ASSESSING THE LABOUR MARKET DEMAND AND UNIVERSITY GRADUATE EMPLOYABILITY SKILLS
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Background to the Study
Education is a means of empowerment to an individual and the society.
Also, it is a strong weapon for developing human capacity needed for a sustainable national development.
Tertiary education, which comprises universities, polytechnics, colleges of education and mono technics, has been identified as a means of developing human capacity required for sustainable national growth and development.
Specifically, universities are saddled with the responsibility of developing high-level manpower within the context of the needs of the nation.
Following the globalisation, information technology and revolution in the present day knowledge-based economy, so much expectation has been placed on universities in generating, harnessing and transmitting knowledge for sustainable development and improved standard of living.
Therefore, the university plays a crucial role in generating the human capacities for leadership, management and technical expertise.
All over the world, investment in university education is a critical component of national development effort.
Nations today depend largely on knowledge, ideas and skills which are produced in universities (World Bank, 1997; OECD, 1996). As a nation’s knowledge industry, the university increases the productive capacity of the labour force.
In the developed countries, for example, university’s scientists are able to monitor global technological trends, assess their relevance to national needs and assist in developing the national technological capacity for economic growth.
Going by this trend, there has been high demand for university education in Nigeria since independence in order to increase the supply of manpower in the labour market.
Following the recommendation of the Ashby Commission of 1959 that new universities should be established in the then three Regions and Lagos, the then Capital Territory, University of Nigeria, Nsukka, Ahmadu Bello University, Zaria and the University of Ibadan together with University of Lagos, Lagos were established as the first generation of universities in Nigeria.
It is important to note that since then the University system in Nigeria has grown by leaps and bounds. The number of universities has increased from five in 1962 to one hundred and twenty-eight (128) in 2013, comprising 40 Federal, 38 State and 50 private universities (Okojie, 2013) and a total number of 151 in 2016 (National University Commission, 2016).
The goals of university education as stated by the Federal Republic of Nigeria (2009) are to;
i. contribute to national development through high-level relevant manpower training;
ii. develop and inculcate proper values for the survival of the individual and society;
iii. develop the intellectual capacity of individuals to understand and appreciate their local and external environment;
iv. acquire both physical and intellectual skills which enable individuals to be self-reliant and useful members of the society;
v. promote and encourage scholarship and community service;
vi. forge and cement national unity; and
vii. promote national and international understanding and interaction (p. 38).
In spite of these noble goals, Sofoluwe and Etajere (2011) noted that over the years, the tertiary educational level has come under heavy criticisms, having failed to achieve the aim of providing the kind of education that would solve the problems of the country as a developing nation; such problems as abject poverty, corruption, unemployment and mismanagement of resources.
This is traceable to the challenges facing university education in Nigeria which are poor funding, poor infrastructure, political influence and incessant industrial actions.
Others are cultism, examination malpractices and poor quality of graduates.
Judging by this, it is evident that universities in Nigeria are yet to be well-equipped to carry out these responsibilities effectively due to human capacity deficiencies. Okojie (2013) lamented that the Nigerian University System continues to lag terribly behind competitive standards in the contemporary world.
Engineering workshops, which are meant to train 21st Century engineers are provided with equipment and gadgets that were introduced in the 1960s.
Library books and journals date not later than the 1980s.
Okojie further noted that hostel rooms meant for four students in the 1970s were in 2012, occupied by 12 students each having a “cooker corner” and using kerosene stove; with the abysmally low level of research facilities in the universities, the future is apparently bleak for Nigerian education.
This situation pervades mostly developing nations of the world, especially African nations.
Pauw, Oosthuizen and Westhuizen (2007) discovered in South Africa that many graduates lack soft skills, workplace readiness and experience. Boateng and Ofori-Sarpong (2002) also noted that in Ghana employers of labour referred to recent graduates as those who lack basic skills to complete simple routine assignments and this gave the impression that certification is a mere formality rather than an indication of achievement.
The situation is not different in Nigeria as employers of labour believed that graduates are poorly trained and unproductive on the job. Nigerian graduates have been described variously as half-baked, ill-equipped, ill-trained, of poor quality, of a poor standard and unemployable (Obayan, 2002).
This explained why university education in Nigeria has not been able to fulfil its mandate of producing high-level manpower needed for national development in required quality that can fit and compete favourably both at national and international labour market.
However, the current thinking is that university education should develop in the beneficiary a certain number of generic skills to a level that will ensure the continued creative productivity of the individual. These skills, according to Obayan (2002), include:
i. analytical power: this comprises an advanced capacity for logical reasoning, employing appropriate verbal, quantitative, graphic, documentary, audio-visual, sensory perceptions and a wide variety of tools.
ii. Communication: this includes oral and written as well (as in other possible forms) using the appropriate language and non-verbal form in specific situations to achieve specific objectives.
iii. problem-solving: this is the ability to task one’s analytical power to the maximum in developing possible solution paths to the problem in a variety of situations.
iv. Team spirit: is the ability to contribute meaningfully to group activities in a wide variety of forms to relate with others to get out of one’s shell while remaining oneself.
V. creativity: refers to the ability to go beyond the well-trodden path in thinking as well as in action.
vi. life-long learning skills; include perseverance, risk taking, a spirit of enquiry, reading as a habit, self-directed learning efforts, the activity to face challenges and so on (p. 4).
In today’s labour market, employers of labour attach much importance to graduate employability which refers to work readiness, that is, possession of the skills, knowledge, attitudes and commercial understanding that will enable new graduates to make productive contributions to organisational objectives soon after commencing work (Mason, 2001).
