Mike called me up last weekend saying he needed my opinion on something. He said we meet out over drinks at a bar in GRA Ikeja, our favorite spot. We hooked up and he intimated me of his plans for his 35th birthday. How time flies, dude was a couple of years younger than me but had so much maturity and intelligence far beyond his adolescent look. We came a long way, 15 years now I think. Back then in school, he always was the unserious type always looking for the cheapest and easiest way to have some fun. But Mike was always the ambitious type, forever dreaming of us going on a boat cruise to the Caribbean’s. He always felt he had a short time to stay on earth and thought he had to enjoy every piece if life.
It’s why we were gobsmacked when after school Mike opted to take up a job as an intern in a small accounting firm. This was when picking up jobs as a banker or an oil company staff was the real deal. No one understood why this dude would seemingly just want to throw his life away to a one man business. We always teased him back them calling him names amongst which “the apprentice” was his favorite. Days turned into months and months into years and as time moved on so did our careers. Mike soon became a Chartered Accountant and had gathered vast experience in auditing and fraud investigation. Mike soon broke out to set up his own consulting outfit and is currently self employed. He is one of the very few sought after Forensic Accountants in town.
His firm is not well known and not a visible brand, but those who engage him know better. Today he earns over N3m monthly from consulting, training and lecturing. About a third of that come from training and lectures he gives to students and corporate managers of blue chip companies. Looking back one wonders if he would have achieved these things had he chosen a different trajectory. His friends earn on average one quarter of his earnings as salary. As an apprentice, he didn’t think he’d become another KPMG or Akintola Williams. Thats an identity he surely cannot match. But he knew, consulting and executive trainings was the future. Apprenticeship he says is the best foundation for entrepreneurship. Graduates of noble professions like architecture, law, accountancy and even medicine end up working in the financial services sector or running government contracts just to eke a living. It’s the way of life now and anything contrary is a misnomer. Rather than learn the craft people earn the trap, the trap of career ambiguity. Lawyers working as customer service reps and engineers working as sales reps for banks. All in a bid to making the quick buck. Some pay off and most do not.
In apprenticeship the immediate reward is not cash but the opportunity to inherit knowledge. Another chap, Emeka graduated as an architect several years ago. Rather than search for work in some of the big firms he decided to work for a small time start up architectural firm owned by a Family Friend. Whilst his classmates joined large firms and mostly spent all their times on administrative work in offices, he was on the other hand a foot soldier. Attending to clients directly and getting involved in designs and execution of drawings. Within years, he found himself meeting with top executives of multinationals who were personal clients of his boss. As the small time firm grew into a mid term one, so did his personality and influence. He had a boss who believed in him and with time he was accelerated to a partner. Most small firms and businesses complain about the high staff turnover they face. They recruit fresh graduates only to loose them to the lure of fat salaries and larger organizations. Meaning their business do not enjoy the type of loyalty and leveraging on inter-personal skills that is associated with apprenticeship. Today apprenticeship can only be found in artisanship’s like mechanics,carpenters, hair stylist etc.
Life as an apprentice isn’t that easy. From earning as low as N50,000 when his contemporaries earned thrice that made him humble and learn to seek for the smaller things in life that matter. He learnt to prioritize and embrace the frugalities that is not usually associated with getting rich quickly. Mike like Emeka believes life should be taken one step at a time. Today they are more than ever determined to live longer in a country with a life expectancy of 51yrs. Nigeria today faces high unemployment levels of over 23%. The youths are constantly looking for a way out of the misery that comes with unemployment and lack of start up capital. Everybody wants a large pay cheque and someday want to grow from being an employee to being and employer. Even the government recognizes this and have put up several programs to help jump start small businesses. Often times people look elsewhere for a solution that is in their “sokoto”. Apprenticeship is as old as mankind and still is one of the most effective ways to create wealth in a society. Will the government now embrace this?