After Professor Ekekwe the founder and president of the African Institute of Technology confirmed on his LinkedIn profile that Harvard Business Review has approved his work on the Igbo Apprenticeship System (IAS). I feel Nigerian schools should adopt and tutor this system of apprenticeship that has made many Igbo men millionaires than any other system would have. The Igbo Apprenticeship System is something I've done, and I'm going to highlight in a nutshell how it's done.
As a youth in your 16s or 17 years old, maybe your parents are not financially capable of sending you to the university, they'll seek an alternative that will shape your future in the next 5 to 6 years, and that's when Igbo apprenticeship will come into consideration.
While your mates are in the University studying for a degree certificate, you'll be under your master in one of the major commercial cities of Nigeria learning the ropes of the trade he's into for the next five years of your life. An agreement will be reached between your master and your parents on how many years you'll serve your master and learn the trade he's into. The agreement to serve him usually has a duration of five to six years.
Once the agreement has been reached, you'll go to live with him in the city, waking up very early every day to go open the shop and await him to arrive at the shop later in the day. And during the weekends when you're not in the shop, you'll get to wash your master's car, do his laundry if he allows that, and rest for the rest of the day.
This goes on for a few years till you're familiar with how things work in the business, then in your third year of apprenticeship, you'll be given a level of freedom by your master, and this includes you going to another state to meet some of his suppliers to buy and bring in the goods you purchased yourself. While you're in the city you went to conduct business, you'll have to rent a cheap hotel where you'll sleep and till your business is done. This transaction usually lasts for a day or two.
After you're done with these transactions, you'll return and give an account of your activities all through your stay in the city you conducted business. And the reason you're allowed to do all this is that in the future and when you're free as your own boss, you'll be able to find your way to other cities to conduct business with the experience you've gathered while doing it under your boss. At this stage, you mustn't let anything distract you, not even the level of freedom you're given and the amount of money entrusted to you.
After making encouraging progress in your apprenticeship for about four years, that is after conducting a series of businesses on your own and excelled in them, your master now trusting you fully to handle things on your own even when he's out of town will make arrangements to get you a shop you can manage on your own.
During this period, you as an apprentice needs to put your feet on the ground because the said shop your master will entrust to you and the goods inside them will be worth millions of Naira, and you'll be entrusted with overseeing all the business conducted in this new shop. You'll account for every good inside it, the profits and losses will be on you, and to be frank, this new shop handed over to you and whatever profit you make from it in the next two or three years of apprenticeship is what will be used to settle you. And if you don't do well financially while handling this shop, surely it will affect your apprenticeship no matter how loyal you are to your master.
Though you won't be told, you'll have a feeling that you're becoming your own boss in a few years and need to stay away from any temptation that will make you destroy all the efforts and years you've sacrificed under your master. A lot of boys under apprenticeship lose focus once a shop is opened for them to manage, this usually happens in the finishing stages of their apprenticeship, the urge to start spending or steal from their master usually come at this stage — and when you're caught stealing or messing up your account you'll be sent home regardless how many years left on your apprenticeship. But if you're committed to your master, and you managed your new shop effectively like it's your own, then you'll be settled once you've elapsed your apprenticeship years.
The settlement for Igbo apprenticeship is usually a full shop of goods and some amount of capital to start up your own life as a free man and a business owner. This cycle has been on repeat and a known culture in Igbo land for decades. This is what the Igbo apprenticeship is all about, it has been approved by the Harvard Business Review after Professor Ekekwe pushed for its recommendation. I feel it should be refined and introduced as a course in our various educational institutions.
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