Although, the Federal Government of Nigeria, in conjunction with some agencies, at one time or another, have introduced some palliative measures to address this challenge of unemployment by organizing different programmes like National Directorate of Employment (NDE) that was launched in 1986 with the mandate of designing programmes that will promote attitudinal change, employment generation, poverty reduction and wealth creation; and National Poverty Eradication Programme (NAPEP) was also launched in 2001 to address poverty and related issues.
Others including You Win that was launched in 2011 specifically to generate jobs by encouraging and supporting aspiring entrepreneurial youth in Nigeria to develop and execute business ideas that will lead to job creation; while the National University Commission (NUC) introduced Entrepreneurial Studies as a compulsory course called “Graduates Self-Employment” (GSE 301) into universities curriculum in 2004 to enable university graduates to become self-employed.
Yet, there is still the high rate of unemployment, especially among the Nigerian university graduates.
Even, the Federal Government of Nigeria in 2008 acknowledged that about 80 percent of Nigeria’s youth are unemployed and 10 percent underemployed (Daily Trust, 2008).
Oyesiku (2010) reported that available statistics show that the nation’s job creation capacity is growing at an annual rate of five percent and seven percent over the last seven years.
Meanwhile, about 213 Universities, Polytechnics and Colleges of Education in the country then produced over 300,000 graduates annually; a number that should ordinarily meet the country’s human capital resource needs, but employers willing to pay well to attract skilled workers are increasingly finding it difficult to fill the job vacancies.
Federal Office of Statistic (2012) also reported that with the current unemployment rate at 23.9 percent and unemployed youth population put at 20.3 million, Nigeria generated about 4.5 million new entrants into the labour market annually.
The Nigeria’s strong economic performance over the last decade has not translated to jobs and real life opportunities for its youth.
Akanmu (2011) asserted that three out of ten graduates of tertiary institutions cannot find work and being highly educated does not increase the chance of finding a job.
Those who find work are not usually gainfully employed; some are forced to accept marginal jobs that do not use their qualifications in sales, agriculture and manual labour while employers are often looking for skills that go beyond qualifications and experience.
Apart from the sluggish growth rate of the Nigerian economy, it lacks the structural and transformation capacity that is sufficient to expand employment for the long bloated labour market.
In other words, whatever growth that takes place in Nigeria is not labour intensive and as such cannot generate a commensurate proportion of jobs for the unemployed graduates.
Therefore, the Nigerian society today is facing challenges of getting the education that will deliver to the students the right set of skills and knowledge demanded by the labour market.
The reality on the ground is that university education should turn out students who are ready to fill available jobs in the marketplace.
The National Universities Commission (2004) affirmed that massive unemployment of Nigerian university graduates in the country is traceable to the disequilibrium between labour market requirements and essential employable skills by the graduates.
However, contention exists regarding what exactly constitute what employers are requiring from graduates in the labour market.
It is against this background that the researcher is interested in investigating the influence of labour demand on university graduates’ employability in North-West, Nigeria.
Statement of the Problem
The issue of graduate employability has become a worrisome trend in the Nigeria labour market.
It has become a serious concern to stakeholders (like employers of labour, training institutions, parents and graduates). The Nigerian Employers Consultative Association, (NECA) (2005) expressed that companies were not recruiting but adopting employment protection strategies due to the very poor quality graduates who do not meet demands of industries.
Therefore, Chiacha and Amaechi (2013) carried out a study on entrepreneurship education and graduate employability in Nigeria.
They found out that the entrepreneurial education currently offered in schools did not lead to high employability index of graduates. Also, Pitan & Adedeji (2012) examined the problem of skills mismatch and its prevalence in the Nigeria labour market.
The study discovered that university graduates were not adequately prepared for work with respect to skills demand of the labour market.
In spite of these findings, the challenge of graduate employability still persists in Nigeria.
National Bureau of Statistics (2011) reported that the rate of unemployment in Nigeria was high The report revealed that the North-west recorded highest rate of unemployment with 25.40%, followed by South-west with 21.56%, North-east with 16.47%, South-south was 12.03% while North-central had the lowest with 11.60%.
This situation became more alarming in the third quarter of 2014 where North-west recorded 30.0%, North-east 23.9%, North-central 15.1%, South-east 8.9%, South-west 8.9% and South-south 18.7% (Ajaiyakaye, 2016).
Based on the persistence and high rate of unemployment in Nigeria, this study placed specific emphasis on the North-west, Nigeria not only because of the increase in the rate of crimes and insurgencies but also based on the report that the North-west recorded the highest rate of unemployment of 30.0% as at the third quarter of 2014 (Ajaiyakaye, 2016).
This is traceable to a mismatch between labour market demand and employability skills of graduates.
Therefore, a gap exists between what is taught in school and the skills required to perform a job. This gap, Kayode (2009) expressed, is responsible for a high percentage of young graduate unemployment. The researcher, therefore, considers it highly essential to carry out a study on labour market demand and university graduate employability skills in North-west, Nigeria.
Purpose of the Study
The main purpose of this study is to investigate the influence of labour market demand on University graduate employability skills in North-west, Nigeria. However, the specific purposes of the study are to:
1. Identify labour market demands for university graduate employability in North-west, Nigeria;
2. Examine academic qualifications that determine university graduate employability in North-west, Nigeria;
3. assess areas of specialisations that determine university graduate employability in North-west, Nigeria;
4. identify work-related experience that determines university graduate employability in North-west, Nigeria;
5. examine the age that determines university graduate employability in North-west, Nigeria.
6. assess the mean rate of university graduate employability skills in North-west, Nigeria.