By Rosemary Nwaebuni
The successful 10-day bootcamp initiative recently hosted by the Ministry of Youth Development (MYD) at the NYSC Orientation camp, Issele-Uku for 143 undergraduates enrolled on the Delta State Tertiary Institution Entrepreneurship Programme (TEP), where entrepreneurial spirits were rekindled, skills sharpened, novel business ideas harnessed and the path to thriving business future succinctly defined; marked another watershed in the commitment of Senator Ifeanyi Okowa’s government to youth empowerment.
The Tertiary Institution Entrepreneurship Programme (TEP) was designed by the Ministry of Youth Development to encourage and assist undergraduates studying in the seven tertiary institutions in Delta State who have creative entrepreneurial ideas to harness such ideas, develop and translate them into flourishing businesses through training, mentorship and financial support by the state government.
The 143 undergraduates participating in the TEP programme emerged through rigorous and painstaking selection processes. Following the advertisement for the program last year and the copious awareness created by the Commissioner and management staff of the Ministry of Youth Development (MYD) through a tour of the seven tertiary institutions in the state, 1,300 applications were received in line with the stated criteria. Out of the 1,300 applicants, 453 scaled through the first stages of multiple intensive screening processes. An ICT appreciation test was conducted for the 453 applicants out of whom 170 of them were selected to partake in a four-week Entrepreneurship Master Class (EMC) program. Finally, 143 undergraduates who successfully scaled through the EMC programme were invited to participate in the 10-day Bootcamp training program. The TEP participants will further undergo a one-month internship program that will qualify business startup support from the government.
Participants at the bootcamp who shared sterling testimonies of their experiences and knowledge gained from the training programme expressed their gratitude to His Excellency, Senator Ifeanyi Okowa for the rare privilege accorded them to be beneficiaries of this laudable youth development and empowerment program even as they looked forward with enthusiasm to the next stages that will qualify and launch them into the world of entrepreneurship and successful business experience.
Comrade Ifeanyi Egwunyenga used the occasion of the bootcamp closing ceremony to x-ray some of the youth-focused policies and programs of Governor Ifeanyi Arthur Okowa’s administration, especially with regards to the youth population, participation in governance, capacity building and various empowerment initiatives.
He said that from the outset, not only were the interests of Delta youths factored into the policies and programs of the Okowa administration as encapsulated in the SMART Agenda and Stronger Delta documents but the youths are also being made to participate in key areas of governance as drivers of these policies and programmes.
“To demonstrate that his mantra ‘Prosperity for All Deltans’ is not a cliché but an unwavering resolve to build the economic capacity of the State through entrepreneurship, the Okowa administration funnels lots of energy and resources towards the development and advancement of youths in the State through various empowerment programs via a multi-sectoral approach to reach wider demography of the youths in different categories”, he said.
“Among the manifold youth empowerment programmes undertaken by this government are the Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP); Skills Training & Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP); Graduates’ Employment Enhancement Programme (GEEP); Information and Communication Technology – Youth Empowerment Programme (ICT-YEP); Girl-Child Entrepreneurial Skill Training (GEST); Rural Youth Skill Acquisition (RYSA); Tertiary Institutions Entrepreneurship Programme (TEP); and Community Business School (CBS); with astounding testimonies.
“With a clear-cut agenda to properly direct the cause of youths in the State, Governor Okowa’s administration on November 20th, 2019, upgraded the then Directorate of Youth Development to a full fledge Ministry, now known as Ministry of Youth Development (MYD) with a charge to focus on meaningfully engaging our teeming youths through Entrepreneurship/Skill Development and Mindset/Value Reorientation programmes”.
Egwunyenga explained that since the upgrade, there has been tremendous improvement in terms of well-thought-out policy initiatives, capacity building, empowerment programmes and a systematic approach to resetting the mindset of the vast population of youths in the State.
The journey to rebrand and reorient the youths by the Ministry of Youth Development (MYD) began with the redirection of their mindset for effective utilization of the numerous youth savvy programs of the Okowa administration as all the laudable programs, policies and initiatives would have been futile on a disoriented youth population.
