Mitigating youth unemployment in Nigeria through Technical Education – A Field-based Interface

Mitigating youth unemployment in Nigeria through Technical Education – A Field-based Interface



A Paper presented at the 1st National Conference of Academic Staff Union of Polytechnics (ASUP), Federal Polytechnic – Kaura Namoda Chapter held from 1st – 3rd September, 2015


This by purpose and intent focuses on the role of technical education in mitigating youth unemployment in Nigeria. The concept or re-conceptualization of the possible and positive prospects of exploring the full potentials of technical education by shifting perceptions of youth unemployment as an insurmountable externalized societal challenge to a surmountable reality – which may be theorized about by detached ‘outside’ perceptions – to focusing on the insights and technical skills of empowering the youth with skills that facilitates a process of job creation, wealth creation, self-reliance and economic empowerment. The concepts of youth unemployment and related areas were discussed in the paper including the causes and effects of youth unemployment. The roles that technical education may play in preparing citizens particularly youth to addressing youth unemployment are presented. These include access to short-term & medium-term technical education; providing centers for technical and vocational education as apprenticeship centers for uneducated and semi-educated youth. In the light of these issues, the authors view technical education as an effective and significant tool in ameliorating the effects of youth unemployment and expanding the frontiers of employment generation, wealth creation, and self-reliance. . It is recommended that technical education practitioners use their understanding of science, technology, and engineering to deal with challenges posed by youth unemployment in Nigeria.


Today, in the 21st century probably one of the most intriguing questions in history is why some nations are rich and others poor. Why rising rate of unemployment especially amongst the youth population and other have low. There is no straight answer and no single determining factor, but one lesson stands out in our study of the individual histories of nations. This is the rise of technological innovation in human society propelled by a holistic application of technical education as a catalyst for job creation, wealth creation, poverty reduction, self-reliance, and economic development. It is technical education evolving over the period of time as a process that saw man emerging from his crudest beginnings to make the tools and machines that brought civilization to the level it is now in the 21st century.

Youth unemployment has been of great challenge to many nations of the world especially third world nations mostly in Sub Sahara Africa with particular reference to Nigeria. Human development has been very uneven and so is unemployment and poverty. Until our age, human progress has been largely dictated by countries at the northern hemisphere, and we can see from documented history, growth in this region was spearheaded by two nations-England and America. Why?

In these two countries, technical education codified as science and technology grew by leaps and bounds. Mario (2013) opined that “Human progress has its roots in human knowledge, in particular scientific knowledge”. What is striking is that as scientific knowledge spreads, technical education continued to propel invention and innovation. Technical education which gave rise to invention by talented few, but its rewards benefit all mankind. Drucker (1992) in his book “Managing for the future” sums it up saying “it is said that the machines and processes that built America may be attributed to only 20 or more technically oriented innovators who saw the prospects of technical education, embraced it and put it to action for the good of all”.

21st century Nigeria is facing a lot of challenges of which youth unemployment is already a serious problem to governance. For instance, the Presidential aspirant then for All Progressives Congress in the 2015 general elections in Nigeria General Muhammadu Buhari said in July 2014 that “Youth unemployment in Nigeria is worrisome and Nigeria is sitting on keg of gun powder waiting to explode, so we must do something quick and drastic to reverse the trend”. Another instance, at a world press briefing the Statistician-General of Nigeria stated in 2012 that “It remains a paradox … that despite the fact that the Nigerian economy is growing, the proportion of Nigerians living in poverty is increasing every year,” …” while about 112.52 million or (67.38 per cent) others are recorded to be living below poverty line” and of this proportion 65 percent are youth caught in the web of unemployment” Yemi Kale, Statistician General, National Bureau of Statistics (NBS) told journalists in Abuja.

