Liberia’s youthful population lacks the requisite skills set for the job market principally due to the civil crisis that wrecked the country. But Deputy Minister of Foreign Affair, B. Elias Shoniyin says the presence of peace has ignited a new sense of hope for the youth to seek education and vocational training, engage in small enterprises that would enable them regain respect and dignity.
The Foreign Ministry Official’s comments were contained in a speech delivered at the graduation ceremony of the Cheesemen School of Home Arts and Cosmetology on June 18, 2016. According to Deputy Minister Shoniyin, the institution has not only given the graduates a future but it has also contributed to the future of Liberia. “The empowerment of our people is essential in a country where 60 percent of the population is under the age of 35 – many of whom are war-affected youths of our civil conflict who did not have the opportunity of an education or skill,” he said. The Deputy Foreign Minister intoned that some of the most developed countries in the world are those which present vocational and technical programs as alternative education track for its citizens. For example, he indicated that Finland has an excellent program for vocational and technical education which accounts for more than 40 percent of its students. The youthful Deputy Minister noted that Liberia should be preparing its population for a variety of vocations that would allow them build homes, install plumbing and electricity, sew cloths, decorate homes, design hair, or bake cakes for celebrations. “This pool of professionals can bridge an important vacuum in the economic life of the country. We recognize that you are the catalyst for driving the economic and socio-political development which would lead Liberia into a prosperous future. We know that to maintain the peace, we must make skills driven education a paramount commitment of Government. Your graduation today is an ongoing fulfillment of that promise,” he pointed out. Vocational and technical institutions as the Maryann Cheeseman School of Home Arts and Cosmetology, Minister Shoniyin said, should be replicated throughout this country; as they present the most effective and urgent medium of lifting thousands of our people out of poverty, by giving them livelihood skills in the shortest period for deployment in the work force. “These institutions should be celebrated for unshackling individuals from the poverty trap of hunger, disease, and ignorance,” he emphasized. Deputy Minister Shoniyin stressed that when an individual is unskilled, that person’s prospect for a successful life is almost zero, noting that such person would have little or no demand in the job market, because they have nothing to sell to an employer. “That is where the problems of vulnerable employment come about. Unskilled laborers find themselves all the way at the end of the employment echelon, because they have no specified and desirable skills to sell; with that, they are paid arbitrarily, leaving them almost at the mercy of their employers. High unemployment anywhere in the world is attributed to a missing pool of skilled labor to absorb a growing labor force. Consequently, surplus unskilled workers face vulnerabilities as they are pushed into the informal sector, where they lack regular income and job security. That’s why skills development and job creation are central and indispensable to the achievement of our national development objectives and thus the SDGs. This graduation today is even more important because it comes as a product of Government’s development framework, within the context of the “Agenda for Transformation” which are being aligned to the Sustainable Development Goals and Vision 2063 of the African Union,” he added.