The world they say is “sitting on a social and economic time bomb”. It is plagued by a cancer that would soon be incurable. This is a result of the rising rate of youth unemployment. Statistics show that there are 1.2 billion youth in the world aged 15 – 24. Global unemployment rate as at 2012 was projected at 12.7%.In Africa, youth unemployment has become a threat to socio-economic peace and stability. Nigeria as Africa’s most populous country is not left out in this threat. There are several ways to curb this malaise but a few would be mentioned here: entrepreneurship, youth development and mentorship. These three must be combined in order to ensure success and longevity of efforts put in place to improve youth employment. This essay focuses on the effects of mentoring.

Unemployment rate in Nigeria for the year 2011 stood at 23.9 percent, with youth unemployment at over 50 percent.This increase in rate of unemployed youth in the country is a significant contributor to the rise in crimes, insecurity and negative economic growth.Most youths spend several years in the university to obtain a degree, but fail to get a job after graduation. They roam the streets from one corporate organization to the other looking for white collar jobs that are non-existent. While in tertiary institutions, students treat their studies with nonchalance knowing fully well that there are no jobs in the labor market. Such attitude towards education increases the number of half-baked and unskilled graduates who perform below expectation. This leads to universities churning out under skilled graduates for the over skilled, and unavailable labour market.

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An unemployed youth is an idle minded youth, and ‘an idle mind they say is the devils workshop’. Engaging these idle youthful minds in skill acquisition programs, vocational trainings, and job creation programs gives them an opportunity to be self-employed. It makes them job creators and not job seekers. It gives them an opportunity to add to the economic growth and development of our country. Empowering the youth is not just about training them; it is about encouraging the youth to creating a secure future for generations to come. An Igbo proverb says ‘if you want to help me, teach me how to fish instead of fishing for me’ .Franklin, D Roosevelt, the 32nd President of the United States of America, once said, “We cannot always build the future for our youths, but we can build our youths for the future.”

Wikipedia defines mentoring as, “ A process for the informal transmission of knowledge, social capital, and the psychosocial support perceived by the recipient as relevant to work, career, or professional development. Mentoring entails informal communication, usually face-to-face and during a sustained period of time, between a person who is perceived to have greater relevant knowledge, wisdom, or experience (the mentor) and a person who is perceived to have less (the protégé)”.

Mentoring is a relationship (formal or informal) between a highly skilled person (mentor) and a not so skilled person (mentee), in which the mentor sets important goals, support these goals and aid in the allowed growth of the mentee. A mentor can be an older person or someone within the age bracket of the mentee. Mentoring occur in so many environments, like, in schools, in the family, in business organizations, religious communities, and online (e-mentoring).

People have mentors, because of the drive, passion and love these mentors have for what they do. They set their goals and pursue it with vigour and determination. When they (mentees) are stuck with obstacles, they look up to their mentors for words of encouragement and direction because of the experience and skill these mentors have in the supposed field of interest having come a long way to the point where they are today. Having made mistakes and fallen; overcoming obstacles and risks were able to pull themselves up and move on.

The Nigerian youths today are faced with a lot of challenges at school, in the home, in business environments, to mention but a few. They need people to look up to, people to push them, motivate them, challenge them encourage them to be the best and succeed in whatever they do. The youths are motivated to put in their utmost best in whatever they do when they hear the success stories of people who had once been in their shoes, and were able to succeed.

Mentoring programs can be incorporated into youth empowerment programs, to set goals for the participants and encourage them to achieve these goals. The mentors keep track of the success of their mentees. These programs can be formal or informal, all working towards the same goal. Informal mentoring programs should be encouraged as these helps the mentee build a relationship with his mentor. This would enable the mentee to be free with the mentor and discuss pressing personal issues that should be addressed.

Mentoring helps in youth empowerment and employability as these mentors enlighten their mentees on what skills they require to be employable or self-employed and how they could add value in whichever field they choose to be. Mentors also act as a pillar of support to youths who want to be job creator, guiding and leading them to avoid the pitfalls and obstacles present on the road to success. By encouraging the youth to be self-employed and job creators, they empowered; by empowering them economic growth is inevitable, when the economy grows the standard of living improves; our future is secured and a better place is created for our children and future generations to come.

I am privileged to be a beneficiary of a mentoring program called Youth Empowerment and ICT Foundation (YEIF) run by the Jim Ovia foundation. It has had a great impact in my life; in the way I think and handle situations and obstacles I encounter each day of my life.

Empowering the youth, without mentoring them, is like a farmer planting a seed, without nurturing its growth, leaving it to the natural elements. It grows and matures and but might not yield the desired fruits the farmer wants it to yield, hence, performing below expectation. Mentoring has to be taken seriously because it is indeed vital to any efforts on youth empowerment and development.