The mindset redirection and value reorientation model developed and applied by the MYD aimed to instil in the youths, positive perceptions, the right approach to handling issues and the imperative to shun all forms of social vices while creating alternative ways of making their lives better.
While the agenda of mindset redirection and value reorientation was still in progress, the Okowa administration through the MYD embarked on building the confidence and capacities of these youngsters with a view to repositioning them to take their rightful place in current and future leadership positions both in the state and any part of the world they find themselves.
That capacity and confidence-building initiative culminated in the State’s maiden ‘Youth Parliament’ which was designed to prepare the youths for future leadership roles and also acquaint them with the acts of law-making. The State Government has equally invested tremendously in capacity building/leadership training for Delta youths who are members of the National Youth Council of Nigeria (NYCN), and its affiliated faith-based/voluntary organizations as well as the Community Youth Associations (CYAs) in the State.
In line with the government’s determination to deliver on its commitment of ‘Prosperity for All Deltans’, the MYD initiated the Rural Skill Acquisition (RYSA) programme aimed at improving the economic status of youths in rural communities. Those targeted under this program are youths residing in their rural communities who had previously acquired one skill or the other but could not commence their own businesses due to lack of funds. Under RYSA, such youths are sponsored by government to undergo three months of training under entrepreneurs who are well established in the areas these youths had hitherto acquired skills. The training is to refresh, retool, and equip them with the quintessential elements of managing a successful business venture. A total of 1, 564 youths have benefited from the first and second tranches of RYSA with encouraging testimonies from the beneficiaries who have now become self-employed and employers of labour.
The Community Business School (CBS) is another fantastic programme of the State government championed by the Ministry of Youth Development. Under this programme, youths in the State who already have their own businesses are given further training to improve their business acumen and acquire up-to-date skills that will help them improve their businesses. The Curriculum is designed to cover entrepreneurial drive enhancement, leadership capacity building, business ethics, financial management practice, and accounting skills. The aim is to enable them to identify and take advantage of business opportunities and business networking with a view to supporting their business growth. 1,250 youths from across the 25 Local Government Areas of the State have so far benefited from this laudable program.
Besides the numerous youth empowerment and entrepreneurship programs x-rayed above, it is worthy to mention the creation of various support platforms by government, which enabled young entrepreneurs to access loans, support grants and palliatives to cushion the devastating effects of Covid-19 and the economic meltdown of their businesses. These grants/palliatives and loans were accessed through the World Bank COVID-19 Action Recovery Economic Stimulus (World Bank CARES) and the Nigerian Incentive Base Risk Sharing System (NIRSAL) under the Central Bank of Nigeria (CBN).
On the education front, Okowa’s government created three additional universities, upgraded existing technical schools and constructed new ones across the three senatorial districts of the State. This initiative was borne out of the importance placed on vocational skills for youths and also to reduce the number of Delta youths who are denied admission into tertiary institutions in the country on account of quota system and limited number of universities in the country. This equally goes to demonstrate the premium on the education of youths by this administration.
The Chief Consultant, Optimum Resources Management and Consult Limited, Dr Anthony Chovwen who headed a team of resource persons who undertook the screening, selection and training of the TEP participants at the 10-day bootcamp noted that the birth resulted from a robust sensitization and awareness creation undertaken across the State-owned tertiary institutions, saying that over 1,300 applications were received while 453 of them scaled through the multiple intensive screening processes.
He explained that after the ICT appreciation test for the 453 applicants, only 170 were selected to partake in the four weekends of Entrepreneurship Master Class (EMC), which exposed them to the necessary tools for resources management, costing and business plan preparation modules at the end of which 143 of them emerged successful and participated in the just concluded boot camp to learn the concept of entrepreneurship in order to excel in their various businesses.
Chovwen explained that the curriculum for the Bootcamp Class exceeded the common introductory instructions on the basics of entrepreneurship, saying that participants were exposed to a comprehensive scheme in entrepreneurship and business management in the contemporary world.
