Entrepreneurial Education As Vital Initiative For Making Nigerian Graduates Self-Employed

By Isaac Asabor
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It is not an exaggeration to say that each time the National University Commission (NUC) earns favourable mention in the media that it is usually by virtue of the mandates it is bestowed with to grant approval for all academic programmes run in Nigerian universities, grant approval for the establishment of all higher educational institutions offering degree programmes in Nigerian universities, ensure quality assurance of all academic programmes offered in Nigerian universities; and for standing as a channel for all external support to the Nigerian universities.

Against the foregoing backdrop, it is expedient to ask if NUC has in the true sense of the dictates of its mandates been ensuring that the qualities of the universities it has given approval to in the recent years are robust enough to inculcate entrepreneurial mind set to graduates that went through the academic programmes been offered by them.

The reason for the foregoing question cannot be farfetched as federal universities in Nigeria today are 44 in number while state universities are 49 in number and private universities 99 in number, totalling 192 accredited universities that are presently operating in the country. Besides, 12 of the universities operate distance learning mode of studies for their students that cut across the length and breadth of the country. Not only that, virtually all the universities run conventional part time studies programmes in their approved campuses.

Analysed from the perspective of the foregoing statistical facts, where it is obvious that private universities totalled 99 in number against public universities owned by both the federal and various state governments totalling 93, there are countless valid criticisms of our current university system as to offering courses that are not entrepreneurial or practical in contents, but perhaps few are as tragic as the effect capitalism has had on higher learning. There are a number of things that ought to motivate private investors or rather capitalists in the educational sector without having to obsessively build on widening their profit margins. At this juncture, it is germane to ask if they ever thought of inculcating entrepreneurial mind set to graduates of their universities or all they know about is widening the profit margin. To this end, entrepreneurial know-how for undergraduates in our universities must be encouraged and facilitated as both parents and students are increasingly demanding that it should be so. In as much as this writer is not oblivious of the fact that it is hard to make a good argument that every human experience should justify private profit, it is high time we thought university graduates should be capable of setting up businesses; preferably an SME.

There is no denying the fact that the numbers of students attending university in recent years have by each passing academic year been on the increase without corresponding increase in job opportunities. Now the pool of unemployed graduates is rising to worrying levels in the country generally, so much that graduates are no longer hard to find doing menial jobs.

Of particular concern is whether high graduate unemployment is a temporary blip or reflects a chronic oversupply of graduates, even as many employers say they cannot find people with the right skills.

Experts stress that Nigeria need to focus not just on expanding higher education but also ensuring they offer entrepreneurial knowledge and skills as that is one of the most effective ways of containing the rising unemployment trend.

Presently, not few HR experts are of the view that job vacancies available to a record number of graduates have seen a year on year decrease, with economic experts unanimously saying in the media that number of unemployed graduates is ‘outrunning’ economic growth. They have even argued that people with postgraduate qualifications are even more likely to be jobless than those with undergraduate degrees, while graduate unemployment is equally biting hard on those with vocational qualifications.

Without any scintilla of hyperbole, the statistics that once stated that Nigeria was by each passing day witnessing a surge in graduate unemployment in the past two decades wherein one in three graduates up to the age of 29 was unemployed still holds true.

At the moment, graduates spend a lot of time accumulating different degrees and ultimately realise that these degrees aren’t going to provide a passport into lucrative private sector jobs. Since the commencement of Buhari-led government, much has been said, and perhaps done, through the creation of state jobs that were an outlet for graduates, but those state jobs, which are more or less promised as political campaign stunts, are increasingly in short supply.

At this juncture, permit me to suggest that the panacea to tackling graduate unemployment headlong is for NUC to encourage the establishments of universities that will focus on offering Entrepreneurship as a Course of study from diploma through first degree, MBA and to PHD levels. This is not about technical education where skills are basically inculcated in undergraduates but where undergraduates will be taught from a business administration perspective, and how to mobilise funds for new businesses. For instance, a mass communication should seamlessly understand how a publishing company; both online and offline or a marketing communication company should be established and sustainably managed.

The reason for the foregoing suggestion cannot be farfetched as courses offered in all the universities been approved in the recent years were established to offer more of theoretical courses than entrepreneurial courses. The foregoing, no doubt, explains the reason why the labour market has vast skills gap that suggests a great number of graduates are not employable in any sector of the economy based on industry standards. This has sparked growing concern about the mismatch between universities and the needs of the job market.

At this juncture, it is germane to ask if Nigeria’s universities will continue producing unemployable graduates to the detriment of national development, and particularly to their parents and guardians who toiled; come rain or shine, in ensuring that their children obtain university education. If unskilled graduates are continued to be produced, it would tantamount to insanity. Yes, insanity! Albert Einstein once defined insanity as doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, while the French classical author, Francois de la Rochefoucauld said ‘ the only thing constant in life is change’.

To my view, it is high time NUC began to accredit universities that offer entrepreneurial courses that can put graduates on the journey of becoming entrepreneurs, so they can choose to "figure it out as they go" approach or they can attend universities that are dedicated to giving them all of the tools that entrepreneurs need to launch and grow a business. There is no denying the fact that such university will throughout their 4-year duration of studies put them on the pedestal of being informed and inspired, and show them a multitude of roadmaps for making their dreams a reality. And at the same time, surround them with other future innovators who have the mind-set for achieving success.

To this end, it is expedient to say that the need for "entrepreneurial university" is been recognized in other parts of the world as a major driver for self-development and self-employment and as an appropriate response to succeeding in highly turbulent and unpredictable job markets. It is an innovation Nigeria should not in any way wave aside as graphic illustration of unemployment rate

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