Youth Empowerment is defined as an attitudinal, structural, and cultural process whereby young people gain the ability and authority to make decisions and implement change in their own lives and the lives of others.
Statistically Nigeria has a youth population of about 67 million, aged between 15 and 35 years. 42.2% of these young people don’t have a means of livelihood while only 20% have more than the secondary school certificate.
These figures reveal that majority of the youths in our country find it hard to make ends meet calling for the need for effective youth empowerment programmes and strategies in the country.
The Delta state Government has keyed into meeting this critical need through its Youth Empowerment Initiatives, its mission being to harness the production potential of youths to launch an era of rapid and sustainable social and economic development that will transform the state into the most peaceful and industrialized state in Nigeria.
Between 2007 and 2011, the Uduaghan administration has employed about 18,000 youths through various state service parastatals, commissions and various youth empowerment programs. The vision and focus of the government has also led to the introduction of entrepreneurial studies in schools in the state to assist graduates acquire necessary entrepreneurial skills.
In compliance with its mandate for human capital development, the state government continually creates more employment opportunities and promotes entrepreneurship by encouraging self-employment and self-reliance, encouraging youths to take to areas such as agriculture, organizing training and skill acquisition programmes that would benefit the youths and sundry in the state.
The state government has also successfully established a Public Works Department, which gainfully employs and engages youths in performing services which are beneficial to the community.
Delta state also supports federal initiatives like the Subsidy Re-investment Empowerment Programme (SURE) which was established by the federal government to channel the funds accrued from fuel subsidy removal to healthcare, vocational training, skill acquisition and other areas of visible developmental impact at the state and local government levels.
The government has also embarked on partnership ventures in a bid to fund vocational training and technical skills development allowing for the capacity building of partners, youth groups and communities within the state.
One of such partnerships is with the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) and the Shell Petroleum Development Company (SPDC) to launch the Youth Empowerment Project.
The Youth Empowerment Project (YEP) gave rise to the ongoing establishment of a Technical Institute at Egbokodo, Warri which has a total of 150 students presently being trained at the Petroleum Training Institute (PTI) Effurun in various vocational trades such as welding and fabrication, motor vehicles mechanics, automobile electronics, diesel plant-fitting, information technology, entrepreneurship courses as well as agro and aquaculture courses.
Other practical step towards youth empowerment and self-employment include among many laudable initiatives the Youth Empowerment through Agriculture (YETA) Programme, Farmers’ Support Programme (FSP), and the Micro-Credit Scheme, which has earned the state several honours and awards within a relatively short period of implementation.