Mr. Osagie Ogunbor, Corporate Affairs Manager of Intel Corporation, West Africa in this interview reveals why the firm is training fresh graduates on technology and entrepreneurship to enable them set up businesses rather than seek for jobs as part of its Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR). Princewill Ekwujuru reports.
Why is Intel engaging in this training venture?
As you can see from today's training, this is a bit different from what Intel is typically known for. Before now, Intel was engaged with training of teachers. Indeed in the last five years, we have trained over a hundred thousand teachers in Nigeria and over Ten million globally. So that used to be our focus, but now, we are beginning to see that the reality on ground is that there are other areas that need attention.
In Nigeria, you know there is a huge problem of unemployment, there is a huge problem of social restiveness. We believe that the root cause of some of these things is the fact that youths are not properly equipped with the right skills especially in the use of technology in the 21st century workplace and business environment.
We therefore thought it was a worthwhile decision to use our platform to provide some sort of Technology and Entrepreneurial Training for these youths who are just coming out of college and that's how we came about the training for youth corps members. This is a pilot scheme starting in Lagos and over the months and years it is going to become a National programme.
From what you have just said, there appears to be recognition of the critical role in the case of technology, how important is entrepreneurship in this phase? What do you think the training will bring to the nation particularly?
Well typically, entrepreneurship is everything to them at this moment. They are coming out of Universities and they are at a critical point in life where they have to take life changing decisions; Are they going to look for jobs, Are they going to set up their own businesses, What are they going to do?
Now we know that hundreds of thousands of graduates are coming out every year. We also know that we have very few vacancies and job opportunities for them. What that means therefore is that year in, year out, you are having hundreds of thousands of graduates who have nothing to do.
So we are saying to them that rather than have a fixation on looking for jobs, there is an option to actually set up their own business, to be an employer of labour rather than being a figure looking for work. So that's the first option. The second option is that even when you decide to work in a formal environment, you need to be equipped to be able to survive in that formal environment.
In those days, when you start a job, you are given pen and paper and files, today, when you start a new job, you are given a computer either a desktop or a laptop. Today's graduates have to be technologically equipped to be able to function in that kind of workspace.
So it means that even if you want to work, if you don't have the kind of technological training which we are giving now, you cannot fit in. If you were taught in your University using analogue method, sitting down and taking notes, you come to the office and you don't know how to boot a computer, you will not be employable and that's a critical problem.
We've got graduates who are not employable. So what we are doing is equipping them to be one, employable and two, Should they not want to work, have the necessary skills to be able to set up businesses and run it.
We have got loads of them who have Uncles and relatives who can actually give them seed capital to start-up businesses. But again, do they have the basic know-how to run these businesses profitably so that they themselves are able to take care of themselves and even employ more people, the economy gets better for it, more people are employed, tax income increases for government and the economy is better for it.
Sir, you said at the beginning that the training is to come in phases, my question is will there be an end like a specific year when all these technology and entrepreneurship training will come to a halt? What is the target? In terms of number, how many students are we looking at?
We are just starting, so we can't be talking of stopping. Our focus is not really the numbers. Our focus is on the impact. Now we've started in Lagos, we are going to go from Lagos to the entire South West and then to the South East, and then we scale up.
What we are doing is to have a pool of master trainers, Senior Master Trainers who have been trained across the country. So, as we scale to those parts of the country, those master trainers will conduct the training in their own locality. So ultimately, our target is to have an Intel technology & Entrepreneurship Trainer, in every State of the Federation where there is National Youth Service.
Will this training be on specific areas or different areas?
Basically, the curriculum for entrepreneurship is basic. It's not an MBA as such what it does is to teach you the rudiments of setting up a business. What you need to do before setting up a business, what are the empirical meters that you must look into, what informs the choice of business you want to do?
You know people just come out of school and say 'well I think that baking is something I want to go into and it's my passion and I must go into it. But in their locality, it might not be the most profitable business. So there are empirical indices to determine that. What is the competition for that business in your neighbourhood?
