MENTORING: A TOOL FOR YOUTH EMPOWERMENT AND EMPLOYMENT GENERATION

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INTRODUCTION
As human societies evolve into knowledge-based and technology-driven entities, regrettably, various socio-economic and cultural conditions emerge, which increase the vulnerability of young people to negative life outcomes.[1] Consequently, while knowledge acquisition and application remains critical to sustaining positive development outcomes, adopting proper approach to knowledge gain becomes imperative, and such is what mentoring affords.
Mentoring is simply the systematic introduction of new ideas and thought processes to engender intellectual and behavioural changes in individuals (mentees).[2] It involves deliberate and pragmatic approach to talent development and character-moulding of the mentee, whereby, the character and expertise of the mentor is perfectly inculcated in the mentee. Mentoring, whether formal or informal, provides positive support to youths’ aspirations, inspiring new possibilities and creating robust and advantageous social linkages.
Ultimately, mentoring of youths yields youth empowerment, reinforcing in them positive perceptions, self-esteem, self-worth and integrity consciousness, building the intellectual, social and financial capacities of youth to enable them secure sustainable livelihoods and contribute meaningfully to societal development.[3] The Role of Mentoring in Youth Empowerment and Employment Generation
Unarguably, every aspect of our national life needs talent grooming and inter-generational skills transfer to maintain a robust pipeline of skilled human resources. Youths obviously constitute the muscle for national development, whose talents and energies must be positively harnessed. This however demands that they be empowered intellectually and otherwise, and diversified but sector-specific mentoring provides such an avenue.
Primarily, mentoring, research reveals, promotes academic excellence (arguably the most essential empowerment tool), ensuring that students jettison juvenile delinquencies and study hard so as to fit gainfully into the largely knowledge-based and innovation-driven society.[4] It equally affords students the opportunity of meeting industry professionals and securing internship programmes capable of sharpening their skills in line with industry requirements, thereby enhancing their employability.[5] Importantly too, mentoring is a powerful tool for eliminating gender-based discrimination (a structural barrier to women empowerment). In Nigeria today, investment in intellectual empowerment of girl-children is low due to discrimination, early marriage, teenage pregnancies etc. leaving yawning disparities in enrollment of both sexes in educational institutions. However, with proper mentoring designed to eliminate these underlying cultural barriers, young women will have equal opportunity of intellectually empowering themselves and maximally harnessing their potential.
Equally, mentoring is critical to empowering youths in science and technology development and application, essential to Nigeria’s industrial revolution. Indeed, it is through grooming of youths in science and technology, that our research culture will be resuscitated and local technological solutions developed to enhance the deployment of modern productivity tools capable of transforming our economy; reducing import; expanding local industries and creating jobs.
Health-wise, mentoring affords youths the opportunity of imbibing healthy lifestyles, shunning substance abuse[6], promoting environmental hygiene and abstaining from casual sex, thereby reducing their vulnerability to diseases capable of ruining their future.[7] Besides, effective mentoring of health workers is essential to improve health care delivery, increase life expectancy and reduce the huge resources spent on foreign medical trips.
Agriculture is currently the most employment-intensive sector. Mentoring programmes like extension exercises which can grant youths hands-on experience on practical agriculture and the privilege of sharing from the wealth of experience of successful farmers, learning the challenges and opportunities inherent in the profession is therefore critical to employment expansion. Furthermore, youth apathy to agriculture, attributable to widespread misconceptions can be reversed with proper information-sharing between agro-practitioners and prospective agriculturists. With such misconception dispelled, and vibrant knowledge transfer mechanism engendered, more youths will get involved and readily adopt modern technologies to advance agriculture, thereby, expanding employment opportunities. Furthermore, with expanded agro-productivity and technological innovation, agro-processing cottage industries will spring-up, providing off-farm job opportunities, while enhancing food security and creating wealth, thereby, increasing youths’ access to financial empowerment.
Art and craft is one cultural trade with immense employment potentials, besides preserving the people’s cherished cultural heritage. However, it demands effective mentoring and talent development to maintain competitiveness. This trade, coupled with cultural festivals, carnivals and expos can enhance tourism development, thereby, further expanding opportunities for youths.
In the media/entertainment industry, mentoring facilitates the emergence of star actors, singers, presenters etc. by providing sound platform for acquisition and perfection of relevant skills. Performing arts and creative industry demands intensive on-the-job mentoring for young minds to be groomed and sharpened to break new frontiers and compete with their counterparts globally.
Business-wise, mentoring provides ample opportunity for youths to develop greater confidence, resilience and decision-making abilities imperative for business prosperity.[8] It creates platforms for new business ideas and innovative technologies to be shared to aspiring business men/women. Youths properly mentored develop good communication skills and learn how to discover and analyze business opportunities, draw-up concrete business plans and access funding options for their businesses.[9] Besides, as global economic societies become increasingly ICT-based, youths mentored on computer skills stand a greater chance of maximally harnessing the vast opportunities offered by the information superhighway to promote their businesses and capture international markets, thereby expanding employment opportunities, reducing the spate of violence and crime and rebuilding ladders of peace and security.
Politically, mentoring on public affairs and human rights can empower youths with core leadership abilities, enabling them participate effectively in mainstream political process. Over time, youth involvement in electoral malpractices has created negative stereotype, limiting the political space youths occupy and undermining agitation for more youth-oriented policies. However, with an effective, youth-focused mentoring exercise, youths will be adequately empowered and encouraged to participate positively and effectively in policy formulation and implementation to ensure that youths’ interests are well captured. This will ensure that capacity development and employment expansion programmes for youths are vigorously pursued.
Finally, sports undoubtedly provide vast opportunities for youths to secure gainful livelihoods. However, becoming a sports icon demands painstaking grooming. For instance, a young talented footballer mentored diligently by a coach is empowered with competitive football skills, which will earn him both substantial livelihood and national and international fame while uplifting his country’s image.
CONCLUSION
Categorically, mentoring is critical to result-oriented youth empowerment and accelerated employment generation.

