Employability is an important piece of social development, particularly for younger generations. However, according to the International Labour Organization (ILO), two out of every five young people are either unemployed or have a job that keeps them in poverty. With the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic, more than one in six young people are out of work while those who remain employed have seen their working hours greatly reduced. The impact of the global pandemic is greater in low and middle-income countries where up to 75% of young people work in the informal economy with no job security and little to no social protection.
Nigeria, with one of the youngest populations globally, falls into the category of middle- and low-income economies. According to the National Bureau of Statistics (NBS), Nigeria’s youth unemployment rate rose from 25.5% in 2017, to 29.7% in 2018. With the additional burden of the COVID-19 crisis, youth employment and employability are challenges that must be addressed urgently. It is imperative that all hands be on deck to ensure that the youth are futurefit with relevant skills for the workplace and for enterprise.
Nestlé Nigeria is one of the leading companies who have consistently invested in youth empowerment, helping youth build employability and entrepreneurship capabilities. This is achieved through the Nestlé Needs YOUth initiative reaching over 13, 000 young Nigerians in the past 2 years. Activities include career fairs, entrepreneurship training and mentorship, as well as technical skills training, equipping youth to find decent employment or profitable enterprise.
According to the Managing Director, Nestlé Nigeria, Mr. Mauricio Alarcon, “It is clear that youth have a critical role to play in building thriving, resilient communities. We believe that communities cannot survive or be successful if they fail to create opportunities for future generations. Through Nestlé needs YOUth, we aim to help young people access economic opportunities. We also want to help equip the next generation of employees, and entrepreneurs, regardless of their field or level of expertise.
“This is important for us as a business, because young people are the employees who will keep our company dynamic and competitive in the future, they are the future farmers who will grow the crops we need, and the future entrepreneurs who will help us reach new markets. This is one of the ways we create shared value.”
Nestlé Celebrates Youth:
To coincide with the worldwide commemoration of International Youth Day 2020, Nestlé has announced its newly established virtual internship programme in line with Nestlé Needs YOUth’s focus on reducing youth unemployment across the globe. The programme which is open to qualified youth from any higher education institution seeks to transfer required international skills for the workplace. Registration is via the company’s website.
Nestlé Needs Youth Programs in Nigeria:
In Nigeria, Nestlé Needs YOUth initiatives are focused on three areas of action – Employment and employability, Agripreneurship and Entrepreneurship. These initiatives comprise Technical Training, My Own Business (MYOWBU), Youth Agripreneurship Development Program(YADIS), and Employability Skills Building programs in collaboration with other stakeholders including the Lagos State Government, Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) and various tertiary institutions including Lagos Business School, LBS.
Equipping Youth for Post-Covid economic recovery:
To alleviate the additional impact of COVID-19 on livelihoods, Nestlé Nigeria recently collaborated with NECA and Redwood consulting to offer online entrepreneurial skills training to over 1,000 youth during the COVID-19 lockdowns. The programme, NECApreneur, provided an opportunity for young people to upscale their entrepreneurial skills to support economic recovery post-covid. The training covered a range of topics including how to start a business, market insight, logistics and operations. Equipping Youth with technical skills In the new realities, technical skills are more essential than ever, not only for boosting employability, but also for supporting the industrialisation of our nation. Since 2011, Nestlé Nigeria has invested in helping young people build technical skills in machining, mechanical fitting operations, electrical operations, instrumentation operations and automation at its Technical Training Centres located in the company’s Agbara and Abaji factories. The 18-month multi-skilled, vocational training program prepares beneficiaries for the prestigious London City and Guilds technical certification.
Mr. Sola Akinyosoye, the Country Human Resources Manager for Nestlé Nigeria said, “Nestlé’s Technical Training program has benefitted over 100 students so far, with over 90% of them directly employed by the company. One person lifted out of poverty translates to positive impact on the whole family and on whole communities. So, together with our partners, The Swiss Embassy in Nigeria, the Industrial Training Fund (ITF) and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA), we will continue to invest in the education and capacity development of youth to help reduce the burden of unemployment while creating a pipeline of skilled technicians for our business and for the industry at large.”
The Industrial Training Fund (ITF) and Nigeria Employers Consultative Association (NECA) joined forces with Nestlé Nigeria in 2019 to extend the reach of the Abaji Technical Training Centre. This initiative is in addition to the company’s internship and graduate trainee programs to help young school leavers build the skills required to find gainful employment. For four years, Nestlé collaborated with the Lagos State Government on the Ready, Set, Work (RSW), which aims to build employability skills.
Engaging Youth in the Agriculture Value Chain:
If we consider the pace at which our population is growing and the need to improve food security by creating a sustainable food system, it is clear that the agriculture value chain holds great opportunities for youth to find decent employment while developing innovative solutions for the future of food. As a good food, good life company whose purpose is unlocking the power of food to enhance quality of life for everyone, today and for future generations, Nestlé works alongside other stakeholders to accelerate the inclusion of youth in the agriculture value chain. To this end, Nestlé Nigeria recently signed an agreement with Alliance for a Green Revolution in Africa (AGRA), which aims to improve food security by increasing the interest and opportunities for youth in farming and agri-food businesses in West Africa. The program, Youth Agripreneurship Development Program (YADIS), will reach 800 youth in Nigeria over the next 2 years.
The program is focused on two value chains: A Cassava Plan, targeted at 400 youths implemented by Psaltry International Limited and a Cereals Plan also targeted at 400 youth, implemented by CBIL. YADIS provides training on good agricultural practices, post-harvest management, food safety and entrepreneurial skills while providing expert mentorship to help the youth become profitable in their farming enterprises. The program also provides input credit to access the right quality and quantity of various farm inputs required for increased productivity while also linking participants to financial institutions to secure additional funding for business sustainability.
Building Future Entrepreneurs:
Another way the company promotes youth employment is through My Own Business (MYOWBU) program which works with young people to start their own small businesses as mobile café entrepreneurs. By providing entrepreneurship training and startup equipment, Nestlé helps youth maximize their potential. Since the program started, about 2,100 small businesses have been created. The MYOWBU operators also form part of Nescafé’s consumer recruitment drive, thereby creating value both for the society and for Nestlé.
One of the beneficiaries of MYOWBU is Mr. Wasiu Adeyeye who started as a pushcart operator and has grown his business to a more upscale Mobile Café. Mr. Adeyeye was a school leaver, who like most young Nigerians could not find gainful employment. He says he is thankful that he became part of the MyOwBu program.
In Wasiu’s own words, “When my friend and former schoolmate introduced me to the Nescafé pushcart initiative, I did not believe that this business would help me become successful in life. I soon realised that with hard work and persistence, I would succeed, so I patiently understudied my friend and worked diligently. Today, I am happy to say that, I have been able to cater for my wife and my child. I am able to pay my daughter’s her school fees. In fact, we are doing well. I am confident that my future is promising.”
This is one of the beneficiary success stories that encourages Nestlé to keep investing in creating opportunities for young people to attain their highest potential. Nestlé Nigeria continues to leverage the company’s global resources and knowhow to make a difference by driving societal progress.