• Possession of hard skills, though important to specific jobs and occupations, is not enough.
• Equally important are what they call transferable, or in human resource lingo, soft skills. They play an important role in day-to-day operations of an organisation. They are applicable in all careers, occupations and situations.
CPS Research International released an important report on the State of Graduate Employability in Kenya that should have attracted attention from stakeholders in education. However, the preoccupation is with the fight against Covid-19.
The most striking part of the study was the recommendation that higher education puts more emphasis on improving the employability of their graduates.
The study conducted over three months — from November 2019 to January this year — recommends that universities equip their graduates with communication and critical thinking skills.
Parents of college students must have wondered why they should have similar skills such communication and critical thinking skills when universities offer so many different programmes and courses.
There is what is called hard or technical skills. Hard skills are specific abilities that help people carry out different jobs. They are essentially teachable, meaning you can develop them through dedicated education and training.
Some of the hard skills required for different occupations are accounting, auditing, legal, engineering, nursing, medical, journalism and construction, to name but a few.
When it comes to skills in employment, the first line of emphasis is typically towards abilities, training and knowledge of specific skill sets. These are referred to as hard or technical skills.
Possession of hard skills, though important to specific jobs and occupations, is not enough. Equally important are what they call transferable, or in human resource lingo, soft skills. These play an important role in day-to-day operations of an organisation. They are applicable in all careers, occupations and situations.
Employers look for two kinds of skills: Soft and hard skills.
Why are transferable or soft skills important to employers?
Seamlessness in working on the technical aspects of an organisation or operations depends on people. It depends on team work. It depends on oral or written communication. It depends on creativity, problem-solving, adaptability, collaboration, interpersonal skills. It depends on leadership.
However, unlike academic, vocational or disciplinary knowledge, which is content‐specific and formally assessed, soft skills comprise a range of competencies that are independent of formal curricular, subject or discipline. And the skills are rarely assessed—and if assessed, imperfectly so— because they are personal attributes that can be used in a wide variety of work environments.
What the study asked universities to do is exactly what the Basic Education Curriculum Framework, which is the blueprint for competence-based curriculum (CBC) has already started doing from early years of learning, going forward.
The CBC aims at developing the creative thinking and learning skills required for the future. It is not just about amassing quantities of information and knowledge important though as it is to quality education. It is about adoption of dynamic teaching methods to help students develop analytical, problem solving skills and the creativity and imaginative power that quality education is able to develop in learners.
It is about using the content to develop skills that children require to effectively follow a course of instruction in later years, and also in the world of work.
This is the educational vision powering CBC. It is a vision that is equally applicable to higher education anywhere in the world.
Communications officer, Ministry of Education