Whereas the developed countries are at least coming to an agreement on how to confront the challenges posed by youth unemployment which they say is presently the greatest challenge of governance since after the ‘great depression’ of the 1930s and how the effects of youth unemployment can be mitigated, countries like Nigeria are having differing perspectives on what really constitute youth unemployment and whether its threat is worth confronting. Not long ago the issue of economic meltdown swept across the globe with some experts claiming that Nigeria was immune to the shock of such financial crises in spite of the growing youth unemployment and the resultant insurgency from 2009 where 90 percent of the insurgents dead or alive are youths. It is important to note that the complexity of this contemporary world is being shaped by the challenges of globalization and Nigeria can no longer afford to be complacent. It is agreed that one of the major human challenges of globalization is youth unemployment which has sparked the high rate of illegal migration across national and continental borders in the last eight (8) years.

Definition of Youth Unemployment: – There is no universally acknowledged definition of youth; every country has given definition to what constitute youth. These various definitions are informed by cultural, institutional and socio- political determinants. Universal institutions such as the United Nations (UN) and the International Labour Organization (ILO) made a convergence of individuals under the age group of 15-24 as youths. In trying to bring out the significance of what characterizes the Youth, Curtain (2001) defined “youth as an economic and social concept referring to a separate stage in the lifecycle between childhood & adulthood”. In Nigeria, the definition of youth is based on the categorization of youth is commonly by chronological age, ranging from different purposes marriage, criminal responsibility, voting right, consent to medical treatment, and military service to mention a few.

Unemployment can be defined as the difference between labour supply and labour demand. Moreover, the ILO defines unemployment as ‘unemployed as those people who have not worked more than one hour during the short reference period but who are available for and actively seeking work’ (O’Higgins, 1997). As per the ILO Convention No. 138, the minimum age for employment is 15 years but variation exists in the youth definition for statistical purpose.

The UN and ILO define youth unemployment as “the share of the labour force ages 15-24 inclusive without work but available for and seeking employment”. With reference to this Act, this work will focus on youth within the age bracket of 16 till 24. Marks and Fleming (1998) in their model of youth unemployment presented four angles as determinant factors affecting youth unemployment ranges from social background, followed by school factors, qualifications, and prior employment experience being the most influence on unemployment incidence. These four factors when dissected clearly represent some of the factors of youth unemployment in Nigeria.

Model 1 specifies social background factors as influences on youth unemployment. Total effects of age, gender, parental occupational status, location and ethnicity on being unemployed for three months or more in a given year are isolated. On the other hands, model 2 adds school factors namely achievement in literacy and numeracy. The effects for the social background factors are direct effects net of school factors. Model 3 adds educational qualifications. The final model adds employment experience. This model produces the direct effects of qualifications, school and social background factors net employment experience.

Causes of Youth Unemployment

The main causes of youth unemployment which have been widely studied in the economic literature can be classified in two groups: they can be analyzed from a macroeconomic or microeconomic point of view. These causes contribute to the increase in youth unemployment.

Studies on youth unemployment in Developing Countries

The problem of youth unemployment in Nigeria is multi-dimensional, in a study by Omotosho, Idowu, Esere, and Arewah (2009), a multi-staged sampling technique was used to select 1,750 unemployed youths from the six geo-political zones of the country including Abuja, the Federal Capital Territory. In the conclusion, the result shows that both male and female unemployed youths face same problems in Nigeria. Youth unemployment leads to depression, low self-esteem, frustration and a number of other negative consequences. In addition, one of the major causes of unemployment is lack of productive and marketable skills. Many of the school leavers in Nigeria are not adequately prepared to fit into the production sector of the economy and cannot provide services that can generate sustainable income. Yahaya and Aliyu (2014) observed that technical education/skills as a strategic empowerment approach shows that youth possessing technical education or vocational training have a higher probability of being unemployed. Youth unemployment appears to be an urban phenomenon as compared to rural areas in Nigeria where the preoccupation is farming/Agricultural activities. Further it was pointed out that occupation of head of household is an important determinant of youth unemployment. Further, they results suggest that the probability of youth unemployment chances decrease in case of large family size and increases if the head of household is employed in informal sector.

