‘Our target is provide students with 21st century skills’

Boma Walcott Braide is the country manager and business development director of Africa of FoundersClick Inc., a Silicon Valley business that operates in the entrepreneurial ecosystem. In this interview with Angel James, she talks about the ‘Apprentice to Profit’ initiative for students and fresh graduates.

What motivated the ‘Apprentice to Profit’ programme?

The alarming number of Nigerian students and graduates begging for hand-outs and telling a lot of pathetic stories on the social media were the major reasons for the ‘Apprentice to profit’ programme. I strongly feel that these students and graduates should be taught how to fish by themselves and understand that until they try and fail, they would never be perfect at anything. They need to forget about the general perception in our society of getting things without having to work for them.

On a more serious note, the idea came from God. I was instructed by God to do it because I have had such a past experience of being taught how to fish for the work environment and not rely basically on what I learnt at university. In hindsight, when I now look back, I realise that it was actually God preparing me for a time like this where I would be able to share my knowledge and experience with others.

I have been reading John 16: 12 – 14 recently and I just realised that the ‘Apprentice to Profit’ project must have actually been born while I was meditating. When I returned to Nigeria from the UK, there was a time that I was praying for a breakthrough idea to solve some of the issues that I mentioned earlier and also, I didn’t want most of my skills I had acquired over the years to go to waste. ‘Apprentice to Profit’ is the perfect project to be able to bring all of them together under one roof to solve people’s real problems.

As much as that sounds like a cliché, it is true. Most of my structured work experience and work skills were further developed while I was in the United Kingdom and on coming back to Nigeria, I realised that a lot of people suffered from lack of such opportunities. I woke up one morning to actually realise that I could help a lot of people from my wealth of experience. Somebody gave me an opportunity too at one time in my life even though I had to work hard for it. I believe strongly that our young people should be given the same opportunity and they would excel despite our country’s challenges. I would like students and fresh graduates to learn how to fish for themselves early enough than begging, selling their bodies or resorting to social vices to survive. All the people that they think are successful are all going through their own individual problems that no one knows anything about except they share the details with them.

What is the objective of the programme?

Our objective is simply to attempt to reduce unemployment in Nigeria to tens of thousands, from its current millions and counting, in 10 years’— at a scale of one person at a time.

Who is the programme basically targeted at?

It is targeted at students and fresh graduates. That is, students who just graduated from secondary school; students who are in tertiary education and those who are currently undergoing master’s degree. Fresh graduates include those that just finished; those who are currently serving through the National Youth Service Corps in Nigeria and those who are searching for jobs but have not been out of school for up to three years since graduation.

We are seriously working on another project that is focused on graduates who have graduated more than three years ago and those who have some form of experience and above.

There are lots of other businesses, recruitment agencies and initiatives all trying to solve this unemployment problem in Nigeria. So what do you intend to do differently to achieve results?

What we have set out is to carve out a niche in a crowded marketplace like Nigeria. We are not operating with a winner-takes-all approach. When the target market is small, there will always be clients for you. I do not really spend time thinking about staying ahead of any other initiative, because it is more important to focus on building your own vision. As a start-up, playing catch up is a losing game.

The fact is, if you are building an unemployment solution, you have built something that anyone else can build. It is not that complicated, so anything that you create, anyone can copy, whether it’s new or not.

The Apprentice to Profit programme is a social enterprise initiative, which is a cross between business and charity? How have you been able to help students and graduates charitably?

We were able to help Nigerian students and fresh graduates initially through the social media. We offer a lot of resources which should be normally paid for free through our channels on the social media. We are working on the details to expand this from social media to offline channels to offer free resources to our target groups.

What progress has the programme made so far since starting?

We are currently working on Community Build Training and Live Project. The training would teach students and fresh graduates on the steps to take when embarking on any venture. Venture can be job or business or any other thing that one wants to attain. For it to make accurate sense to the recipients, we would be putting them on a real-life community build project to make all their mistakes and learn how to build a community with extremely easy milestones.

We have put in milestones that they must achieve to be able to qualify for the internship stage and only those who successfully complete their project stage would be allowed to continue in the internship. The internship is a US-based community project and the stipends would be in US dollars or its equivalent and it is open to Africans, not only Nigerians. The internship is for three months and can be extended depending on the performance of the student. So we are looking for the first 1,000 African students and fresh graduates to be positioned to learn a lot from this community building training with the best in class transferable skills that can be used in any industry.

What challenges have you faced since initiating the programme?

The challenges have to do with reaching out to the true people that need this solution, and not everybody. We are very specific in our target market and we want it to remain so for now. We are presently working on more experienced professionals’ project which has a different direction and approach. We are very niche specific in our approach. To combat our challenges to a minimum, we have been able to create controls to put them in check.

Where do you see the programme in five years’?

In the next five years, we intend to have achieved 50 percent of our targeted goal, which is to help 500,000 Nigerian students and fresh graduates become excellently skilled, with 21st century employability skills, and be able to face the global employment market rather than be restricted by their location and race.

You mentioned FoundersClick during your introduction. Can you share more light?

FoundersClick is a focused business to business-based web platform based in the heart of Silicon Valley in Cupertino, California, USA. FoundersClick has opened its website to Africa through Forterun Global to offer business to business interaction between Africa and other geographies where we are currently located in the world.

How can businesses and professionals in Nigeria take advantage of FoundersClick?

The general problem of a lot of businesses, domain experts and service providers in Nigeria is qualified leads. FoundersClick is an opportunity that the above focused groups can take advantage of by joining via our link and getting the basic pro service for free to find leads that would patronise their businesses. Professionals and students can also find jobs on FoundersClick’s website because decision makers and recruiters are on the site as well looking for available resources to fill in their vacancies.

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