to take those opportunities. In my day, what I learnt to be was a lawyer, it was difficult to get trained to do anything else. Today, almost every time when you turn on your computer, you find so many online training programmes. You should take all those opportunities.
Let me end by saying to you, that you are young and educated at the most advanced moment in human history. In my day, technological advancements were light years away. When I was your age, I never imagined anything like a text message was possible. Nobody had ever dreamt of it, but today, think of all the possibilities. This is the most advantageous moment for any young person and many of you are proving this.
Don’t listen to those who say “the good old days”, they usually have a bad memory. But these days are the best days and you need to take advantage of that.
Since 2015, in the midst of two recessions, we have seen 6 tech and innovation companies that are now described as unicorns – that is a company valued at over one billion dollars, established by young men and women under thirty, many of them trained in Nigerian universities. The opportunities are limitless. No matter what people say about challenges, it is in those challenges that people make the greatest breakthroughs of all. It is the challenges that have the opportunities lying there somewhere.
But you don’t have to be an entrepreneur to be a success, you can be a great software engineer, administrator, or manager of men and resources. Every day presents that great opportunity, seize this moment and achieve your best dreams!
So let me again thank our partners, the UNDP, the EU the private sector, the 5,000 businesses that have offered places for our fellows and especially Sterling Bank for their support and the fresh commitments they have made.
(Vice-President Yemi Osinbajo spoke at the On-boarding event of the Nigeria Jubilee Fellows programme in Abuja on 10th November, 2022)
IMAGE CREDIT: Villa Updates