Absa ReadytoWork Initiative: Balancing soft and hard skills for a resilient future workforce

L-R: Berla Mundi, Edwina Paintsil and Harriet Osei-Bonsu at Absa's ReadytoWork webinar

In today’s fast-paced world, young individuals face a multitude of challenges that can lead to stress and anxiety across various aspects of their lives—from academic pressures to social expectations and, eventually, the professional demands of the workplace.

These challenges demand adaptability and resilience, which are essential traits for personal well-being and professional success. The question that arises is: How can we equip young people to handle stress in their personal and academic lives in a way that sets them up for success in the professional world?

Absa Bank Ghana’s ReadytoWork programme understands that individuals often lay the foundation for a successful career long before they enter the workplace. While workplace pressures are unavoidable, having the right combination of finely tuned soft skills and strong institutional support can reduce these challenges.

Absa Bank Ghana’s ReadytoWork programme adopts a proactive approach by providing a well-organised curriculum that aims to connect theoretical knowledge with the practical skills needed in tomorrow’s workplace. The expanded curriculum also offers practical approaches to help young persons identify and manage stress and anxiety through prescribed strategies.

The reality of stress and anxiety

Stress and anxiety are prevalent issues among young people worldwide, affecting their academic, social and, soon, their professional lives. According to Deloitte’s 2023 Gen Z and Millennial survey, close to half of Gen Zs (46 percent) and four in ten millennials (39 percent) reported that they feel stressed or anxious all or most of the time. This shows that these pressures are not confined to any single environment, but are a common experience across various life stages.

These challenges extend across the boundaries of personal and professional life, and their impact is considerable: stress can disrupt academic performance, diminish social interactions, and impair job performance and satisfaction. This interconnected nature of stress demands an approach that targets the root causes and offers effective coping mechanisms for young individuals as they transition through life’s various stages.

Strategies for managing stress and anxiety

Addressing the multi-faceted nature of stress and anxiety among young people requires a dual approach: individual initiative and structured support systems. Absa Bank Ghana’s ReadytoWork programme exemplifies this by integrating practical skills training with mental resilience strategies into its curriculum.

Self-managed strategies

Soft skills such as emotional intelligence, critical thinking and effective communication are crucial in effectively managing stress at different stages of life. These are not just buzzwords; they are essential tools that empower individuals to handle interpersonal challenges and complex situations, whether in school, social settings or the workplace. Absa’s curriculum equips participants with these skills, making them adept at managing stress and conflict across various life aspects.

In addition to skill development, incorporating personal wellness practices like mindfulness, meditation and regular physical activity is crucial. These techniques help individuals recognise stress triggers and deploy coping mechanisms effectively, maintaining not only productivity but also personal well-being.

Institutional support

On the institutional side, Absa Bank Ghana’s ReadytoWork programme offers a structured platform to learn and practise essential skills. The programme’s curriculum covers four critical areas: Entrepreneurial, Money, People, and Work Skills. It has been recently expanded to include Stress Management, Gig Economy, Blockchain Technology, Embracing Change, Computational Thinking and Digital Skills. These modules are designed to equip individuals not only with practical skills, but also fortify them against psychological challenges and future-fit skills for socio-economic growth.

The programme integrates bi-monthly webinars with subject matter experts, reinforcing learning and providing real-world examples of stress management in various scenarios. These sessions cover topics that resonate with the personal and professional growth of young individuals, helping them to prepare comprehensively for the challenges ahead.

Used together, these strategies form a robust framework for preparing young persons to navigate both the expected and unexpected stresses of life, ensuring they are well-equipped to thrive in dynamic environments.

Spotlight on a recent webinar

A practical demonstration of the strategies discussed came to the fore during a recent webinar titled ‘Coping with Anxiety as a Young Person’. Moderated by Berla Mundi, the webinar featured insightful contributions from Edwina Paintsil, a counselling psychologist, and Harriet Osei-Bonsu, a clinical psychologist.

The panellists began by defining anxiety as a mental or physical response to a perceived threat. Common physical symptoms they highlighted were sweating, shaking and other types of discomfort. They explained that understanding anxiety is the first step to managing it, and this foundational knowledge is critical for young persons.

The panellists also shared various practical techniques for managing anxiety, including replacing negative conceptions with positive ones, grounded in facts, knowing oneself enough to identify personal triggers, relaxation routines like deep breathing, and regular rest periods. Additionally, they showed how to use the 3-3-3 grounding technique to maintain presence and concentration. Harriet Osei-Bonsu also emphasised the importance of creating a support network, both professionally and personally, which can provide emotional scaffolding in stressful times.

The webinar, streamed live on Facebook and YouTube, allowed for an interactive session where attendees could ask questions and receive advice tailored to their specific concerns. This format broadened the reach of the programme and enhanced the engagement of participants, making the learning experience both comprehensive and accessible.

The challenges of stress and anxiety in various life stages are multi-faceted and demand a robust, multi-dimensional response. Absa Bank Ghana’s ReadytoWork programme is a prime example of an effective approach to equipping young individuals with the skills and knowledge to navigate the demands of the professional world, as well as personal and academic environments.

More initiatives like Absa’s ReadytoWork are crucial for moving toward a future where well-being is not just an aspiration, but a reality. By laying a solid foundation of skills and support, we can ensure that the next generation is not only prepared to face the world, but also to excel and thrive in it.

L-R: Berla Mundi, Edwina Paintsil and Harriet Osei-Bonsu at Absa’s ReadytoWork webinar



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