Otti proposes seven ways to prepare Nigerian graduates for the market place

The governorship candidate of Labour Party (LP) in Abia State, Dr. Alex Otti, has issued a seven-point proposal that would help Nigerian graduates think beyond just acquiring academic certificates, to look for jobs, but the necessary skills that would enable them stand on their own and compete favourably, globally.
Otti, a renowned banker and economist, said that most Nigerian universities lack the creativity to prepare their graduates “for the real world”, by exposing them to their likely future work environment and as such they (the graduates) start off on the wrong footing early in their careers.
He spoke during the week in a keynote address, titled: “Gown to Town: Strategies for Graduate Employment Readiness and Economic Growth”, at the inaugural Gown-To-Town Symposium, organised by the University of Port Harcourt Alumni Association, Abuja Chapter.
He said: “I believe, and with all due respect, that our universities have failed us so far. Nigerian universities have remained in the lower rankings in the World and Africa. For instance, in the 2022 edition of Times Higher Education Ranking, no Nigerian University made it to the top 400 universities in the world. That explains how fast the world is moving or how fast Nigeria is moving in the wrong direction. In this same report, the University of Cape Town in South Africa ranked 155th.
“In another report, the 2022 African University Ranking, which essentially agreed with the Times ranking, only two Nigerian universities made it to the top 40 in Africa. The first of those schools, the University of Ibadan (also ranked highest for Nigeria in the Times Higher Education Ranking), came fourth after three South African universities.
“Most Nigerian tertiary education curricula are a poor imitation of the study packs of western universities. Our universities lack the creative muse and the authentic homegrown feel that makes study instantly relevant to the local environment. Our graduates are not prepared for the real world. They lack an interface with their likely future work environment and falter from the start of their careers because of poor preparation.”
According to the LP gubernatorial candidate in the 2023 election, whose entrepreneurial skill has seen him floating a new bank, Signature Bank Limited, which just opened office in Abuja, Nigerian universities need to be tailored toward finding solutions to evolving challenges.
“If power has become an albatross to us, what solutions have our eggheads proffered? Why have our universities not designed, marketed, and implemented alternative energy solutions? Why must we wait for Bill and Melinda Gates to fight malaria?” he queried, adding, “With about 170 universities in the country today, we should feel highly scandalised by the ‘entitlement’ and ‘dependency’ culture we have encouraged.”
Consequently, Otti, who has been tipped by various opinion polls to win the 2023 governorship election in Abia, offered a seven-point proposal for the way forward in preparing Nigerian graduates for the marketplace and with an entrepreneurial worldview.
According to him, “We must have the will to spend at least 25% of the country’s annual budget on education and create special education funds to support R&D (Research & Development) in priority areas.
“Tertiary institutions need to collaborate with industry to have successful entrepreneurs address undergraduates from time to time (bringing the town to gown) in what should be annual symposia that target a mindset shift or orientation for undergraduates.
“Governments at all levels should set up investment funds at single-digit interest rates and more extended payback periods to fund the ideas of young school leavers who wish to build start-ups. The difference between Nigeria and some developed countries is mostly access to credit for start-ups.
“The government must reduce the country’s embarrassing unemployment figure. We need people to become entrepreneurs out of choice, not a necessity. Reducing unemployment requires deliberate policies to drastically improve Nigeria’s ease of doing business, in which we rank 131 out of 190 countries.
“The government should grant special education support for students in Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM), while company investments in R&D should be tax deductible.
“Universities need to use their alumni networks to attract endowments and bequests. They should produce saleable journals. They must see the possibilities of the commercial viability of their indigenous products and processes. Handouts are no longer fashionable. These days the smartest dog gets the fattest bone while the patient dog eats no bones.
“Tertiary institutions must teach students soft skills to help them in the workplace. This is needed by both the graduates, seeking employment and those seeking to launch their businesses.”
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