‘To fix youth unemployment, we must rethink learning’

Naomi Lucas

The new media, widely believed to be an intrusive media has tremendously helped in shaping the lives and businesses of many, while other vulnerable and unsuspecting youth across the globe have had bitter experiences due to its use/misuse. Founder, Graduatepro Naomi Lucas, , in this interview talks about a product that has the potential to transform and advance the personal and professional lives of youth across Africa

You recently launched what can arguably be described as a first-of-its-kind initiative titled, ‘I’m Graduate, Now What? The Audio Experience, as a way of helping youths in Nigeria and indeed across the globe to address critical socio-economic issues affecting them. How will you describe the journey so far?
I can think of a few words to describe the journey so far — eye opening, interesting, daunting and surprisingly rewarding. We began production in 2015 after years of writing, focus group sessions, expert review of the content and extensive research to select the final cast and crew. It was an extremely tasking process.

What are the components of The Audio Experience and what is it set to achieve, especially considering Nigeria’s highly revered role in Sub-Saharan Africa?
I had a few theories for why products like this are an absolute necessity. First, I believe critical thinking is largely a dormant ability in young people due to an educational system that discourages and sometimes even punishes curiosity and interrogation. Second, I believe young people have more capacity than we give them credit for and they must be empowered to make their own decisions. Third, I believe teaching methods need to reflect the realities of learning in the 21st century as learning styles have evolved dramatically. Most important is the fact that Nigeria needs to set the pace and take responsibility for tackling youth unemployment in Africa as we make the largest contribution to the pool of underemployed youths on the continent. The outcome of giving these theories a thought is the fusion of original music, storytelling, drama and narration thoughtfully woven into what we now call I’m A Graduate Now What? We intend to replicate this project across key African countries working with the governments of those countries and stakeholders in the private sector.

How can young and aspiring Nigerian entrepreneurs, especially those who are not graduates take advantage of this audio experience to launch their business goals?
I call I’m A Graduate, Now What? a ‘why-to’ book. It focuses on the fundamentals, the things that don’t change. It focuses primarily on why as opposed to how. It is designed to help young people find clarity, discover self and create a roadmap for their future. While the title may sound exclusive to a category of young people, it is a book every young person should listen to. It focuses on the cause(s) and not symptoms, of all issues affecting young people by tackling the problem of identity, purpose, strengths, passion, clarity about the past, present and the future and empowering the listener to take control of their life and personal and professional development.

Youth unemployment rate in Nigeria has alarmingly reached an all time high, moving from 19.20 percent in 2014 to 25.20 percent in 2016. How will this audio book address this issue?
The current design of our educational system cannot produce the kind of manpower we need to tackle our present/future challenges as a country. It is a system that discourages intellectual discourse and participation and encourages passive observation and regurgitation of what has been taught, so we’ve designed this audio book to deal with the issue at different levels. It tackles the most pressing questions young people ask like who am I? What are my strengths? What are my weaknesses?  What must I do to stay ahead? And so on. A key point to note is that I’m A Graduate Now What? puts responsibility for personal and professional transformation firmly at the feet of the listener, not parents, religious institutions or the government. The Career Design Workshop, a peer-driven, experiential program that uses I’m A Graduate Now What? The Audio Experience to help young people plan their future. Targeted at the most critical cluster(s) of users we want to reach – undergraduates, corps members and job seekers, The Career Design Workshop will be rolled out in 21 cities across Nigeria from February 2018.

Research and other well-documented reports have confirmed the inevitable impact of video and how this has engendered improved learning results. Is this factored into the audiobook?
I’m A Graduate Now What? is actually an audio-visual production. While we recorded the audio, we had a video crew recording the process as well. We also took time out to ask narrators some key questions. Using content from their responses, we have created 51 very powerful videos that serve as supplementary content for I’m A Graduate Now What? With the kind support of Ford Foundation, we are about to roll out a pilot 2-week boot camp in Akwanga, Nassarawa state using the entire I’m A Graduate Now What? audio-visual content.

