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SkillUpImo: Sure, we are not in Imo to joke

SkillUpImo: Sure, we are not in Imo to joke

When Governor Hope Uzodimma of ImoState, through his Chief Press Secretary(CPS) and Special Adviser (Media),Oguwike Nwachuku, started the now popular “we are not in Imo to joke” refrain, many dismissed it as one of those political statements from the ruling class.

Three years down the line, the mantra has started resonating, to the extent of becoming a word on the marble, as the Shared Prosperity Administration in the Eastern Heartland takes on ambitious projects. One of those projects stood out: the SkillUplmoProject under the Ministry of Digital Economyand E-Government.
In 2022, when Uzodimma mooted this project, he started shopping for a capable hand to realise it. His search landed him at the Nigerian Communications Commission (NCC), where he poached a brilliant young man, Dr. ChimezieAmadi, on whose care he put the Ministry of Digital Economy and E-Government.
Dr. Amadi, with over 20 years experience in telecommunications regulation, worked in several departments and served in various management committees at the NCC,chief of which is the National Broadband Committee,where he played a keyrole in the development of the Open Access Model for ubiquitous broadband deployment in Nigeria,which laid the foundation for the country’s bourgeoning digital economy.

Coupled with his impressive educational attainment and experience, Amadi attended several training programmes in the prestigious United States Telecommunications Institute (USTTI) in Washington DC on ‘5G: The Path to Next Generation’;’Digital Transformation: Unlocking the Potential of IoT;’Enabling the Pull Value of Wireless Technology: Game Changing Technology For the Digital Age’and’Ethics Intelligence’among others.

While in NCC, he was renowned for his initiatives that birthed a new paradigm in acado-industrial relations and the commission’s strategic institutional interventions in Nigeria’ tech startup ecosystem.
According to the technocrat-turned-commissioner, the broader objectives of the project are to train 300,000 Imolites, over the next three years(100,000 each year), connect 60 per cent of the graduands to high-paying jobs, as well as empower 40 per cent to be bosses, becoming tech entrepreneurs and launching their own companies,among others.

He noted that with the over-arching target of upskilling, reskilling and training of Imo youths to acquire the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) or Industry 4.0- skill-set needed to align with the digital age, the initiative is in line with the Imo Digital Economy Agenda (IDEA), mapped to last from 2022 to 2026, to make the state the digital skills hub of Africa, thereby curbing unemployment.

The training of the first batch of 100,000 youțhs is in progress. Each batch is divided into cohorts. As Cohort 1 graduated 5,000 techpreneurs in February 2023, plans for Cohort 2 started in earnest, almost immediately.
Minister of Communications and Digital Economy, Prof.Isa Pantami, was in Owerri as Special Guest of Honour at the graduation of 5,000 youths from Cohort 1. At the event, the minister described the programme as a shift from creating job employees to producing job creators.

He encouraged Ndi Imo to leverage the digital revolution to build a knowledge-based economy like the United States of America, China and Japan,whose economies are driven more by digital innovation and economy than natural resources.

Commending the governor, who he said deserves to be called “The Digital Governor”, Pantami challenged Imo youths to invest in critical thinking and take advantage of the programme for the emergence of another Mark Zuckerberg from the state.

The scheme is poised to address one of the critical challenges with respect to youth unemployment, which the country is facing, as Imo has positioned itself to join the Federal Government to tackle unemployment through the digltal skill acquisition scheme.

It is gratifying to the state government that the graduands who came in with little or no experience in digital technology have been equipped with skills in Digital Marketing, Web and App Development, Content Creation, Basic Data Analytics, Graphics Design, Phone and other digital devices repairs, programming, cyber security,among others and they are set to utilise the skills forvpersonal economic development and that of the society.

Already partnering Zinox Group, the state plans to partner Cisco, Huawel, Microsoft and other techcompanies, as well as the National Business and Technical Examinations Board (NABTEB) for certification and value optimisation, as the programme will cover various shades of digitalskills.

Unlike in Cohort 1, Pre-Admission Assessment was conducted for Cohort 2 to sieve the huge size of prospective trainees and ensure that only committed learners are admitted.

Amadi said: “A lot was learnt in the course of managing Cohort 1, so introduction of Pre-Admission Assessment is one of the ways the government intends to improve the processes to meet the programme’s objective and achieveresults.”

Going by the extent of work done with respect to process re-engineering, Cohort 2 promises an enhanced learning experience for both learners and instructors.

Governor Uzodimma, the commissioner said, places high premium on the project due to its potential of achieving the triple objectives of positioning the state as the digital skills hub ofAfrica, tackling youth unemployment, as well as diversifying and building the state’s digital economy.

For Cohort 2, admission of successful applicants started on March 29, while orientation for new intakes held on March31.
Four additional learning centres have been established to complement the existing centres at the Ministry of Digital Economyand E-Government’s office, Imo State University (IMSU) and Alvan lkoku College of Education to enhance access to digitalskills learning for youths across the state.The additional centres include Federal Polytechnic,Nekede, Imo Polytechnic, Omuma, University of Agriculture and Environmental Sciences, Umuagwo, and K.O.Mbadiwe University,Ideato.

For Uzodimma, more of such engaging programmes will help to eradicate banditry and other forms of insecurity in the state, as more youths will be gainfully engaged.

Verily, the governor and his team are not in lmo to joke; they are for serious business of governance.

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