NYSC-members-1207The subsidy Re-investment Empowerment Programme Fund (SURE-P) is being channelled into job creation for graduates under a special arrangement with companies. The initiative opens a window of opportunity for jobless graduates, AKINOLA AJIBADE reports.

Can the Federal Government solve the unemployment problem? How far can its initiatives go in creating jobs and improving the economy? These are some of the posers to be unravelled in the battle to check unemployment.

Last week, the government launched the ‘Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS),’ to address youth unemployment.

A product of Subsidy Re-investment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), the scheme is designed to build graduates’ skills by ensuring that they go for one-year internship programme in designated companies. Also, the companies are expected to employ the interns, once they are satisfied with their performance.

Firms that have signed up to the programme include, Dangote Group, Dana Group, Nigerian Stock Exchange, Chi Pharmaceuticals, Heir Holdings, Lafarge Cement and West African Portland Cement (WAPCO). Guaranty Trust Bank Plc, Keystone Nigeria Limited and United Bank for Africa (UBA) Plc. Ministries, Departments and Agencies (MDA) are also involved in the scheme.

Also within the SURE-P net are Maternal and Child Health (MCH) Services, Community Services Scheme (CSS), Vocational Training Scheme, Community Services, Women and Youth Employment (CSWYE) and others.

The GIS, however, remains the joker because of its capacity to help in tackling unemployment.

At a media sensitisation workshop on the scheme in Lagos, the Project Director, GIS, Peter Papka, said its goal is to enhance the employability of at least 50,000 unemployed graduates in the 36 states including Abuja.

Over 120,000 graduates, he said, had registered with the scheme so far, while 3,000 firms have agreed to take them for intership.

Papka said: “Apart from a few large companies and organisations that have taken over the graduates for internship, most of our partners are Small and Medium Scale enterprises (SMEs). There is, therefore, the need to sensitise more companies to join the scheme so that more unemployed graduates can be gainfully engaged.

“As part of the sensitisation efforts, the Minister of Finance and Coordinating Minister for the Economy, Dr Ngozi Okonjo- Iweala has conducted an interactive session with captains of industry and chief executives of major local and international companies, advocacy visits were also paid to firms in major cities. Sensitisation events have been held in 27 states so far, with over 5,000 firms reached, many have been registered.”

He said graduates were required to register online, stating their resume, National Youth Service Corps (NYSC) discharge certificates, age, referees, among other information.

Also, the Convener, CSWYE, Audu Maikori, said the scheme was meant for graduates of between 18 and 40 in order to improve their job prospects.

He said those within the 40 years age bracket were strong, productive, and could easily meet targets, hence the decision to peg the interns’ age at 40.

Maikori said graduates would go for one year internship in companies partnering with the scheme, adding that the companies have the right to employ them or ask them to go upon completion of the internship.

Graduates that are not employed after the programme, he said, would be advised to go for an entrepreneurship programme introduced by SURE-P.

“Under the entrepreneurship project, graduates are allowed to choose and operate in areas of their competence. They would be taught how to start and grow businesses, bringing in new ideas, and improving on the old ones for growth,” he added.

Another area where the graduates’ service would be needed, he said, was agriculture, noting that the sector contributes to the nation’s Gross Domestic roduct. He said the government would welcome ideas that are meaningful and capable of providing jobs for people.

The Head of Operations, GIS, Akubo Adegbe, said the implementation of the scheme was in three stages of employer, graduate and Project Implementation Unit (PIU). Under the employer category are issues such as registration of companies, intern request, intern skills assessment/development, entrepreneurship plan and others.

The graduate stage provides rooms for online registration of school leavers, verification and opening of accounts where his/her monthly stipend of N25,000 would be paid into and others. The PIU stage deals with employer verification, intern verification and account opening and monthly stipend of interns.

He said companies interested in partnering with the scheme must register with the Corporate Affairs Commission (CAC), and have the capacity to keep the graduates for one year. Distress companies, he added, would not be allowed to partner with the scheme. The distressed firms, he said, were known upon investigation by their profitability base, working conditions, and other indices.

Companies that breached the law, he said, were required to withdraw from the scheme, adding that breaches can be in different forms.

“For instance, if companies decide to take part of the N25,000 monthly stipend the government has agreed to pay the interns, such organisations would not be allowed to continue with the scheme. Some companies may be deducting, let’s say, N10,000 or more from their interns’ salary. Things like this can happen. When it happens, the firms would be delisted from the scheme However, we have not experienced things like this before.”

He said companies whose names were delisted from the scheme stood the risk of losing the fiscal incentives promised them by the government.

Companies in the GIS, he said, would enjoy tax waivers, among other incentives, adding that they have compensation package agreed with them by the government.

He said the project was sustainable, stressing that the government has adopted measures, such as, tax incentives, good policy framework, and strong team to drive it.

The project, he said, would not be like others which the government launched in the past without result. The government through the Ministry of Finance, he said, had taken it upon itself to fight unemployment.

Some years ago, the government launched the National Directorate of Employment (NDE) to check unemployment. The programme allows graduates to learn a vocation of their choice. Though it has created jobs for many, it has not reduced unempoyment.

Will the GIS be better? Time will tell.


[The Nation]