While warning Nigerian youths against entertaining such erroneous, retrogressive and dangerous beliefs as “education is a scam”, the consultant said, “I can present to you a highly energized and highly equipped prospective entrepreneurs who are capable of holding their own in the contemporary business environment because of the drastic change in attitude and value deliverance training they have received.”
“Our programme has depth of content in business management with a focus on the importance of networking and mentoring. We have built your confidence; you can face the challenges of entrepreneurship”, he charged.
The State Chief Job Creation Officer, Prof Eric Eboh, while congratulating the beneficiaries for emerging successful in the all-important entrepreneurship training, said that the program was the first of its kind and urged them to live up to the high expectations as pioneers of TEP.
“I want you to realize that to have scaled to this point, means there is something special inside of you. Consider yourself already a success as this is plus to the various degree certificates and diplomas you will obtain from your respective institutions”, he admonished.
Highpoints of the winding-up ceremony included messages of appreciation by the Permanent Secretary in the state Ministry of Youth Development, Ms Ngozi Mogbolu and representatives of the participating tertiary institutions.
Executive Assistant to Governor Okowa on Youth Monitoring and Mentoring, Mr Edward Mekwuye, urged the TEP beneficiaries to be focused on the rare opportunity offered by the training by cultivating and imbibing a positive attitude in building sustainable value-added products and services.
“At inception, I said that you had a rare opportunity and you should justify this opportunity through sustaining the right attitude so that your altitude in business life will be guaranteed; as Success not sustained is of no consequence”, Mekwuye stated. He urged the beneficiaries to ensure the opportunity presented to them in TEP is put into better use as they were just lucky to be among the selected few from the lot who indicated interest to be part of the program.
Mekwnye further charged the participants to ensure their thoughts, words and actions were channelled towards being great ambassadors of the scheme, noting that their success story will determine the continuation of the program for others to benefit. While saying that the right attitude brings about altitude, he advised them to always place premium on customers’ satisfaction by ensuring that their products and services were of great value as that is the only way business fortunes could be sustained. He further buttressed the importance of skill acquisition and entrepreneurship by stating that one cannot survive with a certificate-based job, adding that no matter how educated someone may be, skill is also needed.
Also addressing the participants, Otalor Favour, who represented the University of Delta (UNIDEL), Agbor thanked the Governor for choosing beneficiaries from their institution. In her appreciation speech, she said “It is one thing to have an innovation and another is to make it realistic”. She prayed for the participants to be imbued with the wisdom and wherewithal to do great exploits with the skills they have acquired.
A student of Delta State Polytechnic, Ogwashi-Uku, who is also a participant, Chukwuma Nwaji, described the program as an intensive time of learning. Speaking further he said, “We are proud to be citizens of the state and we thank the Governor for putting together this programme through the Ministry of Youth Development aimed at making us among the best in society”. He promised that the knowledge acquired would make a positive legacy for Okowa’s Government.
Netwon Omimi, speaking on behalf of Delta State College of Education, Mosgar, appreciated the governor for targeting students in public tertiary institutions in conceiving the programme.
He said, “With this, we have been placed at an advantageous position over our counterparts in the Private Tertiary Institutions. TEP programme is a plus to our various degrees and educational qualifications”.
Omimi sought the candid permission of the Government to replicate the training they have acquired in their various schools as step-down training in order to enable other students who didn’t have the opportunity to participate to gain from the programme.
“We are the most privileged Nigerian students with knowledge and motivation. We pledge to ensure that our products and services add value to society,” he added.
A student of Delta State Polytechnic Otefe, Oghara, Ese Rukky briefly talked about the importance of skill acquisition and concluded with the opinion that beauty without skill amounts to nothing.
Ukara Sincerity, who represented Delta State University, Abraka expressed gratitude to Governor Ifeanyi Okowa whom she described as a caring father who understands what it takes to make Delta youths the best of their time. “With this capacity building, we are equipped to move into the world and make a difference” she enthused.