In African and other developing economies, graduates of tertiary education institutions have higher rates of unemployment than the general youth population (UNECA, 2009; World Bank, 2007). One reason is a skills-mismatch; that is, an incompatibility between the skills they possess and those that are required by the job market. Young people may also lack the skills to negotiate the job market, including searching for, obtaining and keeping employment. Thus, graduates of tertiary institutions require support in their initial transition into the labour market.
The Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS), a youth entrepreneurship program that is managed and funded by the Federal Government of Nigeria started in October 2012, has three main objectives: to enhance the employability of up to 50,000 unemployed graduates in the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT through internship programs in pre-selected institutions; to reduce the vulnerability of unemployed graduates; and to build manpower base towards attaining national development operations.
The GIS is under the Subsidy Reinvestment and Empowerment Programme (SURE-P), a scheme to re-invest savings from fuel subsidy removal on critical infrastructure projects and social safety net program with direct impact on the citizens of Nigeria.
GIS is implemented nationwide to provide unemployed youth graduates with apprenticeship opportunities that will expose them to skills and experiences relevant to the labour market. Young graduates are attached as apprentices in public and private firms for a period of one year with a monthly stipend 30,000 naira (approximately $84). Firms provide training and mentoring for the interns, help build their skills, and boost their chances of becoming self-employed. The scheme has three main objectives: to enhance the employability of up to 50,000 unemployed graduates in the 36 states of the Federation and the FCT through internship programs in pre-selected institutions; to reduce the vulnerability of unemployed graduates; and to build manpower base towards attaining national development operations
Graduate interns identified challenges such as exploitation and delay in payment of their monthly stipends. On their part, GIS staff perceived misplaced priorities on the part of the graduate interns who often did not abide by the terms and objectives of the program. They therefore recommend a review of the program to clarify the objectives to potential interns.
GIS management team faced an initial challenge of convincing employers of the benefits of the program. There were also reported cases of failure on the part of some firms to fulfil their promise of giving permanent jobs to the interns. Further, the scheme is hampered by suspicion that it will be used to lure jobless graduates into partisan politics.
The program has helped to tackle the underlying factors of graduate youth with unemployment, specifically a deficit of employable skills and labour market experience. Graduates have shown tremendous interest in the project by registering beyond the threshold of 50,000 allotted for the scheme in any given year. Firms participating in the scheme are reaping from engaging these graduates: firms get free labour because government pays the monthly stipends of the interns; they are able to select the best interns to join their workforce; and they receive a cost-free opportunity to render their corporate social responsibility.
The Graduate Internship Scheme (GIS) has so far matched over 200 firms with about 1000 interns from the pool of about 85,000 registrants. Over 41,161 graduates between the ages of 18 and 40 have benefitted from the scheme, of whom 68% are male and 31% female. Many interns have secured credit and grants to expand the businesses they set up using GIS stipends. Others have set up cooperative associations, some of which have transformed into small or medium-sized enterprises (SMEs).
Government institutions and partners must undertake needs assessment to understand how to address factors that may undermine the program. Best practices from the program should be documented and shared to influence policy change on youth entrepreneurship and employment.
GIS can be replicated across Nigeria and in other countries with high rate of graduate unemployment or underemployment, granted that there is government sponsorship and commitment from firms to intern, train and hire participants.
Graduate Internship Scheme (SURE-P). Brief on the Graduate Internship Scheme. Retrieved from http://www.finance.gov.ng/index.php/the-ministry/department/graduate-internship-scheme-sure-p
World Bank (2007) World Development Report, Washington DC: The World Bank.
United Nations Economic Commission for Africa. (2009). Africa Youth Report, Addis Ababa: UNECA.
Date: November 20, 2017