By winning the entrepreneurship challenge of the Ready.Set.Work (RSW) project of the Lagos State Government, Oluwafemi Sarumi and Samuel Dada have put their school on the map.
The Lagos State College of Health Technology (LACOHET) in Yaba was little known before last Thursday when Sarumi’s and Dada’s biogas renewable energy project won the grand prize of N1million and another N5million announced by Governor Akinwunmi Ambode at the event held at Landmark Event Centre on Victoria Island.
The event marked the end of the 13-week employability and entrepreneurship training project, which exposed 500 final year students of the Lagos State University (LASU), Lagos State Polytechnic (LASPOTECH), and LACOHET to soft skills and business modules intended to enhance their chances in the labour market.
The audience voted the biogas project as the winner. Before the result was announced, rather than remain silent in anticipation of the winner, the students were heard chanting “Biogas”in hushed tones. It was deemed better than the other two final projects, Onebox, a social media platform for graduates to discuss topical issues, and Artisans on campus, a website designed as a hub for student artisans to showcase their expertise so that those in need of their services could reach them easily.
Biogas beat 24 projects to clinch the crown
Sarumi and Dada, who call themselves the Biogas team, said they would be in the business of converting animal waste, using a bio digester, into biogas, which is useful for cooking and electricity.
Sarumi said their project was borne out of their desire to solve environmental problems in the country.
“Our business would solve two major problems. First is to solve an environmental problem, that is the problem of proper management of animal waste at our abattoirs. And to provide the potential substitute in form of biogas that can provide necessary energy value that can be used for cooking at affordable rates by Nigerians. It can also be used for production of electricity.”
The duo, who studied Environmental Health Technology, said paying attention in class helped them come up with the project.
“Biogas contains methane, a combustible gas, which is present in normal liquefied petroleum gas. We are environmental officers now, because we are now graduates so we have done our research and we know that our business was going to be the first of its kind in Nigeria. The bio digester, is what the waste passes through before producing a biogas, we have created one in our school for demonstration. There is bio digester in a few other institutions like the Ogun State College of Health Technology, but it is not being used for commercial purpose, rather for laboratory experiment. But as a result of our work, waste is going to turn to wealth.”
In addition to the prize money, Sarumi and Dada would get N100,000 upkeep allowance monthly for six months, so that they would not spend their seed capital.
First runners-up for the competition, the One box team, got N500,000 seed capital; while the Artisans on Campus group got N250,000 for coming third.
Of the 500 students that registered for the programme, 468 graduated, having met the requirements for conclusion of the programme – namely punctuality, 80 per cent attendance, and completion of all assignments.
They were exposed to soft skills training and benefited from talks delivered by CEOs of blue chip companies.
While the students that underwent the entrepreneurship stream of the project would undergo three-month apprenticeship with established entrepreneurs, 95 of those who passed through the employability stream and scaled interviews by employers would undergo six-month paid internships in various organisations.
The students would work in firms, such as Total, Price Water Coopers (PwC), Access Bank, Gtbank Plc, Systemspecs, FCMB, Etisalat, KPMG, Nestle Plc, and Stutam.
Governor Ambode’s joy at the success of the scheme was the reason he gave an additional N500,000 to the winners.
He urged the participants to continue in the fervor of the programme to improve their skills.
He said: “This initiative will enable many of you seated here today to get internship placements in high ranking corporate organisations, and also provide a platform for those with viable business ideas to benefit from angel investors and the Lagos State Employment Trust Fund.
“Ready, Set, Work has been a journey requiring passion, diligence, discipline and perseverance. I say big congratulations to those of you who made it to this stage. I must emphasise, however, that this is only the beginning. In the face of ongoing economic challenges, this is a time to push ahead with the same strength and focus that brought you to this point, and to pursue with vigour the knowledge, skills, and ideas formed in you over the last three months. The private sector would benefit from your passion and professionalism, while the entrepreneurial world awaits your vision- driven ideas.”
Special Adviser to Governor Ambode on Education Mr Obafela Bank-Olemoh and the brain behind the scheme, said RSW was initiated to bridge skills gap in the labour market.
“The RSW was a response by the government to the challenge of the private sector that the quality of graduates being produced was not capable of driving the economy. The key thing here is that we want Lagos to continue to prosper, and the only way to do that is by growing our people. We want our graduates to be one of the first people that the corporate organisations want to employ,” Bank-Olemoh noted.
Commissioner on Economic Planning and Budget, Akinyemi Ashade, added: “We have a lot of skills to fix. The scheme is meant to fix specific problems. We focused on making them more employable than they have been trained at school and we tried to hone their vocational skills.”
It is not only the government that is celebrating the success of the RSW, the private sector has also lauded the initiative.
Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Etisalat Nigeria, Mr Matthew Wilshere, who volunteered as a brands training facilitator during the project, said: “We partnered with Lagos State on this scheme because we are a youthful brand. ‘Ready Set Work’ is a fine initiative. The periods of transition between school and work and even during work, between positions, for every person is very important. It is impressive for Lagos State to help people in this transition.”
Mr Uyi Akpata of PricewaterCoopers (PwC) said his organisation invested resources into the vision of the government on RSW because it was in line with the organisation’s vision, and promised to continue with the partnership as long as the scheme continues.
PwC employed 10 interns and Akpata promised them jobs based on their performance during their internship.
Founder of Career Times, one of the facilitators of RSW, Kumbi Lawoyin, said: “Many young graduates have the potential to develop all their skills but don’t have the platform. Many of them displayed knowledge of their school work but lacked soft skills. RSW provides the platform to gain all this knowledge and understand its application.”
For the students, the programme has given them a head start in their careers.
Olatunji Salau said it exposed him to skills he did not know were important.
“Initially, I thought it was a vocational course but I was exposed to skills I did not even know were important; for example, soft skills. I learnt how to take initiative, how to realise that if an environment is not convenient for me, I can rise to the occasion and make it convenient for me.”
Loveth Igbokwe said she was graduating from school as a more confident person.
“RSW helped me develop my self confidence and to focus on my future. I realised that my future starts now and I have to invest in my future from today. It changed my orientation about life. I used to think getting a job would be difficult but now I know I can harness my skills and I can achieve anything I want,” she said.
Oluwatobi Damilare appreciated the government, advising his peers to do more with what they have learnt.
“The SA has always told us, it is not enough that we have been given this platform but for us to take initiative. It is not the knowledge that matters but what we do with the knowledge. We must be good representatives and ambassadors of the RSW initiative,” he said.