INTERVIEW: How Govt. Can Tackle Youth Unemployment – Convener, Circle of Hands, Bamidele Ademola-Olateju

Circle of Hands is an organisation dedicated to the important task of nurturing the next generation of political, economic and social leaders.

The organisation says its mission is to “develop, inspire, convene and engage Nigerian youths to foster collaboration and drive transformational change through active citizenship.
After its successful first annual lecture/symposium last year, the organisation held its second annual lecture on Saturday, December 12, 2015, at the Eko FM Multiopurpose Hall, LTV8, Agidingbi Ikeja.
The theme of the lecture is “Change”.
The keynote lecture – “Change, Why the Youth Must Own and Define was delivered by former presidential spokesperson and Chairman of ThisDay Editorial Board, Segun Adeniyi.

The convener of Circle of Hands, Bámidélé Adémólá-Olátéjú, spoke to PREMIUM TIMES about the lecture and other activities of her organisation.
Premium Times : Circles of Hands promises “to involve young people in the society as active citizens and strengthen their belief in Nigeria and its potential.” Aside your annual lectures what else are you doing to strengthen the belief of young Nigerians in the country in the face of growing despondency?
Bamidele: I am Bamidele Ademola-Olateju, the Convener, Circle of Hands. Our organization is a little over a year old. When I came up with the idea of Circle of Hands and secured the support and commitment of some patriotic and dedicated Nigerians to become a foundation nucleus and board of trustees, my initial vision was to offer a different and practical approach to the maximization of the strength, creativity, and innovative spirit of our youth for personal and national development. We have been building the dream ever since.
Our annual lectures which has featured internationally renowned speakers are one of the components for engaging the youth demographic. This country has been bastardized for too long. The reality that confronts Nigerian youths are lack of quality education, employment and opportunities for social mobility leading to them being worse off than their parents. In politics, the youth demographic are excluded from active and effective exercise of their rights to fair representation.
We aim to create development spaces for the youth so they can train and have the necessary tools to be leaders and join the struggle for social and economic inclusion. We believe it is from the spaces we create that we can make specific public policies that can contribute to our development.
PT: The core five objectives of Circle of Hands are Civil Education, Entrepreneurship, Training, Culture and Job Creation. Can you tell us in more details what Circle of Hands have done in the last two years, for instance in terms of outreach programmes, partnership or creating opportunities gear toward achieving these objectives?
Bamidele: Apart from our lectures, we engage the youths directly through the social media and our newly developed website has been effective channels for connecting with our over 1,200 members from around the world. Through these media, we have held Virtual Town Hall Meetings (VTHMs) attended by our globally constituted members.
Our target is to use physical and virtual channels to strengthen the belief of young Nigerians and to recalibrate the mindset of the youths and gear them towards self-development, entrepreneurship, and collaborative development solutions through the synergy provided by mentoring, training and venture funds on the Circle of Hands platform.
During the year, we coordinated clothing drive for Internally Displaced persons at the Yola camp in Adamawa state. The response was impressive! We got a truck load of mostly new clothing, blankets, shoes and toys for children from age 1-12. Our future plans include boot camp skills workshops for members, apprentice training locally and abroad and funding for startups.
PT: Youth unemployment is arguably the biggest hurdle that stand between many young Nigerians and achieving their dreams. But there seems to be a Catch-22 situation with many employer complaining that young Nigerians lack the skills to function effectively in workplaces. How do you think this quagmire can be resolved?
Bamidele: Creating employment opportunities for young people requires a great deal of effort from government, the private sector and educational and vocational institutions. The government is primarily responsible for creating an enabling environment for youth employment while the private sector is the engine of job creation. Nigeria needs more than ad hoc measures to enable small business create jobs for young people on a sustainable basis. This means improving employment opportunities for young people requires broad and concerted effort from all stakeholders.
Given our employment deficits and the unfavourable economic circumstance we face as a nation, interventions to reduce unemployment can be grouped into three intertwined parts. One, direct action concerning skills development and training. This is based on the premise that employers have a central role in the identification, design and implementation of appropriate education, training and skills requirements needed in this economy. We all know businesses have interest in ensuring that available education creates the skilled labour needed now and in the future.
Given this fact, employers can help inform policy and the practice of education and training. Such interventions can include business participation in national vocational training systems aimed at facilitating the transition of young people to the world of work.
Employers can organize special training schemes alone or collectively to develop the skills required by a specific industry or company, including schemes targeting disadvantaged youth. They can also establish school-industry partnership arrangements to ease the youth transition from school to work.
Two, business organizations can undertake direct actions concerning job creation. They can pioneer a number of initiatives to expand job opportunities for young workers to facilitate their integration into the labour market. For example; they can create job placement schemes to match young jobseekers with job offers from companies, use of government programmes, incentives and tax breaks to create new jobs for young people, mentoring of young entrepreneurs and business start-up assistance.
Three, unemployment reduction through policy making and advocacy. The participation of employers and their organizations in the design, implementation and evaluation of policies and programmes for youth employment is critical for enhancing the relevance of interventions. Employers, through their organizations, can play an important role in raising-awareness, generating and disseminating information, and mobilizing support around youth employment issues.
Some of the things that can be done are; include employers in national policy-making bodies dealing with vocational education, training and job creation (e.g. boards of educational and training institutions), they can also contribute to policy, programme development and implementation through social dialogue and collective bargaining.

