BACKGROUND AND ORGANISATIONAL CONTEXT
Universities are globally recognized as spaces for promoting open and independent inquiry – where diversity of ideas is transformed into critical thought. Universities are also heralded as the frontiers of human and technological knowledge transfer, while serving as platforms for learning. Universities are on the fore front of nurturing talent at scale. In Nigeria for example, close to 1.2million young people enroll in over 170 universities across the country, while slightly over 600,000 graduating annually (National University Commission).
These numbers however are not translating into the expected socio-economic dividend in as far as talent acquisition and deployment is concerned. 48% of the graduating students remain unemployed, while over 60% are underemployed. While multiple factors explain this occurrence, one that has been raised by industry leaders in the private and public sector is level of unpreparedness by the graduates to labor or business market needs.
Universities are therefore under extreme pressure to re-invent themselves and re-think their value proposition within a learning ecosystem that has significantly changed post-covid; and within a labor / business environment that is more competitive and skewed towards experience and job-ready competences. The job market and business environment is demanding market-ready skills, problem solving capabilities and entrepreneurship attitudes – which tend to be lacking from fresh graduates. With the advent of new technologies for example, the world has become even more interconnected and interdependent – putting added pressure on universities to intensify efforts towards developing ‘future-ready’ competences required for driving the ever-changing digital economy.
In response to some aspects of this complex development challenge, UNDP jointly with the Federal Government and support from the European Union developed a ‘learning-to-earning’ model – dubbed the Nigeria Jubilee Fellows Programme that seeks to connect fresh graduates to work-based experience in the private and public sectors. Through the Jubilee Fellows Programme, 20,000 young Nigerians will have access to on-the-job skills through 12-month placement opportunities in the private and public sector.
To compliment this investment, a ‘Spaces-Initiative’ has been integrated into the Jubilee Fellows Programme now targeting universities where a learner-centered & experience-based approach is to be piloted in sampled universities with the ultimate objective of transforming how students learn and prototyping a shift in how knowledge is generated and transferred within institutions of higher learning. The spaces initiative will ensure that students are equipped with competences, skills and insight through ‘doing’ and ‘launching’ – demonstrating capacities to anticipate risk and solve problems throughout their learning journey. The ultimate goal is to reposition universities as transformative spaces for innovation, experimentation, R&D and accelerated learning imbued with the market-ready knowledge systems and technology infrastructure that matches the demands of the current and fast evolving labor and business environment
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UNDP OFFICE NIGERIA