How will you describe your collaboration with all the teams that helped in the production of this project and what is the estimated cost of the finished audio book?
Like I said during the launch of the audio book, it will be difficult for me to take credit for such a feat. It is a collaboration featuring a cast of 56 Nigerian influencers and celebrities and a crew of close to 30 people. No narrator was paid for what they did. The Voice Director – Remi Olutimayin, Video Director – Onye Ubanatu, Audio Producer – Ezenwa Ogbonna AKA Bigfoot West, were secured at heavily discounted rates which was their own way of contributing to the overall success of the project. Most of the voice actors were volunteers and several other people donated in-kind to support the project. While I cannot give you the exact amount it has cost us to produce the content, I can tell you it has cost us millions of naira and we are still spending.

To what extent did your background in Theatre and Communications Arts and Public Relations Consultation help in the production of the audio book?
I can categorically say to you, that if it weren’t for my background and extensive work experience in the Integrated Communications, Creative Project Management and Youth Development, I would not have been able to pull off the production.

How will you describe the audio quality of the book and on what platforms are the audio book available?
Well, I would leave the audio quality for the users to judge. We have published I’m A Graduate Now What? (Both the audio and video) on MTN Music Plus, Cloud9, iTunes, Apple Music, Tecno Boomplay, Deezer, Soundcloud, Tidal, Spotify, Nerveflo and Mymusic.com.ng. All you need to do is search for Naomi Lucas, Graduatepro or I’m A Graduate Now What? and you’ll find the content.

The new media has been described as a highly intrusive innovation that has made and marred the professional and personal lives of youths across the globe. In your opinion, is the social media a blessing or otherwise?
Social media is a tool and as with all tools, it can be used productively, and it can be abused. Depending on how you use it, it can be a blessing or a curse. I’m A Graduate Now What? for example, has gotten immense publicity and traction by leveraging social media

In a highly distracted age with technology fast evolving judging by the spate with which phones are getting smarter, and the internet and devices getting faster, how will the audio book help refocus the minds of the youth from the unavoidable and highly distracting social media?
Interesting question. If you think about it, each era, each time, has had its distraction. There was a time it was local wrestling. There was a time it was Checkmate at 8pm or The Rich Also Cry or Sesame Street at 4pm or Telematch on NTA and so on. The distraction for this age is social media. Distraction has its place and as long as it doesn’t cripple the effectiveness or productivity of the one seeking it, I think we will do all right.

For youths with ear impairment, are there visual aids or illustrations that can help to drive home the intended messages?
I actually thought about audio because I was also concerned about youths with special needs. While we have already produced and published the audio content, I do intend, going forward to have sign language on all our videos.

Is the audio book compliant with MP3 and MP4 players etc, and which players will not play it?
The interesting thing is, mobile devices already come with the apps and software needed to play audio and video content. By concentrating our distribution online, we essentially converted every mobile device to a distribution channel and multimedia player.  This eliminates the need for a player of any kind. There is no DRM to restrict usage in any way.

Apparently, the audio book is designed to improve the professional lives and wellbeing of contemporary and urban youths who are constantly inundated with innovations and latest technologies in a digital era. How does this audio book set to address the plights of youth in rural and remote areas without access to the internet?
Not necessarily. Under-served youths were a key consideration during our design process. The focus of our experiential programs is the youth in peri-urban communities (like the pilot boot camp I mentioned earlier). The videos are going on local TV stations targeted at such demographics like NTA. We also intend to broadcast the audio content on radio especially in Northern Nigeria where radio remains a viable means of engagement.

Can intending customers burn the audio book on flash drives and save to the computers or play it in the car?
For platforms where downloads are allowed, they may download the content to the app and listen to it offline, in which case they may not be able to transfer; or they may be able to download directly to their devices, in which case they may be able to transfer to other devices.

In this article:
Naomi Lucas
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