By Goke Ilesanmi
Development has continued to elude us in Nigeria because we place too much emphasis on certificates not knowledge; on previous job titles or fruitless experience not skills and achievements. It is not surprising that we despise polytechnic certificates and place so much emphasis on university degrees. This negative trend has led to desperate pursuit of university certificates of just any type by the citizenry.
In short, most organisations openly or diplomatically deny polytechnic graduates opportunities to apply. This unnecessary discrimination is daily breeding intellectual mediocrity in our society. It has also derailed the career focus of most serious students that have natural preference for the highly-technical polytechnic education, by forcing them to go to the university and do just any available course to get a degree. The result is telling negatively on our national development.
For instance, if we had allowed effective competition between polytechnic and university graduates, there would have been healthy intellectual rivalry and better intellectual empowerment, and our country would have been the better for it in terms of development. Even though I did not attend a polytechnic but was a polytechnic lecturer, my personal experience in 2004 confirmed (still confirms) that the assumed superiority of university education over polytechnic education is often a figment of our intellectual imagination.
On Wednesday, April 7, 2004, the defunct Gateway Bank Plc then managed by Mr. Samuel Olatunji invited me to facilitate a training programme on “Business Writing and Communication Skills” for the new management trainees at the permanent training camp at Ofada in Ogun State. Other consultants were invited too. The new management trainees were nicknamed “Omega Set” because they were a special breed of intellectuals consisting of those who had second-class-upper and first-class bachelor’s degrees; as well as polytechnic graduates that had upper credit and distinction.
At the end of weeks of rigorous training and written-test assessment, the person that eventually emerged the indisputable overall best management trainee in the camp was a lady that graduated from Moshood Abiola Polytechnic, Abeokuta, Ogun State. She had even become a chartered accountant before completing her Higher National Diploma programme. If the bank had not accommodated best products from polytechnics and universities, would anybody have ever imagined that the polytechnic graduate could outshine even first-class degree holders from the universities? Definitely, no!
In a related development, the international columnist website ezinearticles.com based in the U.S, allows all brilliant people, through rigorous screening, to write and compete on the platform without racial or intellectual discrimination. That was how within two weeks of joining the platform, I was able to win multiple awards of International Platinum Columnist, Best Columnist and Expert Author in October 2010, and was subsequently inducted into Hall of Fame, with my name written 42 times with different decorations. I was told to post one of the award badges on my website, and it is still there.
Though I won the awards when we were 351,000 columnists, I did not initially know the value of what I had achieved until I saw that most of the writers there are professors at Harvard University, Cambridge, Oxford, renowned international consultants, authors, etc. Later, Christopher Knight, the CEO of the global platform sent a congratulatory letter, award certificate and gifts by courier to me in Nigeria in January 2011. Also, Larry James, regarded as “America’s Guru of Networking”, a columnist on the platform too, wrote to seek my permission to quote me as his international authority in his article entitled “Effective Networking=Soaring Prosperity” (Google it for confirmation). Could I ever have achieved the feat if I had been discriminated against as we do in Nigeria?
Another form of discrimination that is daily frustrating fresh job-seekers and moderately-experienced employees is the tendency to always emphasise long job experience or specific job-title experience. The question is, if the long-experienced person being sought for the post was never employed by someone before, could the prospective employer be thinking of employing him or her now based on experience? NO. Another thing is that the fact somebody currently has the same job title or has held the same position as the one that is now vacant does not mean that other moderately-experienced or inexperienced candidates who have not held such a title before cannot outperform him or her, especially with little or no training. Employers are supposed to allow a level playing field, real competition for vacant positions.
Research confirms that with the discriminatory recruitment process by employers in Nigeria and beyond, companies are unknowingly creating their own skill gap. While much of the skill deficit in organisations is caused by absence of highly-skilled labour for vacant positions, a recent study of 2,000 companies by CareerBuilder suggests that employers may unwittingly be playing a part. Half of hiring managers said that they were concerned about the expanding skill gap, and at the same time say they limit their candidate pool by only looking at applicants with specific job titles.
There is need for employers to stop waiting for perfect candidates and instead create them by training brilliant fresh and moderately-experienced applicants to become highly skilled. Architect Taofik Popoola, Managing Partner, Quaditect Consultants is my Nigerian model of chief executive officers that have strong passion for training young employees and constantly empowering the experienced ones. Organisations should broaden their search to ensure they are not immediately writing off top candidates. Matt Ferguson, CEO of CareerBuilder says in his company’s research, 55 per cent of hiring managers who have job openings for which they cannot find qualified candidates said they typically hire people who have held the same title as the vacant position.
The habit of screening applications through past job titles is not an objective way of selecting ideal candidates with wealth of potential. Our emphasis should be on necessary skills, competence and achievements not just experience. We should establish connection between a job and the required knowledge, skills and abilities. Also, our over-emphasis on degrees in Nigeria must stop for us to develop through intellectual competition.
PS: For those making inquiries about our ongoing Public Speaking and Business Presentation training programme, please visit the website indicated on this page for details. Till we meet on Wednesday.
GOKE ILESANMI, Managing Consultant/CEO of Gokmar Communication Consulting, is an International Platinum Columnist, Certified Public Speaker/MC, Communication Specialist, Motivational Speaker and Career Management Coach. He is also a Book Reviewer, Biographer and Editorial Consultant.
Tel: 08055068773; 08187499425