Technical Education: Mitigating Youth Unemployment

Technical education covers both formal and informal settings and is the training of craftsmen, artisans, technicians, and by extension technologists/engineers for work in academic institutions, industry, construction, transportation, communications, agriculture, and forestry. Throughout the period of industrial revolution, the preparation of skilled workers for the national economy is carried out within the system of technical-vocational education.

The term “technical education” according to Bogomolov and Parkhomenko (1970) is also understood to include the theoretical and practical scientific knowledge and technical skills that permit a person receiving such education to solve production engineering and economic problems in his specialty. Technical Education, according to Brickman (2008) is “instruction in a skill or procedure, usually of a mechanical type, and at a level between that of the professional scientist or engineer and that of a skilled craftsperson. Technicians support scientists and engineers by designing, developing, producing, and maintaining machines and materials”. The work of a technician according to Brickman’s assertion is more limited in scope than that of a scientist or engineer and is commonly considered practical rather than theoretical in its orientation. Bogomolov and Parkhomenko (1970-1979) assert that “technical education is the academic and vocational preparation of students for jobs involving applied science and modern technology”. It emphasizes the understanding and practical application of basic principles of science and technical innovations with the attainment of proficiency in manual skills that is properly the concern of vocational education.

It is worthy to note here that Technical education is to some extent distinctive from vocational education even though it is intermittently sometimes referred to as Vocational education or even symbiotically termed Technical and Vocational Education (TVE). The concept “Technical and Vocational Education” according to the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization (UNESCO) (2001) is a comprehensive term referring to those aspects of the educational process involving, in addition to general education, the study of technologies and related sciences, and the acquisition of practical skills, attitudes, understanding and knowledge relating to occupations in various sectors of economic and social life. According to UNESCO’s document, “Revised Recommendation concerning Technical and Vocational Education,” Technical and Vocational Education is further understood to be:

  1. An integral part of general education;
  2. A means of preparing for occupational fields and for effective participation in the world of work;
  3. An aspect of lifelong learning and a preparation for a responsive citizenship;
  4. An instrument for promoting environmentally sound sustainable development;
  5. A method of facilitating poverty alleviation (p. 1-2).

With these definitions of technical education and its multi-dimensional applications, probably one of the most intriguing questions with this backgrounder is ‘how does technical education mitigates the challenges of youth unemployment”? Technical education has as its objectives the preparation of craftsmen, technicians as well as graduates for occupations that are classed above the skilled crafts but below the scientific or engineering professions. People so employed are frequently called technicians or skilled manpower. Technical education is distinct from professional education, which places major emphasis upon the theories, understanding, and principles of a wide body of subject matter designed to equip the graduate to practice authoritatively in such fields as science, engineering, law, or medicine.

Technical Education Objectives and the Youth Unemployment Challenge

The intellectual framework of this work is built on revealing the objectives of technical education and creating a window from which to view those objectives that could impact and address the challenges of youth unemployment in Nigeria. In November 2001, UNESCO adopted a recommendation concerning technical and vocational education. The document directed member states, including Nigeria, to take whatever legislative or other steps necessary to give effect to the principles set forth in their recommendation.

These ambitious goals set by UNESCO and the international community, together with regulatory bodies and academic institutions, were aimed at ensuring that the learning needs of all young people and adults are met through equitable access to appropriate learning and life skills programs. The various technical and vocational education curricula of tertiary institutions in Nigeria approximate that of UNESCO’s principles and are updated frequently. The objectives of technical and vocational education were clearly conceived by the planners and stated very expressly to show the direction of change envisioned for all countries of the world. The document specifies in concrete terms how to create open and flexible educational structures to cater for upward mobility in learning and work. It also abolishes barriers between levels and areas of education, education and the world of work, and between school and society.  In particular, Section 5 (b) (UNESCO, 2001, p. 2) is noteworthy. It envisages the objectives to, “lead to an understanding of the scientific and technological aspects of contemporary civilization in such a way that people comprehend their environment and are capable of acting upon it while taking a critical view of the social, political and environmental implications of scientific and technological change.” The implication therefore is that technical and vocational education through these objectives is given the necessary empowerment and mandate to provide quality technical and vocational education and training to effectively help students and workers develop their knowledge in science and technology across occupational areas including those that address youth unemployment related challenges.

