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Build and balance soft and hard skills to survive life after school – Dr. Amos Mensah

Dr. Amos Mensah in a presentation.
Dr. Amos Mensah in a presentation.

Unemployment is undoubtedly a major challenge facing young Africans. What is heartbreaking is that people who qualify to work are either underutilized or do not find work at all.

Young African for Opportunities through the Opportunity Summit event seek to ignite entrepreneurial might among students, young professional and aspiring entrepreneurs to help curb the challenge of unemployment.

The Opportunity Summit in Ghana which took place at the Lecture Theatre, KNUST School of Medicine and Dentistry on 27th March 2021, was honored by Dr. Amos Mensah, a lecturer at the College of Agriculture and Natural Resources of KNUST.

During his presentation, he admonished the students and young individuals that the challenge of unemployment has become the usual rhetoric used for political campaigns by many politicians.

Youths in Ghana are also facing a similar challenge and what is even dominating is graduate unemployment. Hence, Ghanaians tend to believe in politicians who promise to provide jobs after winning an election.

Dr. Mensah spoke on the topic; Linking Academic Expectations to The Realities of Life After School.

He also revealed that graduate unemployment is high in Ghana because meritocracy has been ignored in our society. The growing cronyism, favoritism, and nepotism are the reasons for the increasing rate of Graduate unemployment in Ghana.

He added that though there is a lack of employment opportunities in the struggling economy, students and young individuals should build both hard and soft skills to enable them to have competing advantages.

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Hard skills refer to the job-related knowledge, skills and abilities that employees need to perform their job duties effectively (i.e. Technical/Methodological competencies).

Soft skills, on the other hand, are the personal qualities & attributes that help employees really thrive in the workplace (i.e. The Social/Individual competencies). Having known the distinction, a balance between hard skills and soft skills is critical to surviving life after school.

‘It is not enough to have just the technical knowledge, work on the practical aspect as well. Undertake internships, if it is difficult to get a place for an internship, vary the approach, tell them you don’t need the money but an opportunity to learn practical knowledge, you will get opportunities to learn,’ Dr. Amos Mensah.

Don’t wait to graduate before you ask yourself, what’s next? When that happens, you would wonder whether it was worth obtaining the degree or diploma.

Dr. Mensah shared that most students read the lecture slide to pass their exams. At least students must read other books on the sectors they wish to work in. Finding a ‘must read’ book in your desire sector is critical.

He added that the digital age has provided numerous knowledge and many are accessible for free online. Therefore, free time should be used to develop a venture that will add up to the career one desire to build. Don’t waste time watching a funny video online.

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The unemployment rate is an indicator used to measure the percentage of a country’s labor force that is without jobs but available to work and actively seeking employment. Employers only hire an employee when they are confident that they can afford to retain them. This is a reason for the lagging nature of the unemployment rate. A lower unemployment rate is a feature of a healthy economy.

Dr. Amos Mensah emphasized that the unemployment rate in Ghana is 4.5%. Thus, in Ghana, only 5 out of every 100 people are unemployed. Accordingly, he mentioned that such a statistical figure (4.5% unemployment rate) does not reflect the reality in the livelihood of young individuals but, it is only a manifestation used by politicians to satisfy themselves.

He also noted two questions that are growing in importance around the world as employment markets tighten, thus, ‘what do employers expect a graduate to be able to do?’ and ‘what Skills do employers expect a graduate to possess?’

Therefore, there is a need for young individuals to balance hard skills and soft skills, since that is the key to being successful in meeting the reality of life after school with academic excellence.

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Dr. Mensah is an experienced Agricultural, Rural Development, Environmental, and Natural Resource Economist with special skills in Efficiency and Productivity Analysis including Value Chain Analysis.

His research interest includes Efficiency and Productivity Analysis (Measurement of Productivity Growth and Transmission of Policies on Rural Markets), Agricultural and Food Economics Analysis (Consumer Behaviour and Experimental economic), Rural Development Policy(s) Analysis (Monitoring and Impact Evaluation), Value Chain Analysis in Agricultural Produce (Spatial and Vertical Market Integration Analysis) and Quantitative Research Methods in Development Economics (Theory and Practice).

Dr. Amos Mensah loves to engage with the youths and young individuals, impacting their life and causing positive change.

The Opportunity Summit event was organized by Young Africans for Opportunities in collaboration with KNUST Students’ Parliament House, College of Humanities and Social Science, and the International Association of Students in Agricultural and Related Sciences with support from Atlas Network (USA), Kingscel Technologies, Institute for Liberty and Policy Innovation.

Article by : Nathaniel Dwamena,
Africa’s Programs Manager at Young Africans for Opportunities.

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