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Employment Crisis: A Need for the Ministry of Education in Sierra Leone to Embark on Generic Skills

Employment Crisis: A Need for the Ministry of Education in Sierra Leone to Embark on Generic Skills

In a developing country like Sierra Leone where President Ernest Koroma is attracting investors in various segments of the economy, generic skills have become more and more important.   There is a high demand for generic skills in the workplace. Employers seek to ensure business success by recruiting and retaining employees who have a variety of skills and personal attributes, as well as technical skills. Individuals also need a range of generic skills to form and maintain family and community relationships. So, the Ministry of Education the power house of Sierra Leone workforce should invest in generic skills as early as possible. Institutional policies and statements of generic attributes have led to changes in the curriculum and pedagogy of both academic departments and learning canters, as universities race to redefine their concept of graduates to stake out their market niche. (Photo: Joseph Sherman)

Firstly, if generic skills have been firmly placed on Sierra Leone’s higher education agenda, what would have become the nation’s workforce?    The workforce today would have been flexible and would not require initiative and the ability to undertake many different tasks. They are not as narrowly prescribed and defined as in the past and generally they are more service oriented, making information and social skills increasingly important.  The Ministry of Education now should focus on adaptation, cost reduction, increased productivity,  new markets, products and services because graduates from colleges and universities need to demonstrate teamwork, problem-solving, and the capacity to deal with processes. They should also be able to make decisions, take responsibility and communicate effectively. Proficiency in the broad range of generic skills has become the main requirement for the modern worker.

One example of this transformation is the move to ensure that Sierra Leone colleges and universities demonstrate that their graduates possess, in addition to key disciplinary knowledge, the kinds of knowledge and dispositions that are valued by potential employers. This move represents a growing convergence of the goals and values of business, government and education. Statements of generic attributes developed within academic communities are similar in some ways to employer-developed lists of skills, yet the former tend to retain a distinct academic flavor. Indeed, in one sense it can be argued that universities have always been concerned with students’ generic attributes, albeit implicitly, in so far as they aspired to produce socially responsible citizens with inquiring well-cultivated intellects.

Secondly, it is necessary to go beyond the social idealism embedded in the concept of generic attributes to examine more closely the political and economic factors of the last decade which have influenced its rapid rise. The ‘employability’ agenda remains high in the discussion of generic attributes found in reports from the government and employment sectors. While the rhetoric of ‘social responsibility’ is perhaps not so apparent, except under the guise of lifelong learning, what is apparent is the perception that universities have an overriding mandate to produce graduates who are well equipped to take their place as contributors to the workforce.

Employability Skills which colleges and universities in Sierra Leone should incorporate in their curricula includes: fundamental skills (communicate, manage information, use numbers, think/solve problems); personal management skills (demonstrate positive attitudes and behaviors, be responsible, be adaptable, learn continuously, work safely); teamwork skills (work with others, participate in projects and tasks); an orientation to values and attitudes with references to self-esteem, integrity, responsibility.  .

With the efforts of President Ernest Koroma in addressing the issue of unemployment through the re-opening of the mining sectors and other entities in Sierra Leone, it is incumbent upon the Ministry of Education to prepare a workforce that will meet the employment challenges so that expatriates from other countries will not occupy jobs which a trained workforce in Sierra Leone is capable of doing.    Workforce training and development methods consistently provide the best training to individuals over all of their instructional methods.  Where market forces prevail, so does the efficiency and effectiveness of training programs. As technology advances, so has the training methods used by workforce educators. Increasingly, companies are turning to technology to improve the knowledge and skills of their workforce.

To sum up, because the generic skills are very important, it relates to graduates job in the future, so students must learn it in higher education agenda. The agenda, for example, universities or learning centers should teach students these skills.  It can be said that vocational training has developed radically in recent years and is now a fundamental part of a business strategy in today’s fiercely competitive world of commerce. The value of workers has now been realized and the education of the workforce is vital if Sierra Leone wish to sustain competitive advantage. Skills required of workforces have been extended and now range from practical and tangible skills to tacit and knowledge based skills as businesses change from mere production and manufacturing to the provision of services and IT based products. If Sierra Leone is to compete with other nations in the sub-region it is necessary to maintain a national framework that will provide the skills necessary in the required areas of business.

Joseph Sherman, Washington, DC

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