The challenges that young people who are, or aspire to be technically trained as entrepreneurs face are many, but includes for example:
• Household and other responsibilities that lead to limitations in time and availability
• Lack of support and encouragement from the family and society at large
• Limited technical education
• Limited technical centers and inadequate technical instructors
• Lack of experience and skills
• Lack of practical workshops, laboratories and equipments needed for technical education
• Lack of access to financial capital to start after acquiring technical-vocational skills for a variety of reasons
• Challenges to register and formalize their enterprises

And because Nigeria is currently facing the challenge of youth unemployment, technical occupations are vital in a wide range of fields, including industry, construction, transportation, communications, agriculture, and forestry, business administration, ICT, computers and data processing, education, environmental and resource management, graphic arts and industrial design, and health and medicine; technical educational curricula are correspondingly specialized over a broad range. Technical education is typically offered in post-secondary-school curricula that are two-three years in length, are offered in a wide variety of institutions, such as technical institutes, colleges of education, polytechnics and then at regular colleges and universities that are designed to lead to a bachelor’s degree.

As more youth get equipped with technical skills regardless of their first course of study, more venture capital be provided, and social entrepreneurship be encouraged spurring the youth towards innovations, job creation, wealth creation and self-reliance with a wide range of employment-value-chain which in-turn will mitigate the high rate of youth unemployment in Nigeria.

In addition to specialized technical education, Umoru and Okeke (2012) opined that there is also supplementary and general technical education. Supplementary technical education provides students at higher educational institutions and specialized secondary educational institutions with the technical knowledge and skills required for the study and use of machines, mechanisms, equipment, and automatic control devices used in many areas of science, education, and culture. It includes technical and engineering disciplines that are studied in university departments of geology, chemistry, physics, and biology; in agricultural higher educational institutions in the departments of agriculture and veterinary medicine; in medical, pedagogical, and other institutes; and in specialized secondary educational institutions. The importance of supplementary technical education has grown with the increasing use of technical equipment in various areas of science and culture, for example, the technology of experimental research, computer technology, technical aids in education, and devices and instruments for medical diagnosis and therapy. General technical education is provided in general-education secondary schools and lays the foundation needed to acquire the technical knowledge and skills offered by a polytechnic education and on-the-job training.

The system of specialized technical education that could provide millions of jobs for the teaming youth in the Nigeria includes the following areas of specialization: geology, mining, power engineering, metallurgy, machine building, instrumentation, radio electronics, agriculture-crops production, animal and livestock (poultry, fishery, animal husbandry), timber engineering, chemical engineering, mechanical area of fabrication, refrigeration/air-conditioning, automobile, engineering in the area of the production of foodstuffs and consumer goods, construction, geodesy, hydrometeorology, transportation, and communications. Specialists with higher technical educations are trained in poly-technical and industrial institutes, specialized higher technical educational institutions, including factory-based higher technical educational institutions, in the technical departments of several universities, and in higher technical military educational institutions.

Programs for specialists in higher technical educational institutions are five or six years in length. The curriculum of each specialty consists of general science, general engineering, and specialized disciplines. General engineering studies include descriptive geometry and graphic arts, computer technology in engineering and economic analysis, machine components, the theory of mechanisms and machines, the technology of building materials, materials technology, strength of materials, electrical engineering, hydraulics and hydraulic machines, thermal engineering with thermodynamics, and other subjects, depending on the requirements of the specialty. The general science and general engineering disciplines provide for the training of specialists with broad backgrounds. In the programs for special disciplines, particular attention is given to those disciplines that provide the scientific foundation for specialist training, for example, the theory of various engineering processes, the theory, analysis, and design of specific machines and instruments, and automation. When we look at the employment-value chain that technical education’s potentials could provide to our teaming youth in Nigeria both in terms of supplementary technical education and general technical education, it is pertinent to note that the employment opportunities are huge and enormous with its attendant multiplier effects of job creation, wealth, creation, productivity, and self-reliance.

