Lagos State Governor, Akinwunmi Ambode on Tuesday awarded N10 million seed fund to the winners of this year’s Pitch Competition of the Ready.Set.Work (RSW) Initiative, saying that he was fulfilled that his administration was nurturing graduates that would contribute immensely to the development of the State and Nigeria in general.
20 year-old graduate of the Lagos State University (LASU), Miss Afolayan Vivian, who emerged winner of the Pitch Competition got N5 million, while Popoola Joshua and Miss Miriam Adeniyi finished in second and third positions to take home N3 million and N2 million respectively, courtesy of the Governor.
Asides the governor’s gesture, Afolayan got N1.5 million for winning the competition and N100,000 every month for three months as working capital; Joshua got N1 million for coming second plus N100,000 monthly working capital for three months, while Adeniyi got N750,000 for coming third plus N100,000 monthly working capital for three months.
The RSW initiative, a brain child of the present administration is an employability and entrepreneurship programme aimed at preparing final year students in Lagos State Universities for immediate entry into the work force as employees and employers of labour.
Speaking at the well attended 2018 Ready.Set.Work graduation ceremony held at the Landmark Event Centre, Victoria Island, Lagos, Southwest Nigeria, Ambode who was visibly elated, said the enthusiasm of thousands of the graduands as well as testimonies of scores of facilitators and sponsors was a confirmation that his administration had placed a high premium on the future of Lagos and Nigeria in general.
“When I was graduating, I was just 21, but I had no direction. So after almost about 30 something years and I see youths so energetic and excited, I am happy to say that yes, I think I have made a difference. This is not about bridges, flyovers and hospitals, but I feel so excited that yes, I got this right and the future of this country is blessed. The energy inside this hall tells me there is a different world here from what is happening out there,” he said.
He expressed optimism that the 5,000 graduates of the initiative had been well equipped for the world of work and rearing to make a difference.
“By investing in people, we will secure the future prosperity of Lagos State and Nigeria. With programmes like Ready-Set-Work, Code Lagos and the Employment Trust Fund we are providing platforms that will nurture a society of problem solvers, change-makers, and value adding citizens helping to improve our economy. These innovative programmes must therefore, not be allowed to die,” the Governor said.
He said it was gratifying that the initiative which commenced three years ago with about 500 students, 52 volunteer facilitators, friends and partners had now reached over 37,000 students, over 700 volunteer facilitators and several sponsors who had keyed into the programme.
ccording to the governor, the initiative had now emerged as a major platform for the government to prepare graduates from tertiary institutions for the life ahead by equipping them with requisite skills and mindset to give value to the labour market.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, I am pleased to inform you that over the past three years, we have stayed true to this vision and scaled up our impact. I invite you to take a look across the auditorium today to see how that small spark in 2016 has become a roaring fire.
“From 500 Ready-Set-Work Scholars in 2016, we are celebrating today the impact of this program on the lives of over 37,000 students who have participated in the Ready-Set-Work program over the last three years, either through the RSW On-Campus Training or through the RSW Online Academy.
“We have taken it a step further by supporting top performing students by providing paid internship opportunities, as well as seed funding and incubation for viable business ideas. To date, over 1,200 RSW Scholars have benefited from internship placements, and another 2,000 Scholars from the 2018 graduating class will also be placed in internships,” Ambode said.
He disclosed that the first place winners of the 2016 Ready-Set-Work Business Pitch Competition, who got seed funding and incubation support were already making impact in the society with the production of up to 10,000 litres of bio-gas daily within a community in Ikorodu, with zero carbon emission, while other graduates were adding value in top companies and countless small businesses across the State.
The governor seized the occasion to thank the network of about 1,000 employers, who, over the years, have contributed to preparing RSW Scholars for the world of work, by providing internship opportunities in their organizations, noting that some have taken on the cost of paying their interns, with the State Government supporting small and medium size businesses by paying the stipends for their interns over a period of 3 – 6 months.
“In marking another successful edition of Ready-Set-Work, we cannot overemphasize the important role of our Volunteer Facilitators, the largest volunteer faculty in Nigeria. These selfless individuals gave up their Saturdays, traveled from far distances, committed to multiple hours of preparation, and made other sacrifices for 13 weeks to invest in our students.
“I thank our corporate partners and sponsors again for their commitment, financial contributions, and technical support. We trust that we can count on you to continue investing in the future of Lagos State,” he aid.
Earlier, the Special Adviser to the Governor on Education, Obafela Bank-Olemoh said the graduands had gone through 13-weeks of intensive engagement and were mentally prepared to deploy their skills and emotional intelligence to the corporate world, saying that the future of Lagos was in excellent hands.
Bank-Olemoh expressed optimism that the RSW had come to stay even after the exit of the current administration, saying he believed that an APC government would readily take over the continuity of the programme.
On his part, Vice Chancellor of LASU, Professor Lanre Fagbohun said the Ready.Set.Work programme had bridged the gap between the quality of graduates being churned out from tertiary institutions and the requirement by employers of labour, urging the beneficiaries to utilise the opportunity and make a telling impact in the society.
Winner of the Pitch Competition, Afolayan said she was extremely happy for winning the competition and thanked Ambode for the gesture and for giving hope to the youths of the nation.