By Folasade Adeniran
Lagos – Gov. Akinwunmi Ambode of Lagos State on Tuesday said he was fulfilled that his administration had nurtured graduates that would contribute immensely to the development of the state and Nigeria in general.
Ambode made the remark at the graduation ceremony of 5,000 participants in the state’s Ready.Set.Work initiative.
He said the enthusiasm of thousands of the graduants as well as testimonies of scores of facilitators and sponsors was a confirmation that his administration had placed a high premium on the future of Lagos and Nigeria in general.
“When I was graduating, I was just 21, but I had no direction. So after almost about 30 something years and I see youths so energetic and excited, I am happy to say that yes, I think I have made a difference.
“This is not about bridges, flyovers and hospitals, but I feel so excited that yes, I got this right and the future of this country is blessed.
“The energy inside this hall tells me there is a different world here from what is happening out there,” he said.
Ambode expressed optimism that the 5,000 graduates of the initiative had been well equipped for the world of work and were ready to make a difference.
“By investing in people, we will secure the future prosperity of Lagos State and Nigeria.
“With programmes like Ready-Set-Work, Code Lagos and the Employment Trust Fund, we are providing platforms that will nurture a society of problem solvers, change-makers, and value adding citizens helping to improve our economy.
“These innovative programmes must, therefore, not be allowed to die,” he said.
Ambode said it was gratifying that the initiative which commenced three years ago with about 500 students, 52 volunteer facilitators, friends and partners had now reached over 37,000 students.
He said over 700 volunteer facilitators and several sponsors had also keyed into the programme.
According to Ambode, the initiative has now emerged as a major platform for the government to prepare graduates from tertiary institutions for the life ahead.
This, he said, was by equipping them with requisite skills and mindset to give value to the labour market.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to inform you that over the past three years, we have stayed true to this vision and scaled up our impact.
“I invite you to take a look across the auditorium today to see how that small spark in 2016 has become a roaring fire.
“We have taken it a step further by supporting top performing students by providing paid internship opportunities, as well as seed funding and incubation for viable business ideas.
“To date, over 1,200 RSW scholars have benefited from internship placements, and another 2,000 scholars from the 2018 graduating class will also be placed in internships,”Ambode said.
He said that the first place winners of the 2016 RSW business pitch competition who got seed funding and incubation support were already making impact in the society.
Ambode said they were doing this with the production of up to 10,000 litres of biogas daily within a community in Ikorodu, with zero carbon emission.
Other graduates, he said, were adding value in top companies and countless small businesses across the state.
The governor commended the network of some 1,000 employers, who, over the years, had contributed to preparing RSW scholars for the world of work, by providing internship opportunities in their organisations.
He said some had taken on the cost of paying their interns, with the State Government supporting small and medium size businesses by paying the stipends for their interns over a period of three to six months.
“In marking another successful edition of RSW, we cannot overemphasise the important role of our volunteer facilitators, the largest volunteer faculty in Nigeria.
“These selfless individuals gave up their Saturdays, traveled from far distances, committed to multiple hours of preparation, and made other sacrifices for 13 weeks to invest in our students.
“I thank our corporate partners and sponsors again for their commitment, financial contributions, and technical support.
“We trust that we can count on you to continue investing in the future of Lagos State,” Ambode said.
Earlier, the Special Adviser to the governor on Education, Mr Obafela Bank-Olemoh, said the graduanting students had gone through 13 weeks of intensive engagement.
Bank-Olemoh said were mentally prepared to deploy their skills and emotional intelligence to the corporate world, adding that the future of Lagos was in excellent hands.
Also, Vice Chancellor of Lagos State Uuniversity (LASU), Prof. Lanre Fagbohun, said the programme had bridged the gap between the quality of graduates being churned out from tertiary institutions and the requirement by employers of labour.
He urged the beneficiaries to utilise the opportunity and make a telling impact in the society.
The News Agency of Nigeria (NAN) reports the governor gave a N10 million seed fund to the best three graduating students of the RSW initiative.
Twenty-year-old graduate of LASU, Miss Afolayan Vivian, who emerged winner of the Pitch Competition, got N5million, while Popoola Joshua and Miss Adeniyi Miriam finished in second and third position to take home N3million and N2million respectively.
NAN reports that the RSW initiative, is an employability and entrepreneurship program aimed at preparing final year students in the state for immediate entry into the work force as employees and employers of labour.(NAN)