What skill do you have, what is your unique selling point, what must you put in place so that you can become competitive? These are the basic skills we are teaching people and it's not like they probably don't know, but it's just that we are bringing it to their consciousness now.
And when you bring it to their consciousness, they begin to realize it. We have entered into partnerships with relevant NGO's to enter these corps members into a business plan competition so when they are through with it, the final product of this training is that each person gets a chance to produce a business plan of their own business. They submit the business plan into the contest and 1,200 people stand a chance of up to winning 10m naira each, courtesy of the Federal Government.
So first of all, you are being trained in Technology and Entrepreneurship, you then have a chance to even get the capital to start the business.
There should be some bottlenecks in all these, what are the challenges looking at entrepreneurship in Nigeria, what do these entrepreneurs face?
The Basic challenge is the know-how of running a business. The general misconception is that capital is what the problem is. A lot of people will tell you they want to set up a business but they don't have the capital. I can say to you that the problem is not even that of capital because we've got so many people who set up businesses when they had capital to set it up, ten years down the line, the business has gone down the drain.
**So I think the major challenge is that all kinds of people just become entrepreneurs over night without any form of training. Now I recognize that there are people who have entrepreneurial skills in-born in them, but again, entrepreneurs can be made and that's what we want to encourage.
Another challenge is probably also the willingness of our youth corps members to take advantage of this program, because we have a bunch of youths who are sometimes unwilling to pay the price of success and we hope that over time, when they begin to see the progress of these ones that we have taken up, and that results are being achieved, more people will begin to take part in it. But I must say that the response from those that are being trained now, is very positive because, they are very happy.
What has Intel put in place to follow-up on these young entrepreneurs?
Follow-up is actually an integral part of the way the program was designed. **We have a process in place to have a database of all those that we train, so we will monitor them and what stage they are in their business, should they require further training, we will be there to hook them up with the right partners who will be able to add value at such stages.
So we don't pretend to have the ability to mid-wife the entire process till when they become successful entrepreneurs, but we have the capacity to, at every juncture facilitate their meeting partners that may be of help in that regard. We are in partnership with the Henshaw Foundation, which will assist the trainees enter into the YOUWIN business plan competition, where they stand a chance to get a government grant to set up their businesses if they come up with impressive business plans.
For Technology and Entrepreneurship, what is the level playing ground in your opinion and as an expert in this field?
Technology is a means to an end. Marketing dynamics today, for instance have become such that digital marketing, social media marketing have become imperatives for you to reach target audiences for your business. 15-20 years ago, if you wanted to advertise, the word advertising was synonymous with radio, TV and press, today, online is taking over. If you are a young entrepreneur and you do not understand computer technology to the extent that you can use it as a tool to enhance your business, you are behind.
That is where technology comes in. If you cannot build a website, where anybody in the world can access your business, buy from you, sell to you online, without geographical barriers coming into play, you are way behind. If you do not have the skills to send an email, basic simple things like this, send an email, do a power-point presentation of what your business can offer to a prospective customer, investors, then you are behind.
So these are the technological skills that we are giving these people who are coming out of school because we realize that not all universities in Nigeria can equip them adequately with these skills. So chances are that you will be a more efficient entrepreneur when you have these skills.
At the end of this year, what benefit will this add to the economy?
A: Well, thinking at the end of the year is a bit short termist and very close, but I will say that ultimately, let's look at a three to five year time span. We can begin to say people who are being trained in this program are beginning to actually set up businesses of their own we can begin to track those who decide to work and have become better employees, because I need you to understand that it's not all about entrepreneurs in the strict sense of setting up businesses.
It's all about equipping youths to decide what you want to do. Whatever you decide to do, you are better off for it. If you decide to go into business, you are a better entrepreneur if you decide to work in an office place you are able to use the tools that technology gives you to become a more efficient employee in your workplace. So over the next 3-5 years, we will have that pool of young men who are excelling as employees. That's where we want to go.