March 26, 2018

Bridging the Skills Gap for Youth

Written by Burt Granofsky, Education Development Center

This post originally appeared on the Education Development Center website.

Employers in sub-Saharan Africa want to hire young people with the right skills. But what are those skills, and how can young people get them?

What happens when school does not prepare students with the skills that are in demand? It’s a real question for millions of young people in sub-Saharan Africa, where half of all college graduates are unprepared for the workplace. This skills gap reflects the mismatch between what young people are learning and what industry needs, and it threatens to derail the economic promise of the region.

EDC’s Youth Workforce Development Team has been trying to close this gap through a new assessment that promotes the development of needed workforce skills. Here, team members Ann Hershkowitz and Rebecca Pagel talk about the impact the skills gap is having in the countries of Senegal, Rwanda, Uganda, and Tanzania, and how a new approach to assessment can better prepare young people for life and work.

Q: What does the skills gap look like in these sub-Saharan countries?
Hershkowitz: Technical and vocational schools prioritize the teaching of hard skills, such as masonry, carpentry, and electronics. But employers say that they can teach those skills. Instead, they want employees who are responsible, demonstrate solid work habits, and can communicate well with coworkers and clients. Young people with soft skills are poised to thrive in the quickly changing economies of these countries, but few schools explicitly teach these skills.

Q: Why are these skills not taught in school?
Hershkowitz: Education in these countries is still largely done by rote methods, which puts little emphasis on communication, collaboration, and critical thinking. Students simply do not have a chance to develop soft skills during their formal education. Fortunately, this situation is beginning to change.

Read the full Q&A here>>