Obiora Okonkwo, Chairman of United Nigeria Airlines, has called on the federal and state governments to use the Igbo apprenticeship system to address the scourge of youth unemployment in the country.
Okonkwo, who made the call in a keynote address delivered at the 2022 edition of the All Market Conference, organised by the Ndigboamaka Progressive Traders Association in Lagos, said the Igbo apprenticeship scheme has the capacity to mop up the army of unemployed youths and engage them meaningfully .
According to him, the federal and state governments have the capacity to enter into agreements with traders and other tradesmen to provide tutelage to youths and reduce unemployment.
He said the scheme, which had proven to be a success among the Igbo people and had helped them to create wealth, can be replicated across the country with the government providing the needed guarantees for start-up funds.
“I call on governments across Nigeria to explore the benefits of the apprenticeship system practiced by the Igbo people and use it to address youth unemployment and fight criminality.
“What it takes is a policy on the placement of willing youths in businesses that will take them through tutelage for a period of time while the government empowers them with start up funds upon completion”, he said.
According to him, unemployment has become the biggest contributor to insecurity across the country, adding that for the government to effectively tackle the situation, it must begin to think outside the box to see other ways of addressing the problem.
“When youths are meaningfully engaged”, Okonkwo said, “they rarely have time to engage in criminal activities”.
Okonkwo, who in 2020 instituted a research at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Business School into how to revitalise the Igbo apprenticeship scheme and reposition it to become the new model in tackling unemployment, said the report of the study, which was publicly presented in October 2021, should form part of working and policy document of government on addressing unemployment in the country.
He said: “In October 2021, the report of the study which I instituted at the Nnamdi Azikiwe University Business School into the Igbo apprenticeship scheme was presented at the university in Awka.
“The report made far reaching recommendations on how to reinvent the scheme and position it as the new framework for addressing unemployment in the country.
“I therefore believe that it has now become necessary for governments across the country to obtain copies of the study from the university to see how they can tap into the recommendations to develop new policies that would help them to tackle unemployment and secure our states”, he stated.
Okonkwo also called on traders and tradesmen across the country to open new avenues of partnership with governments in order to make the scheme work.
According to him, “traders and tradesmen must also be able to help government by opening themselves to this new idea and make the scheme work so that together, we can all address unemployment which has fed insecurity across the country”
“By agreeing to work with the government to train our youths in trades and skills, you would be aiding the process of ending unemployment in the country. My idea is that while you train our youths over some incentives, the government can guarantee to provide start-up funds to enable the apprentices to become self-employed. That will go a long way in reducing unemployment and crime in the country”, Okonkwo added.