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This Unending Conversation About Nigerian Youth’s Unemployability

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Every now and then, HR professionals make an outcry on social media, lamenting the unemployability of most Nigerian youths. In some instances, they even share their experiences with job applicants, sparking debates between HR professionals and individuals, likely job seekers or those who are weary of the ongoing discourse on unemployability.

In light of this ongoing discussion, a Nigerian saying comes to mind: ‘If you want to clean a stream, you must first locate the source.’ This adage encapsulates the notion that when confronted with a problem, particularly one identified as systemic, addressing the root cause is more effective than dealing with superficial manifestations.

In the context of Nigerian youth being labelled as unemployable, let’s start by talking about the archaic curriculum in many Nigerian universities.

Sometime last year, during a capacity development training workshop for officials of the Federal Ministry of Education in Abuja, the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), passed a verdict on Nigeria’s educational curriculum, declaring the present curriculum as ‘overloaded and outdated’. Yao Ydo, the UNESCO director of the International Bureau of Education (IBE), emphasised the need to address the educational crises. This action involves making the curriculum relevant to ensure quality education, allowing values, knowledge, and skills to thrive.

Similarly, the National Board for Technical Education (NBTE) has declared that the current curriculum employed by tertiary institutions is obsolete and not aligned with the present reality. In the words of the Executive Secretary of NBTE, Prof. Idris Bugaje at a public presentation of the new and reviewed National Diploma Higher National Diploma (HND) curricula NOS and ODFeL in Abuja, he stated, “Some of the already reviewed curricula were more than 30 years old. The nation cannot continue to use obsolete curricula to teach our students. As I speak, there are many more 20th-century curricula awaiting review.”

In a 2000 UNESCO report—notice how far back the report goes—on the state of education in Nigeria, the Nigerian curriculum is plagued by a complex mix of overloading, poor achievement, and inadequate human and material resources. The report suggests the use of a thematic approach to content selection, emphasising the importance of modernising the curriculum to better suit the needs and aspirations of Nigerian learners. This involves taking into account the evolving educational landscape and advancements in pedagogical methodologies.

This means that while many advanced countries keep pace with global best practices by consistently updating their curriculum to meet contemporary demands, providing their youth with a quality education that equips them for success in the workforce and community, Nigerian students are grappling with remnants of a British education system passed down decades ago, struggling to attain grades that are often deemed ‘reserved for God’. Already, many Nigerian youths find themselves under-equipped to compete in the labour market. 

You cannot squeeze water out of a dry towel, no matter how much you try. For a very long time, and even now, many Nigerian graduates have had to rely on paper qualifications rather than skills and a can-do attitude. So when you observe a Nigerian youth through your screen during an interview, you see an overloaded individual with subpar education, likely lacking the basic technical know-how to answer interview questions and unprepared for present or future work challenges; knowledge gained through an obsolete curriculum holds little or no value in the current landscape of organisational development.

What does this mean for you, a Nigerian graduate who doesn’t have the knowledge or skill to compete locally and globally? You have to take extra courses, go for further studies, do a couple of internships and volunteer work to upscale.


While it is acknowledged that many Nigerian youths face challenges in employability, the other side of the recruitment equation involves HR professionals who seem to overlook the significant gap between the labour market’s demands and the employable skills of Nigerian youth. After navigating through economic crises, ASUU strikes, inadequate electricity, security concerns, and even village people to complete their education, many Nigerian graduates are also faced with a rude awakening upon graduation: they are not fit for the jobs out there. Another problem is that many job vacancy posts continue to exhibit unrealistic requirements and expectations.

Imagine the job post below:

A company seeks a dynamic and creative individual to join their team as a Social Media Management Intern. The intern must be passionate about social media, content creation, and digital marketing. Check out the requirements below:

  • Age not exceeding 25 years
  • Must have completed NYSC
  • Must have at least 2 years of experience in managing social media platforms.
  • Must be able to create design, have ample knowledge of digital marketing, audience engagement.
  • Portfolio showcasing experience or detailing the management of at least two platforms
  • Content writing and editing skills
  • Expertise in tracking and measuring engagement
  • Capacity to work in a fast-paced environment
  • Proficiency in Photoshop and Adobe (added advantage)
  • Hybrid work mode – office location on the Island
  • Salary is competitive.

This ‘competitive salary’ may not be beyond 50,000 – 80,000 Naira. When you observe many job posts, you see a merger of distinct roles into a single position, disproportionately low salaries, unrealistic age limits, demands for extensive experience, and an overwhelming list of requirements for the roles. It’s like companies want to best of the best without paying for the knowledge and experience, but also don’t want ‘beginners’ because of the resources it’ll take to train them. And it’s understandable, after all, everyone is looking to maximise cost and resources. 

So how do we bridge this gap? Perhaps with a little empathy, no? A better understanding of the average Nigerian graduate’s efforts to stay afloat by engaging in online courses and applying for various fellowships and mentorships would help more organisations extend grace to them. Understanding that many would also wobble a lot before standing on their feet can help you, as an HR professional, extend grace also, and make your recruitment process easier but effective. 

Can companies adopt a more realistic approach when searching for new hires? Perhaps starting with scrutinising their hiring processes and meeting the Nigerian youth halfway. Can HR professionals relax in their bid to find the perfect hire for entry-level roles? Who is helping the youths prepare for the career world and compete locally and globally? How can we ensure our curriculum reflects the current world trends, and prepares graduates for companies’ needs? How can we make the Nigerian graduate employable? 



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