Conclusion and Recommendations

The government has the responsibility of taking care of technical education; every state is required to have at least one institution running advanced crafts courses with an emphasis on the training of technical teachers with the prospect of teaching technical education. Every local government in the country is expected to have a functional technical school. In reality, not all local governments have technical schools. The havoc and devastating effects of youth unemployment in Nigeria in the 21st century is alarming and challenging having the potential to change the progress of nations and foreclose the hope of future generations for a better life. When we hear about violent uprising by youth in other countries of the world due to joblessness and poverty; we are quick to count our blessings and proclaim that such disasters are not our fate. But now we have devastating youth restiveness, insurgency, communal conflicts all perpetrated by the youth who are jobless, unskilled, and ill-educated across Nigeria. The most effective way out is a comprehensive national approach to technical education just like the US modeled Career-technical education. Technical and vocational education professionals, as part of the scientific and technological community, are well positioned to tackle the challenges of youth unemployment if well utilized for national development.

Arising from this study, the following recommendations are presented:

  1. Technical and vocational education practitioners should use their understanding of science and technology to deal with challenges posed by youth unemployment.
  2. Governments (national, state, and local) should be assisted by technical and vocational education professionals to make the required legislation that will give effect to the principles set forth by UNESCO.
  3. Technical and vocational education curricula should be reviewed and revised continually to ensure that students are empowered in technically oriented life-support skills/techniques.
  4. Continued research aimed at improving and providing job opportunities should be pursued by technical and vocational education professionals.
  5. Policy thrust in the formulation and implementation of technical education in Nigeria should be constantly reviewed and consistently followed to meet to the most updates.
  6. Teacher training and retraining as well as professionals in the field of technical education

Approaches to tackle these obstacles/challenges of mitigating youth unemployment in Nigeria through Technical education can be found for example in the following areas:
• Access to support services: providing access to business development services (BDS) and mentoring, product development and technology advice.

  • Capacity building: providing equipment to technical institutions and centers, or facilitating training on vocational or life skills to enhance the competency level as well as confidence of the young people.
  • Access to finance: linking youth with technical innovations and entrepreneurial skills to financial institutions. Providing young people with the tools, capacity and confidence to request financial services for the creation or expansion of their own enterprises.
  • Building the social capital: facilitating the building of mechanisms that help the young people to increase their networks, support systems as well as market access and negotiation power, such as forming or joining networks, associations, or cooperatives.
  • Formalization: supporting the registration and formalization process of existing micro- and small scale businesses run by young entrepreneurs with technical skills or vocational capacities.
  • Value chain linkages: creating links between existing businesses, or existing and new enterprises by young people, developing and strengthening value chains, identifying where the upcoming enterprises could add the most value.
  • Social entrepreneurship development: facilitating the creation or expansion of social enterprises (i.e. enterprises/ventures that use entrepreneurial principles to address a social problem or community challenge and achieve social change) led by young women and men.
  • Household enterprise development: facilitating and enabling the creation or extension of household enterprises to enable the young people, and especially young women, to work from their home.

Note: The above mentioned challenges and intervention areas are only examples, meant to help to explain the general purpose and goal of the equipping young people with technical education/training and skills.





















About Yusuf Yahaya

Y. Yahaya is a broadcaster (Nigerian Television Authority),and an Associate @ the Certified Institute of Development Studies (CIDS), Nigeria.He is also a freelance journalist (, Public Policy Analyst & National Resource Person MDGs Advocacy Project-Nigeria. Email:,

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