REFERENCES:
1Dryfoos, J (1998), “Safe Passage: Making it Through Adolescence in a Risky Society”, New York, Oxford University Press, http://www.thirteen.org/openmind/education/safe-passages-making-it-through-adolescence-in-a-risky-society/375/
2“Mentoring Together: Empowering Youth and Integrating Communities”, Sambhava, July 24,2012, http://sambhava.org/2012/07/24/mentor-together-empowering-youth-and-integrating-communities/
3“4-H Youth Mentoring” Michigan 4-H Youth Development, April 30, 2013, http://4h.msue.msu.edu/programs/mentoring
4Tierney, J. & J Grossman (with Resch, N.) (2000), Making a difference: An impact Study of big brothers/Big Sisters, Philadelphia, Public/Private Ventures
5“The Value of Mentoring”, MENTOR, National Mentoring Partnership, http://www.mentoring.org/about_mentor/value_of_mentoring/
6Losciuto, L., A. Rajala, T.Townsend & A. Taylor (1996), “An Outcome Evaluation of Across Ages: An Intergenerational Mentoring Approach to Drug Prevention”, Journal of Adolescent Research 11, pg. 116-129
7“Mentoring Programmes and Youth Development: A Synthesis”, The National Re-entry Resource Centre, http://csgjusticecenter.org/nrrc/?src=rss
8“Youth Mentoring: An Investment in a Youth’s Future”, Goodwill Industries of the Valleys, http://www.goodwillvalleys.com/work-and-training-services/youth-services/youth-mentoring-2/
9“Empowering Youth to Become Leaders Through One-on-one Mentorship with Adult Newcomers”, Toronto Community Foundation, http://www.tcf.ca/stories/toronto-centre-community-learning-development-youth-empowering-parents
Additional information obtained from:
Rhodes, J. (2001), “Youth Mentoring in Perspective” http://www.infed.org/learningmentors/youth_mentoring_in_perspective.htm
“Helping Youth Take Advantage of Mentorship Programs”, Centre for Youth Development and Mentoring Services, www.cydms.org/mentorship-programs‎

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