Incorporate soft skills into employment programme design – policymakers told

Incorporate soft skills into employment programme design – policymakers told

Amid rising rates of unemployment, designers and implementors of the nation’s academic and employment policies have been urged to incorporate soft skills training into new and existing programmes.

The call comes on the heels of a new study undertaken by the Department of Economics at the University of Ghana, which shows that the acquisition of soft skills has a positive bearing on the employability of job seekers in formal waged employment.

Speaking at a stakeholder and dissemination workshop on the study titled ‘Soft Skills for the Youth in SSA – the Ghanaian Context’, Project Lead and Associate Professor of Economics at the University of Ghana, Prof. Ebo Turkson, said inasmuch as the nation has witnessed numerical growth in its young population coupled with an abundance of youth-centered programmes, there has been limited structural transformation owing to a mismatch of the said programmes in addressing issues young job seekers are confronted with.

“We do not have a shortage of programmes, there is the National Service, Ghana Youth Volunteer Programme, Nation Builders Corps, among others… We have seen that one of the major problems has been a lack of soft skills. We get them temporary employment, but we do not train them in the soft skills that are needed in most jobs,” he stated.

He added that the cost, in terms of time and other resources, required to equip job seekers with the requisite soft skills is a burden a number of employers are unwilling or unable to bear.

“If we want our graduates to have employable skills, we need to start giving it to them at the university level; so that by the time they are done, employers will not have to spend on them… If there is going to be an uptake, then this must be added to the curriculum so that students are compelled to undertake them as a requirement for graduation,” he further remarked.

According to the Population and Housing Census (PHC) conducted by the Ghana Statistical Service (GSS), more than 13.4 percent of the nation’s economically active population is currently out of work – more than double the jobless rate of 5.3 percent recorded in 2010.

Persons in the 15 to 24 years category account for the highest rate at 32.8 percent.

Project details

The first-of-its-kind research was funded by Canada’s International Development Research Centre (IDRC) following the emergence of a research gap on the effect of soft skills on the employability of young people in Africa.

Following an initial stakeholder engagement, eight soft skills – emotional intelligence, leadership skills, time management, networking, workplace ethics, negotiation with advantage, communication, as well as problem-solving and decision-making skills – were identified as the most desirable by employers.

The study, which began in 2019 and was concluded in 2022, involved approximately 1,500 final-year students. They were drawn from the University of Ghana and University of Cape Coast, with students from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST) serving as the control group – which did not receive the training – to minimise the possibility of contamination.

The results showed that soft skills are critical in enhancing wage employment and not self-employment. The results also showed that the training’s impact – when complemented with reminders, which occurred a year after the initial training – is generally insignificant.

“This suggests that reliance on reminders as one of the best ways of inculcating soft skills cannot be ascertained,” the report stated, adding that the disruptions brought about by COVID-19 had a material impact on the results.

“However, the project found a positive effect for the interaction between training with reminders and the female dummy for both employability and wage employment. This result suggests that females that received the training, as well as the reminders, were more likely to be employed or be in wage employment relative to men,” it added.

The ‘Boosting Decent Employment for Africa’s Youth’ project saw inputs from the International Labour Organisation (ILO) and INCLUDE as well.


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