FEATURES – Fruits of Okowa’s job creation scheme

STEP and YAGEPreneurs in Delta during training.

CHUKWUDI ABIANDU writes on the gains of the effort of the Delta State government to create jobs and keep the teaming youths busy and engaged.

“Success starts when you are inspired to make the effort. Inspiration comes when you are motivated to be dissatisfied with things as they are. Inspirational dissatisfaction is therefore, the strongest single force in your success system that never fails”

The foregoing sayings of an anonymous sage would appear to have captured the workings of the mind of Dr. Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa long before he became governor of Delta State. And attempting to understand the growing army of the unemployed in the state would probably provide answers to the governor’s thoughts and ruminations which coalesced into his now famous declaration: “This can’t be allowed to continue”.

Dissatisfied with the unemployment situation, the thought soon developed into a burning desire, a vision and focused intention to do something about it. Five years on, amazing and humbling testimonies as fruits produced from the governor’s inspirational dissatisfaction with the unacceptable unemployment rate in Delta state, has brought joy, succour and hope to jobless able bodied men and women who, hitherto, had a forlorn hope about what to do with their lives, and what the future held for them.

Today, lives have been changed and enhanced; destinies shaped for the better. Thirty-one year old Authentic Ojuwa, from Obiaruku, in Ukwuani Local Government Area who did the Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) specialising in computer hardware repairs, having acquired skills in computer appreciation and software said: “For the first time in Delta State, we are seeing a programme that is availing the youth the ultimate opportunity to be involved in job creation”.
Another STEP participant apprenticed in electrical installation, Suowei Felix, 31 years, from Kiagbodo, Burutu Local Government Area, said: “This programme has impacted my life positively, especially in the area of acquiring skill and making use of it”.

Yet, another product of the skill acquisition programme, Bridget Apodor, a cosmetologist and beauty therapist from Bomadi Local Government and a graduate of economics from Delta State University, Abraka had this to say: “I was unemployed for six years after graduation from the university. I was in and out of private jobs for those years without a steady means of livelihood. I was discouraged and confused. But thanks be to God, I was prayerful. Hearing God’s word encouraged me and I believed that someday there would be a change. Suddenly, the change came. It was a drastic change. The opportunity came; my husband came; the training came. I was trained for three months by the Delta State Government at ‘Body and Mind,’ Asaba”. And that began a new song for her.

Of course, for Dr. Okowa, the opportunity came for him to do something about his inspirational dissatisfaction when on May 29, 2015, he took the oath of office to pilot the affairs of the state as governor. Soon after the swearing in, he hit the ground running by unveiling his five-point SMART Agenda with “Strategic wealth creation and provision of job for all Deltans” as number one in the docket.
Next, he established the Office of the Chief Job Creation Officer, with Prof. Eric Eboh, an Agro Economist as the chief job creation officer. The office was created to design, plan, coordinate, train, implement and communicate the job creation programmes with direct responsibility to the governor.

The aim was to equip unemployed youths, (graduates and school leavers) with vocational skills, training in agriculture, orientation and mindset change, life skills, entrepreneurship and resources to become self-employed, entrepreneurs, managers, leaders and job creators.

On August 26, 2015, Governor Okowa inaugurated the Job and Wealth Creation scheme, declaring: “The job creation programme has been strategically designed to tackle the problems of youth unemployment and to produce lasting and sustainable prosperity across board through focused efforts to stimulate the growth and development of Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSMEs) which are the backbone for economic growth and social development in any society”.

The implementation strategy for the scheme involved Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP), Skills Training and Entrepreneurship (STEP) and Graduate Enhancement Programme (GEEP). Five years after, Prof. Eboh speaks on the monumental successes recorded thus far: “The success drivers are underpinned by the fact that from a philosophical standpoint, the programme design and implementation are trainee-centred, service oriented and results-based. In the same wise, every design element and implementation measure is focused primarily on turning unemployed youths into entrepreneurs, leaders and managers. The STEP and YAGEP training and mentoring process aim beyond raising entrepreneurs, to producing leaders and managers that have high levels of personal responsibility and personal effectiveness”.

