Some tertiary graduates lacking ‘soft skills’ for employment

BY KIMONE FRANCIS Observer staff reporter

Monday, February 20, 2017

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ONE of Jamaica’s senior educators is lamenting that some secondary and tertiary students are leaving school without the requisite skills that will make them readily employable for emerging careers.

According to Dr Merrit Henry, what students have not realised is that they need to examine and focus on what their skills and competences are and how they can use them to move into areas of employment. Failure to do this, she said, will result in them not self-actualising.

Henry was addressing yesterday’s
Jamaica Observer Monday Exchange on the issue of whether the education system is producing young job seekers with the kills demanded by employers.

She argued that, although some careers have, or are being petered out, some graduates are not meeting the demands for emerging careers in areas such as information technology, social media, communications, and logistics.

"I think that there is a greater demand than what we are putting out. Obviously, if requests are being made and we can’t fill them, then there is a greater demand than we are supplying. There needs to be a more structured approach to the whole area of career development, not only at the secondary level, but also at the tertiary level," said Henry, the student services and development Manager in the Office of Placement and Career Services, at The University of the West Indies, Mona.

While she accepted that academics is mandatory, Henry argued that soft skills such as the ability to communicate effectively, solve problems, think critically and creatively, and to exercise commitment and dedication are also relevant.

"Students need to be exposed to labour market information from very early so that they do not only choose based on their interest and based on what is easy for them, but choose on interest and abilities and demand, what it is now and what it will be over the next five to 10 years," she explained.

Added to that, executive director of Youth Upliftment Through Employment (YUTE) Alicia Glasgow-Gentles remarked that some employers have expressed frustration that a number of graduates lack employment skills.

"The BPO (business process outsourcing) industry is a burgeoning one, where thousands of jobs are anticipated over the next couple of years. And the BPO service providers are complaining that they are getting applications from university level graduates [but] a lot of them are lacking employment skills which translate to work readiness. These young people are graduating from school and do not know the skills that are required to be work ready," she shared.

As a result, Glasgow-Gentles said the New Employment Opportunities project, a regional initiative dedicated to improving the quality of the workforce and the employability of poor and vulnerable youth in Latin America and the Caribbean, is being used to correct this.

The project is funded by the Inter-American Development Bank. The Jamaican arm is being executed by YUTE and aims to increase job opportunities for 10,000 youth, ages 17 to 29.

"We are providing employability skills through a programme we call the passport to success. It’s a programme that was developed by the International Youth Foundation and has been implemented in over 80 countries worldwide which, in essence, provides a curriculum that allows people to get ready for work," Glasgow-Gentles said.

"So you may have the technical skills, you may have the vocational skills, you may have the educational skills, but if you are lacking in social and life skills employers are not going to take you on," she said.





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