By Emma Njoku

Delta State Oil Producing Areas Development Commission (DESOPADEC), yesterday, issued business starter packs worth hundreds of millions to 173 graduates of the third batch of DESOPADEC Skills Academy (DSA), with additional N200,000 for each person to enable them set up businesses.

Addressing the graduates during the convocation ceremony at the PTI Conference Centre, yesterday, the Special Guest, Governor Ifeanyi Okowa, represented by the Chief of Staff, Ovie Agas, re-echoed the charge of the Managing Director and Chief Executive Officer of the commission, Askia Ogieh, to the graduates to go into the business world with focus and determination to conquer and succeed.

He assured the state’s commitment to empowering its citizens to be productive and self-reliant.

“Governor Okowa was elected on the mantra of prosperity for all, and one of his cardinal programmes is human capital development. The public service cannot absorb all our graduates and, as good parents, we will not allow our children to be roaming the streets in search of jobs. That is why we established the Jobs and Wealth Creation Office.

“I have seen many empowerment programmes, but that of DESOPADEC is exceptional. The management is highly focused and committed, and the graduates are well trained and courteous,” he said.

Reflecting on a personal note that as a graduate, he did not enjoy the privilege of being trained in another skill in his days, Agas enjoined them to make good use of the opportunity to carve a niche for themselves in entrepreneurship.

Earlier in his address entitled: “The World Is Yours,” Ogieh who had taken time off to mentor the graduates in a business development seminar a day before their graduation, reminded them that with DESOPADEC having fulfilled its side of the bargain, the ball is now in their court to pursue success in their various fields.

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“I am excited that, once again, we have succeeded in re-skilling, equipping and empowering a good number of our young persons to pursue a life of productive engagement, financial independence and self-worth.

“The objective of the DESOPADEC Skills Academy draws from an important cardinal programme of Okowa that which is human capacity development.

“This realisation gave birth to the DESOPADEC Skills Academy, which we have now institutionalised to reinforce the impact of the state government on the youths of our mandate communities.

“The world of today is driven by skills. Mere formal education without practical and professional skills is fast becoming unfashionable. This is especially so as gone are the days of reliance on white collar jobs in saturated civil and public services.

“While we continue to maintain and accelerate our interventions in the provision of physical infrastructure like roads, bridges, jetties, markets, civic centres, and social services ranging from education to health, power and housing, our undertaking in human capital development is borne not only out of the need to mould our youths into skilled, productive and  independent men and women, but, also, out of the understanding that the life wire of prosperous societies is in the massiveness and effectiveness of small and medium scale enterprises, and that is our vision for our mandate areas.

“Accordingly, we have not only trained our graduates in different skills, but also in various aspects of entrepreneurship, self and business development. Starting the first batch in 2020 with 157 trainees, not minding the difficulties posed by the COVID-19 pandemic, we pushed forward to achieve the second batch with 168 trainees and now the third batch of 173 graduates whom we celebrate today.

“Composed of 50 men and 123 women, they have been trained in welding and fabrication; electrical installations and repairs; information and communication technology (ICT); health, safety and environment services; interlocking, POP and tiling in building services; hairdressing and makeover; fashion design; catering and confectionery; cosmetology and nakeover; and shoe making.

“Having made these investments in you, we are hopeful that you will  realise, at the end of this ceremony, that your ball is now in your court to play,” Askia said.