An article was published in the Weekend Magazine on October 24, 2020, where the Shipping & Maritime Principal Secretary, Nancy Karigithu observed that lack of basic English language skills may limit the competitiveness and chances of employability amongst local youths.
Having been involved in interviewing and recruiting ship crew, she was surprised when job seekers could not express themselves in English during interviews. These were students with the right skill sets and certificates, but performed poorly in English communication skills. The P.S acknowledged the need to practice speaking and writing English fluently.
In a previous stakeholders meeting between academia and employers on March 15, 2018 at the Fairmont Norfolk Hotel Nairobi, employers emphasized a noticeable gap in “soft skills” amongst recent graduates being released into the job market. This gap was more specifically in regard to their communication skills, inter-personal skills and time management and urged educational institutions to pay more attention into producing all-rounded graduates.
It is interesting to consider this observable fact in Kenya, a country where English is the official language and also the language of instruction in Schools. Understandably, life circumstances may have contributed greatly, in instances where children dropped out of school after the death of a primary caregiver, separated families, poverty, low value for education, early marriage, poor retention in school and sometimes the preference to educate boys over girls. However, amongst our youth who managed to go through the education system, the matter becomes even more disturbing.
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Education systems are usually focused on instruction. Changes in technology and the nature of work have implications for how we prepare youth for the work place. Evidence is growing across fields on the importance of ‘soft skills’ for the achievement of long-term education & employment. Soft skills are generally expressed in behaviour, personal qualities, performance of tasks and the ability to navigate the environment and relate with others (Lippman et al., 2015). More attention needs to be paid on how these soft skills are built and what education systems should do to foster them both in regards to out-of- school youth and those in formal contexts.
Bridge College Kenya having observed these trends offers an English language skills program to students whose language skills (reading, writing, listening and speaking) are not yet sufficiently developed. We train all levels of English from beginners to advanced levels to students with diverse learning needs. We offer this course to local students as well as those within the African region including French and Arabic speakers.
These students have been able to develop language proficiency skills in either general or academic English and continue with their work assignments or their studies. The age range is 18-65 years with the majority between the ages of 20-30 years, mostly pursuing academic English to join institutions of higher learning locally or abroad and for other professional reasons. Older students express a need to enhance language skills to build a sense of worth and equal status as they engage within their environment and in regards to livelihood activities. Over time, our students have been able to build confidence in public speaking and presentation, with most class assignments being self-directed, exploring current affairs and life issues.
Efforts to raise a successful adult are usually a mix of hills and valleys, rights and wrongs, mistakes and victories for most parents. The big question: What really is the best way regardless of the path a child may take? Providing clear and authentic feedback, exposure, supporting active learning and encouraging youth to think for themselves may be a good place to start.
A great deal of communication is non-verbal: confidence, posture, attitude, self-presentation and eye contact. This entails how we show up and are perceived by others. The ability to communicate effectively is a key skill and the better we are at it, the better our quality of life.
Bridge College Kenya has a long training history having been established in 1992, initially training language skills in English and French. Over time, more courses have been introduced in response to human resource needs in the market place. Visit www.bridgecollege.ac.ke for more.