• Most of our graduates get job placement within graduation year – LBS Director.

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    In this interview with the Director of the MBA Programme, Lagos Business School (LBS), Dr Uchenna Uzo, issues related to the MBA programme ranging from its financial benefits to the unique skills it imparts on students and why the industry relies so much on graduates of the programme to recruit managers, amongst other issues, were explored.

    What is the MBA degree all about and what is particularly attractive about the degree?

    First, we run 3 distinct MBA programmes and so when you refer to the MBA degree, I assume you are referring holistically to what the programme offers. I will speak in general about what the 3 programmes offer. The MBA programme is aimed at equipping managers to have a firm grasp of the principles of general management as opposed to specialisations like accounting, finance, or human resource management. We focus on a broad spectrum of management disciplines because we want those who come on the programme to be well-equipped to build their careers. Our experience has shown that managers who have breadth and depth of knowledge in business management are more useful to organisations than those trained in one aspect of management. So, the MBA programme is a general management degree that equips professionals with strong analytical skills, problem-solving skills and high ethical standards – this means that students become ethically aware and struggle to abide by those principles. Another strong point of the MBA is that it offers students a global perspective to business and at the same time provides local relevance to the needs of the market. The advantage of an LBS MBA as opposed to an MBA from any of the Ivy League schools, which people might be attracted to go for, is that it is the best preparation for a successful career in management in Nigeria because of the alumni network, financial returns that accrue and the great possibility to make an impact on the immediate community.

    There was a recent McKinsey survey of over 2800 employers across the globe revealed that 4 out of 10 employers cannot find workers to fill entry-level positions in their firms. Specifically, more than one-third of respondents (employers) stated that their businesses were experiencing limitations because of the absence of appropriate skills. Is the MBA degree tailored or positioned to meet that need of employers?

    The answer is yes. Our MBA programme is designed for professionals with at least 3 years (and above) post-graduation work experience; we don’t immediately work with entry level candidates. Having said that, our programme helps in many ways to prepare candidates for industry. First of all, we have a career services unit that tracks the needs of the industry and ensures that those needs feature in the curriculum that we offer our students. We also try to make sure that we place our full-time MBA students in relevant companies to undertake internship projects that help them identify problems that organisations have and proffer useful solutions.

    Also regarding the skills gap, we discovered that companies complain a lot about the poor grammar or rather poor communication skills among some of their job applicants. The school has developed a robust curriculum to help address this wider problem. This involves a well thought-out course on management communication and sessions on presentation skills. We have also hired a Communications Coach whose role is to offer coaching to particular individuals who might have special problems with communications. We’ve institutionalised systematic exercises that help students improve their communication skills. This is just an example of some of the things we are doing based on what the industry is asking for and the state of education in the country. Lagos business school is positioned to help raise the quality of people that are being sent to industry.

    LBS has been running the MBA for some time now. What has been the experience of those who have gone through the LBS MBA in terms of job placement, financial returns and their outlook on life?

    I will start with the full-time MBA.  In terms of job placements our experience has been that after 18 calendar months of being on the full-time MBA programme with Lagos Business School, 94 per cent of MBA students get placed within the first year of graduation and 75 per cent get placed within the first six months of graduation. This, for us, shows how much the industry values the quality of students produced. In terms of salary average, as mentioned earlier, we found that in the last five years, the average rate of increase in salaries paid to our MBA students post graduation was 180 percent, which is a huge jump and there are very few schools on this planet that have that rate of increase immediately after graduation. Not even Harvard has that presently. This is mainly because the market perceives the quality of the graduates that come from the full-time MBA programme. In terms of job performance and career progression, we also found through our study that the knowledge and skills acquired from the full-time MBA accounts for at least 80 per cent of variables that contribute to high job performance. On the executive MBA programme, we have seen a similar trend.  Not only does the MBA contribute to about 80 per cent of what it takes to excel on a job, we also found salary increases of close to 30 per cent.  We also found something interesting, which is that many of our graduates are moving in the direction of entrepreneurship thanks to the MBA. So a number of them have gotten the skills and the knowledge required to build their own businesses post MBA – some with their colleagues; some with other alumni of the School. But I will say what has even been more impactful is the level of contribution these graduates have been able to make to society as a result of having come here because they have come to learn that success is not just about improving the personal wellbeing alone but also about making an impact in the society.  So we have had a numbers of our graduates playing key roles in the society. You may probably know that the recently appointed secretary to the Lagos state government is an alumnus of the executive MBA programme.  We have a number of other distinguished alumni who are playing very important roles in the society or have started their own businesses that are doing quite well.

    You talked about how some MBA’s are becoming entrepreneurial because of the programme. How many of these students have decided to go entrepreneurial rather than job seekers at the end of MBA programme? Can you give us some numbers?

    I think we have seen different trends in different programmes. We have seen the most impact  in terms of entrepreneurship in the executive MBA programme where an average of about 70 per cent of those who enrolled for the programme have a business idea they are hoping to execute or have a small business by the side even if they might be working in the corporate world.  So what this programme does for them is that it immediately exposes them to the ideas on how they can take those businesses to the next level and at the end of it some end up leaving the corporate world to dedicate themselves specifically to these businesses. But what we see overtime is that five to ten years after graduation, most end up doing businesses of their own if they don’t end up as corporate CEOs. For example: Austin Okere of Computer Warehouse Group – a serial entrepreneur. He was in the first set of the executive MBA programme and has done a lot since then; Clem Omatseye, Fabian Ajogwu, who is a professor now and Senior Advocate of Nigeria who has several businesses; Peter Bamkole who heads the Enterprise Development Centre etc. We have seen that indeed this programme has had a great impact on them and has led them in the direction of not only entrepreneurship but also entrepreneurship that has a social impact.

    On the full-time MBA programme, we are gradually beginning to see a rise in the number of those who immediately veer into interesting businesses.  There is the example of Uka who started a business that mainly tries to meet a social need linking furniture consumers with furniture makers especially furniture makers in open markets. He has a portal that does this linkage and it has proven to be a successful business which he started right after he finished the MBA programme. There are lots of other businesses of this kind. What we see in the full-time MBA programme is that many of them go into entrepreneurship a number of years after they make some impact in the industry and add up experiences.
    Culled from the Lagos Business School website (www.lbs.edu.ng).

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