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Opinion - Solutions to soft skills gap

2021-11-10  Staff Reporter

Opinion - Solutions to soft skills gap
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Morgen Mwinga

 

Skills are what drive productivity – and in time, the economy. That is why every employer demands skills.

Imagine a marketing job interview where you are asked to tell how you will prepare a cup of tea and a sandwich when the job is nothing close to home economics or hospitality. 

This question will be outside the box. Then again, it is not farfetched that you could get such questions at job interviews. 

So, brace yourselves out there! 

As for me, that was my question at my first job interview. 

I was in my final year for a National Diploma: Commerce at the Polytechnic of Namibia. The job was for a Telemarketer (marketing over the phone). 

As is the case with most undergraduates, I did not guess the justification for that unflattering question. 

I mean, I am about to graduate. In my mind, I am thinking nothing less than a position with a fair amount of authority, ‘unmatching’ remuneration to my unmatched paper. 

So, I carelessly leapt to the answer. 

Though I gave a detailed account on “how to make tea and sandwich”, it occurred to me only later in life that it was never really about the tea and sandwich but more about my soft skills abilities – my ability to plan, to multitask and to deliver. 

Yes, interviewers pose these kinds of questions – and much worse, just to see if you can think on your feet and solve problems. 

They want to know if you have pitching skills to sell yourself to them; if you are efficient – equally, if you’re innovative and a problem solver. 

Today, after having gotten my fair share of being an employer (job creator) literally, I witness a forest of clueless undergraduates – the thinking abilities are underdeveloped. 

 

Productivity is disappointing. 

More often than not, they are not the right fit in any organisation. 

If it was not for the Labour Act (pro employment at whatever cost), in my opinion, the unemployment rate would have been much higher than it is. It is great pity we won’t achieve Vision 2030! 

The insincerity in this matter is that somewhere in October it was national productivity week – same old rhetoric! 

 

No ingenuity. 

Similarly, on 8 October 2021, the country launched in Swakopmund the hosting of the Continent WorldSkills Competition (world championships of vocational skills). 

The competition is next year March 2022 when the country will host the WorldSkills Africa Competition. 

What we are applauding, as a nation, at this news is the fact that we could bring this noble initiative home. The irony remains, however, that the country wallows in an ocean of unemployable graduates. 

The question is, What are we not doing in the education and training sector? A book by Sabati Kaxuxwena, ‘Growing beyond a job description’ equate skills, especially soft skills, but more particular customer service to domestic skills in a household setup, where he said children are groomed to receive, treat and serve guests to a warm welcome. 

 

Treat your guest badly and they will never come back. 

He narrated the warm gestures served to guests when he did not say so much in the same way that we welcome guests by ushering them to a sitting area, offering them home-made drink in a clean traditional cup reserved for guests and giving censored information as to whereabouts of the head of the house. 

This childhood knowledge must come to be in our interactions with others and ultimately applied at the workplace in pursuit of career growth. 

I am thinking, maybe we must bring back Home Economics and Life Skills in our schools.

As with the tea and sandwich, a well-trained person, education aside, will know – and the interviewer will expect an answer close to – first begin to boil the water before you head to prepare the sandwich. 

 

It is planning and organising. 

While the kettle is boiling, grab the tea set and prepare the sandwich. 

It is efficiency and multitasking – by the time the sandwich is ready, the kettle has boiled.

 No standing around wasting time waiting for one or the other to get ready. 

Come to think of it, we must begin to set such types of questions for vocational qualifications in the place of multiple choices. 

How is that for a brainteaser?

 

Morgen Mwinga

Academy of Business English 


2021-11-10  Staff Reporter

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