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Today’s passing-out ceremony is significant for two reasons.

First, it is the fulfilment of our promise to skill our youth and women as part of our strategic approach to tackle unemployment and combat poverty.

A little over six months ago when we commenced this journey, there were not a few sceptics who thought it was another one of those government empowerment programmes that would eventually be scuttled by political intrigue, godfatherism, corruption and bureaucratic red tape. Even some of the participants here were not left out in this widespread cynicism; their initial interest was to see how they could, as was the norm in the past, get their share of the ‘national cake’ before the programme is abandoned.

Today’s event is proof that our critics were wrong. After three months of life skills training, vocational instruction/internship, and business management, the first  set  of  the  first  batch  of  trainees  under  the  Skills  Training  and Entrepreneurship Programme (STEP) and Youth Agricultural Entrepreneurs Programme (YAGEP) are passing out to commence their journeys in the world of business.

I congratulate all of you that are passing out today. You made it! In fact, I am informed that only five persons did not complete the course. Out of the five, one got a paid employment while another person unfortunately passed on. So, technically only three persons dropped out from a set of 776 trainees. That translates to 99.2% performance, an unprecedented record with schemes like this.

This high retention rate is as a result of the rigorous screening and selection process, which helped to identify and  weed  out the unserious, pretenders and opportunists. The concept, design, structure and organisation of the Job and Wealth Creation Scheme are aimed at avoiding the pitfalls of similar programmes in the past, and ensuring that we get maximum benefits from the huge government investment.

I also congratulate the staff of the Office of the Chief Job Creation Officer for their zeal and dedication to their duties. My sincere appreciation also goes to all our resource persons who sacrificed their time and resources to avail the trainees the benefits of their skill, knowledge and experience. Thank you all for your invaluable contributions, and for joining hands with this administration to deliver on its promise of prosperity for all Deltans.

To our YAGEPreneurs and STEPreneurs, I urge you to brace up for life in the world of business. Reading through the maiden edition of the newsletter, I am encouraged to read that many of you are not only eager to get started, some of you are already getting business offers. That is truly heart-warming.

I urge you to, at all times, put into practice the principles you learnt from your training. To succeed in business requires focus, diligence, careful planning, excellent service and prudent management of resources. Talking about prudence, always keep a close watch on your overheads and spending habits. The quickest way to go out of business is to spend more than you earn. You must also develop the quality of resilience. In business, you will experience good times and bad times. But as it has been said, tough times never last, tough people do. Winners don’t quit; quitters don’t win.

Now to the second reason why today’s passing-out ceremony is significant. The success story of our Job and Wealth Creation Scheme signposts an innovation in fostering Micro, Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises (MSMEs) for all-inclusive economic growth and sustainable development. This is the strategic thrust of our Job and Wealth Creation Scheme. Micro, Small and Medium-Scale Enterprises are engines of cost- effective employment generation, social inclusion, equitable development and self-reliant industrialization using local raw materials. They also enhance value chain development while facilitating growth of non-oil exports.

The era of giving out hand-outs in the name of youth or women empowerment is over. We have to empower our people with the soft skills – knowledge, mind-set change, personal development and business/leadership skills – that are crucial for their success in life. Already, we have placed advertisements for the commencement of the 2016 cycle of YAGEP and STEP trainees. However, it has to be said that government needs strong partnerships from global development organs, financial institutions, corporate organisations and donor agencies to enable us expand the scope and coverage of the scheme.

The potentials are limitless. With the right kind of investment, we can conveniently create direct employment for 60,000 persons over the next four years.  That will go a long way in curbing youth restiveness and eradicating poverty. As an administration, we shall strive to develop strategic partnerships with as many of these organisations that are open to such collaboration for the benefit of our people.

It is a new day in Delta State, and I trust God that together we shall leave a legacy of prosperity and sustainable economic growth.

  • Speech at the passing-out Ceremony of STEP and YAGEP graduates at Songhai- Delta, Amukpe, Sapele.