Charles Nwodo is the Chairman, XL Africa Group a leader in outsourcing, logistics, management and support services, in Nigeria, Ghana, Liberia, Sierra Leone and the USA. XL African Group is one of the biggest recruiters of graduates. He is also the founder of Knowledge Exchange Centre an up-skill programme established to tackle unemployment through its Graduate Advancement Program (GAP) which equips young graduates with relevant skills in a digitally driven world.
Recently ipledge2nigeria Lagos Correspondent caught up with Charles Nwodo at the orientation ceremony of the sixth batch Graduate Advancement Program (GAP) organised by Knowledge Exchange Centre to kick start the online digital training of 102 graduates carefully selected across the country.
In this interview, he talks about the training, the latest trends in the job market, how universities and higher institutions can bridge the gaps in unemployment, the need to update the curriculum set government in tertiary institutions and other issues.
What inspired Graduate Advancement Program (GAP)?
The desire to give back to society in a structured sustainable fashion, to contribute to the reduction of unemployment, and to create a channel, that empowers young people by helping them to believe in themselves inspired the training programme. At the end of each cohort will achieve nearly 100% success as many of them will have acquired skills that will enable them to start their own business because they will have the necessary skills.
What is the aim of the programme?
At the end of the program, participants will become self-aware, which is the most important element of self-discovery. They will discover capabilities they never knew they possessed; they will develop problem-solving skills that will come naturally to them in a way that will feel like a revelation. They will build networks of relationships that they can leverage to achieve success in either job placement or entrepreneurship. These skills aren’t taught in Nigerian universities.
It is the practical experience of our corporate evolution XL African Group we are one of the biggest recruiters of graduates, so over the years, we discovered that the skills that the universities impact on graduates and the requirement in the job market. When you see newspapers advertisement for jobs, with all manners of descriptions skill sets and attributes that are not available to these graduates, so they are disappointed after spending years in school, and it becomes difficult getting their dream jobs.
When they graduate and come out with these realities, depression sets in that is one of the things I realised early in my entrepreneurial journey so we decided to deploy resources as our contribution to at least address an aspect of this huge problem of unemployment in Nigeria.
What do you think the University and higher institutions can do to bridge these gaps in producing unemployable graduates?
One of the elements of the KEC program is advocacy. Our advocacy effort is focused on university administrators, curriculum planners in the universities and government agencies and then the job market who have specific requirements. We have platforms, conferences and seminars where we bring stakeholders together so that the Universities will understand the latest trends in terms of job market requirements. What kind of skills is in demand now and the kind of knowledge employers needs? Another thing is to provide up-scaling and cross-scaling for the academic community because if you identify the missing skill, you have to recruit, train and motivate the teachers who will impact those skills in the Universities.
That is where the government comes in, and that is why our advocacy focuses on bringing them together through workshops, and seminars to bring them together, we act as the glue that brings them together and shares knowledge and experiences. That is something that has been lacking.
Some curriculum sets have not been updated in Nigeria for the past 45 to 50 years. So we still have courses that are completely irrelevant to today’s global requirements being taught in our universities. And because the University system is controlled by the government, the curriculum content development is controlled also by Education planners, the National University Commission, and the National Board for Technical education. What needs to be done is for all the stakeholders to come together to work to bridge the gap that is what KEC is doing through advocacy programs.
What is the entry requirement for participants in the programme, and how are they selected?
The entry requirement is always competitive, applicants are subjected to aptitude tests, and oral and eligibility tests, this is to ensure that only those deserving get into the cohort. The selection processes filters and ensure that only committed people get into the program because it cost a lot of resources to execute the program. So the minimum we expect from participants is commitment. Every year we have thousands of young people who want to participate. The program has two streams every year but we have limited sitting capacity because it is a very emissive program, we need to be able to have close interaction with participants, our mentors, our consultants and resource persons and partners are very, involved, not just in the training program but after the program there is a follow-up entrepreneurship that ensures that participants continue to rely on this network even after they have completed the program either as employees in corporations or entrepreneurs in their own right.
So far how many participants have graduated from this program since its inception?
Every cohort has 50 participants but this one is exceptional because we have 102 participants. It is largely because the Lagos state government partnered with us they brought in some participants. It helped us expand and we are hoping that with more partners we can do more because the unemployment problem in Nigeria is a crisis anything any organisation can do to help the situation is well come. The gap is too much what needs to be done is so enormous unfortunately the labourers are few.
Finally to these young ones what is your one word to them?
My word to them is to embrace the opportunity and change their lives for good. They should go out there and conquer the world.
The program boasts of seasoned resource persons who are hands-on, expert practitioners in their fields; it is well-designed to meet the requirements of this season.
We work for societal good, the young people, whose lives we impact know about us, our partners know about us, and resource persons and mentor network know about us so we never thought of publicity as a major thing. The unemployment situation is becoming a crisis perhaps it is time to talk about this and for corporate organisations to partner with us so that we can attend to the crisis.