The Day Delta Government Honours 322 Graduands With Starter Packs

By Kenneth Orusi, Asaba

It was on a wintry but sun friendly atmosphere in Asaba, Delta State, the state capital, the 22nd day of January, 2016 when the state governor, Senator (Dr) Ifeanyi Okowa honoured 322 youths who were trained in different trades under the Skills Training and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) otherwise called STEPpreneurs under the Job and Wealth Creation Scheme, an initiative of the present government. Indeed it was the day Okowa empowered the artisans from the 25 local government areas of the state.

As the governor, who was represented by the Job Creation Officer Prof. Eric Eboh, announced their rewards, Cenotaph, the venue of the event came alive. The beneficiaries jumped up, dancing for hours around the arena, for receiving starter packs from the state government. Their joy know no bound.

For the governor who was overwhelmed over the reaction of the trainees said his SMART Agenda would benefit the youths more and assured of improving their standard of living through the skills acquisition training, the essence of the starter packs they received was to enable them establish their small scale businesses in their localities.

“For today, we have a total of six enterprises for which we are handing starter packs and one of them is barbing, we have interlocking, Plastic of Paris (POP), decoration hair dressing and tiling. So, these STEPpreneurs as we call them are youths aged 18 to 35 years who have undergone a series of training under the skills training and entrepreneurship programme of the job creation scheme”, excited Okowa said.

“The training that they have undergone has been in three phases: the first one is life skills training and mind set change whereby they are given orientation and how to improve themselves as a person. The second leg of the training is the vocational skills training where they go to various skill acquisition centres and life enterprises to acquire hands-on-skills to enable them establish their own enterprises and their own businesses and the third leg is business management and entrepreneurship training whereby they are thought how to start business, do business, finance business, market their business and how to keep basic business account”, the governor declared.

The governor took time to explain to the enthusiastic ex-trainees comprising event management, barbing, decoration, POP and interlocking that they were been rewarded base on the advice from experts, and through them jobs would be created for other people in the society since they are going to train other people with the skills and knowledge they already acquired for the development of human potentials.

The governor told them that the starter packs given to them are capital goods which include 2.9 capacity generator, swivel chair, sterilizer, clipper as well as a spare clipper for barbing to promote the best hygienic practice. The gifts, as it were, would afford them to learn to adopt to hygienic practices in their various enterprises so that when they grow up, they would grow with those practices.

The governor did not end there. As he speaks to the celebrating youths, he quickly informed them that they stand to gain from other components of the starter packs, which are in cash varying from enterprise to enterprise depending on the needs of that enterprise. The cash include start-up allowance or what he called “working capital” as well as some items that has been monetised for individual enterprise categories.

“Also included in the cash, is the shop rent and in addition to this, every STEPpreneur will be paid monthly stipend for a given number of months and we call it “buffer stipend” to support the STEPpreneur for take-off so that the STEPpreneur will manage the business as a business entity different from his own person”.

“So, the monthly stipend will run for some time according to the enterprise and it is supposed to support the living expenses of the STEPpreneur. This is a programme that will change the economic landscape and the socio-economy of Delta State”, Dr. Okowa sounded to the admiration of all.

For any challenges at all or a deviant act among the beneficiaries, the governor hinted that a number of measures has been put in place to ensure the success of the programme, with close monitoring, enforcing discipline and total compliance to the rules.

The governor furthere hinted that “another important factor is the mentoring, going forward our approach will be that of mentoring and under the instruction of Senator Dr Ifeanyi Okowa, we have put together a mentoring plan in collaboration with the Delta State Micro Small and Medium Enterprise Development Agency whereby we will run business clinics in different locations for these STEPpreneurs”.

The business clinics would be anchored by tested and experienced experts and entrepreneurs in the various enterprise category and what they would do, “is to visit the STEPpreneurs from time to time, ask questions, inquire about how he/she is coping with the business and then jointly formulate solutions to business problems and challenges with the STEPprenuers. So, we think that these measures will help us avoid the pit falls of the past and we also structured the training in such a way that it is not just giving the starter packs or learning hands-on-skills, it is not about that”.

The idea behind the empowerment is about bringing out entrepreneurs, managers and leaders that is why right from the beginning they were subjected to a one week training on life skills; issues about personal communication, effectiveness, branding, interpersonal relationship, success drivers, morals and business ethics. “We did that before they left for their various centres to acquire hands-on-skills and after they finished the training on hands-on-skills in their various vocational centres, we brought together again to learn business management and entrepreneurship skills”.

“We hope they will not fail but if they are failing, we will encourage them, they have more than they can get”, he said solemnly.

But for Karhina Godwin, a UNIBEN graduate of Philosophy, “whether I am been monitored or not what I benefitted from government is enough to stand my business, so I am happy I am one of the beneficiaries”, adding that “the package they gave us is commendable, it is one of those things we need, it worth starter pack. I have a job and I will expand on it”.

Speaking further, the Warri boy commended the governor for the empowerment, saying “it is not easy”. But he was furious when asked whether he was going to make sale of the government gift. His reaction however was encouraging as he said, “It does not make any sense to sell them, no matter how little it is, as far as you use them it will fetch you something and you can expand from there. I started very small and I know where I am now, with this I should be talking maybe my third job. So, don’t sell. It is not advisable to sell, if you sell you are putting yourself into more poverty because things are getting difficult and those that have hand work though paper degree is good but it will not get you what you need these days”.

Another beneficiary, Dortie Emojevwe, from Ethiope West, said “after I graduated from school I have nothing doing, I studied Medical record to hospital statistics. We went for this training for three months and it is a thing of joy for God to bring this Delta State governor to wipe away tears from the eyes of the youths in Delta State and I also thank the state governor for this vision that he has when you look around there is no job, people move in the streets and I thank God for this great opportunity I have today from now I can start from somewhere”.

They said happily “This is the first time we are seeing something like this where government is been experienced. We are seeing and touching things unlike in previous times when you hear about empowerment and sometimes you might not even get to see some of the items, we are happy over what is going on now”.