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Enhancing skills development initiatives to improve employment prospects among youth

The acquisition of skills has become increasingly important in the globalized world. Vocational and technical skills we can all agree have become crucial in enhancing the productivity and sustainability of enterprises and improving working conditions and the employability of workers. In order to secure that first job as well as navigate in the labour market, young women and men need the technical skills to perform specific tasks as well as core work skills better known as soft skills- learning to learn, communication, problem-solving and teamwork. Development of core skills, education and training are key determinants of success for the youth in the labor market.

According to the International Labour Organisation (ILO) there are three crucial elements that can trigger the successful transition of young people into the job market. The first element being relevance. It is important that the youth of today are given the skills that are not only in current demand but those that will be needed to support emerging trends and matters. The importance of skills forecasting, and sectoral forecasting are key to the development of relevant curricular supporting adaptation to the future of work. Relevance also embodies the key role businesses play in communicating the type of blend of skills they are looking for including the technical competencies and the social as well as emotional skills. These various aspects must inform training content.

The second element is the ability to create an environment conducive for job creation. Investing in skills is merely not enough. To meet today’s tremendous job challenges, it is essential to pursue strong and sustainable economic growth and development that ends at job creation and social inclusion. A holistic approach is needed in which both macro and micro economic policies must work in tandem to boost youth employability while ensuring that there are productive employment opportunities to absorb the skills and talent of young people.

The other element that we must look at is the proper delivery of skills transference. This means that skills programs should have proper structures including effective monitoring systems, proper incentives to trainers, which has increased the ability of various skill training programs to improve the labor market outcome of youth while generating benefit and wider fiscal and social benefits. Skill delivery is greatly influenced by training settings. Combined workplace and in classroom training has proven to enhance employment and earnings of young people. Quality apprenticeship is also a good example as they enhance youth employability through the acquisition of relevant skills while supporting personal development and in some cases.

Various organizations have put in place very successful skills programs to prepare the youth for the job market in both hard and soft skills. One such program is the Global Skills Network (GSN) by the Wadhwani Foundation. The GSN focus is to work with the vocational institutes and technical institutes to bridge the gap of soft skills where youth are trained to acquire attributes that enable them to interact effectively and harmoniously with other people. Soft skills are often overlooked by most traditional education systems and employers often find a “skills mismatch” between the competencies youth need to succeed in the workplace and those they possess.

In Tanzania, the Foundation launched its Skills Initiative, to support the development of a stronger and skilled workforce. The Foundation has signed an MoU with the Vocation Education Training Authority (VETA) to help thousands of students in the Youth Polytechnics in Tanzania with its backbone firmly rooted in the credence that skilling for sustainable entry level jobs is critical for the advancement of a strong workforce. The program is also focused on supporting the development of stronger vocational teachers who can improve the quality of training through use of modern learning tools including eContent.

As many countries transition to a more service-oriented economy, soft skills cannot be overlooked. One key approach to overcoming this challenge is through the provision of life skills training. Employers are finding that regardless of their level of education, most new hires lack communication and client-relations skills; organizational and prioritization skills such as time-management; and flexibility and adaptability. Entry-level employees in many emerging markets may be technically “overqualified”, but lack teamwork and interpersonal skills, making collaboration with colleagues and problem-solving between team members difficult. Without soft skills students are not able to use their hard skills or their technical skills. The GSN aims to train teachers on how to teach soft skills and doing mocks to help the students perfect these skills to be able to survive in any sector.

The success in the development of skills will only be achieved if employers in all sectors are closely involved in the training process to ensure that students acquire skills that are relevant to the labour market. We need to understand and collect evidence on the right incentives or best mix of tools in engaging and maximizing investment from the private sector.

The writer is the Executive Vice President East Africa of the Wadhwani Foundation

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The Guardian

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