While STEP involves acquisition of vocational skills, YAGEP focuses on agricultural and agro-processing; while GEEP aims at linking unemployed graduates with professional trainings to companies for internship in anticipation that such companies will employ them. No fewer than 4,200 STEP and YAGEP beneficiaries have been trained and established and they own and run their enterprises from 2015 till date.

Mr. Terry Ogolor, from Udu Local Government Area who was part of the 2016/2017 cycle of programme beneficiaries gave this testimonial: “I want to share my life testimony of how the SMART agenda of Governor Okowa has transformed my life and liberated me from being a job seeker to an entrepreneur. Upon graduation in 2009, I was unemployed. Initially, I taught in a private school, but discovered that the N10,000 I was paid was nothing to write home about. Thereafter, I started hustling on the streets, but the street was not friendly.

“One day a friend told me about job creation form.
“Though I applied, I was not shortlisted. The second time, I reluctantly applied; I thought it was a scam, one of those government programmes. To my greatest surprise, I was invited to attend the interview after which I did not hear from the job creation office for a while. I became frustrated and concluded it was a scam and gave up.

“Back to the streets, to feed was a problem. My friends suggested I go into crime to survive. While planning on what to do, the Office of the Job Creation Officer published the list of successful applicants and those who saw my name informed me. I was invited to camp. At the camp, I had three square meals daily throughout. For the first time in my life, it was unbelievable I could have three meals daily. I was no longer hungry and any thought of going into crime vanished from my mind because I was comfortable with life at the Orientation camp. In fact, I had a rethink and decided to get serious with my life after the Orientation and Personal Effectiveness Training (OPET).

“Thereafter, I had a three month internship, where I became well grounded in fish production. My trainer was good. Shortly after, I was given 2,000 juveniles, I50 bags of fish feed, a monthly stipend of N15,000 for six months, two earthen ponds and other items. My assessment of the Starter Park, excluding the ponds was over a million Naira. I was shocked and I began to shed tears. I then pledged that I would remain indebted to the state governor for life. The only way I could pay back was to ensure that I succeeded in my enterprise.

“Apart from fish farming, I am into transportation now. I was able to use some of the proceeds from my fish farm after harvest to buy a tricycle (Keke). My colleagues at the farm pay me to transport their feeds for them from the point of purchase to the cluster. Also, I use the keke to supply feeds to various farms on behalf of feed sellers, and I am well paid. My daily routine is work at the farm in the morning, resume transportation and return to the farm by 5p.m.

“Today, I am a happy fish farm owner at YAGEP Fish Farm cluster, Ugbokodo-Okpe. I fend for myself, my family and friends because of what Governor Okowa did for me. I am into the sixth production cycle now. I have grown my fish from 2,000 to over 4,000 in four ponds. I now set up fish farms for people; I am into consultancy by experience. I help those with challenges in their farms and the pay is good. Thanks to the vision of His Excellency, the Governor of Delta State for making me a consultant in fish production”.

No doubt, the relatively long testimony of Terry Ogolor speaks of the impact that the job creation and entrepreneurship programme has made, and is making among youths in the state that have embraced it. Counting the harvest of job creation, the Chief Job Creation Officer, Prof. Eric Eboh stated: “While the introduction of the job creation scheme may have been attended by skepticism and based on poor performance of previous youth empowerment programmes, the professionalism and transparency of implementation quickly elicited programme credibility and wide acceptance from the target audience and stakeholders”.

Now the fruits of the programme are rolling in via landmark maturation stories that beneficiaries are telling, with joy written all over them. The beneficiaries remain living proofs of the journey that began with Okowa’s dissatisfaction with the unemployment status of our youths, culminating in a vision to change things for the better, and climaxing in dynamism with the job creation system in Delta where entrepreneurs are being raised, wealth built and jobs created.

* Source: https://www.independent.ng/fruits-of-okowas-job-creation-scheme/

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