PT: Part of your programmes for the youth involves volunteering, that is something that is not popular among Nigerian youth who understandably are more preoccupied with eking out a living. What is the response like? What benefits does a young person that decides to volunteer for Circle of Hands likely to enjoy?
Bamidele: Circle of hands is entirely run by volunteers, no one is paid for doing anything and they all do it with a smile. Our volunteers are simply awesome! We have our offices on Allen Avenue, Ikeja Lagos but we run most of our operations online. Our volunteers are located across Nigeria, Africa, Europe and North America, yet we communicate seamlessly. Volunteerism here in Nigeria is not as it is in the United Kingdom or in America but we will get there.
The success of Circle of Hands so far rests squarely on our committed and dedicated Board of Trustees, our cheerful donors and our indefatigable volunteers. All our activities so far gas been funded by the trustees and donors within the organization. I’m very proud of our team.
PT: Let’s talk about your annual lectures. Last year the theme of the lecture was ““Nigeria @ 54: Risky Republic or Republic at Risk?”. Unlike many other lectures which are largely talk shops, It promised to provide unique solutions to some of the problems bedeviling the country.
You said then: “If you are tired of the perennial prevalence of Nigeria’s problems and the resounding rhetoric of the solutions proffered by various pundits, then you should be at this event.”
How would you rate the buzz and the impact the symposium had in channeling a new course for the country?
Bamidele: Before October 1, 2014, only a handful of people knew what Circle of Hands stand for. Today our name is generating some buzz. After the lecture we have had two virtual town hall meetings that were well attended. On the two occasions, we had to extend the time to four hours to accommodate different shades of opinions. Our membership has increased and many more mentors have identified themselves with our mission by contributing money to make this year’s lecture a success. We continue to see progressive internalization of traditional values, activism and determined push for civic responsibility, and socioeconomic renewal among our members.
PT: The theme of this year’s lecture is “Change” please can you tell us more about it and what does participants stand to gain by attending the lecture.
Bamidele: As they say, change is the only constant in life. Nigeria is undergoing political change and going through the teething problems of representative government. The political change engineered this year, was largely driven by the youths who want a new Nigeria that is full of promise for young people. In the next few years, this country will learn the hard way and evolve through trying times of socioeconomic changes. With this lecture, workshops and beyond, we will educate and mobilize the youth to make their voices heard, we will strengthen and encourage them to adapt, learn and apply themselves despite in the face of grim economic outlook.
PT: Paid lectures are not popular around here. N2,000 may appear inexpensive but it could also deter youth who would have attended if the lecture was free. Why does the lecture have an entry fee?
Bamidele: We charge a small fee for our lectures and workshops based on the science of trade-offs. Opportunity cost is studied in economics classrooms around the world. When deciding whether to attend an event, right thinking people of value weigh the opportunity cost of attending that event. They ask, what else could I be doing with my day or the money that it costs to attend? That is the opportunity cost. When making the decision, we weigh that against what we think we will get out of the event. What we gain from an event could be knowledge, entertainment, or the chance to meet the speaker or great people who will be attending the event. However, it is difficult to predict how great these benefits will be. One of the best indicators of that, is the price. The price gives us a signal about the value of an event. This is why, we don’t make them free. The fees we charge barely covers the cost of food.
I agree, it shouldn’t be hard to get sponsors but things are not always as they seem in Nigeria. We will double our efforts to get sponsorship outside our organization for our programs. Hopefully people in charge of organizations will get to read this and reach out to us as part of their corporate social responsibility to Nigeria.
Bamidele can be reached at info

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