The Case for Skill Development

May 9, 2019

     In the early years of yesterday, companies were in the era of associating their brands with individuals that performed academically. This was based on the reason that they would invariably bring in value to their employers. But all this became dynamic, based on the fact that situations had turned tables. Performing academically no longer translated to on-the-job success. Good credentials turned to "seeing is believing" when hiring.  
     This was an essential fact gathered by Silicon Valley where they thought to solve decades of economic and social disorders by tapping into a market of non-traditional candidates. This became a principle that changed HR practices across different industries around the world. The likes of Google and Apple now considered non-degree holders which opened more doors for non-traditional candidates. 

     Research conducted by West Africa Vocational Education (WAVE) showed that top ten per cent of employees at 59% of the large foreign companies surveyed had related higher-education degrees, but employers who hire non-traditional candidates have seen better performance from these employees and experienced higher retention rates.  Nigeria’s high unemployment numbers, the low and falling standards of its higher institutions make these benefits especially relevant to its employers.

Hiring for the Wrong Reasons

    With an unemployment rate of 18.80%, there is the belief that non-traditional candidates cannot outdo their counterparts with higher credentials, which has created around some challenges. These challenges consist of HR personnel performing the same routine of reaching out to deteriorating higher education system: degreed but inadequately trained candidates who are unprepared for employment which can also be bought. Thereby making it difficult for some employers to screen candidates’ competencies which constitute key performance indicators invariably blocking out more low-income youth.

     As a result, employers make a decision of bringing on board, candidates who do not measure up incompetence. Though there are always ready-to-work spaces available, there is also on the rise, unemployment rate in relation to same routine decisions made by employers which becomes expensive in the long run and indirectly affects business growth.

Reorientation: A New Direction

      With research conducted by WAVE, it has shown that based on top performing staff in Nigerian companies holding degrees unrelated to their jobs, it is no longer in question that high qualifications equal high performance which some employers can testify to.
    They find that soft skills (such as communication and creativity) and technical skills (such as digital literacy and accounting) are reliable performance indicators and success makers. This is because the competence of a candidate has proven to record higher retention rates and, therefore lower turnover rates.

      Nigerian employers can learn from their overseas counterparts. They can shift their HR focus to no longer discriminate against non-degree holders. They can instead hire based on acquired soft skills and job-related technical skills.

     WAVE Academy can help Nigerian employers restructure their hiring practices to capitalize on the untapped human resources Nigeria’s youth represent. 

The WAVE Academy Method

To meet the needs of employers, WAVE Academy specializes in 4 key areas:

1. Screening: By using structured behavioural interviews and training sessions that we continuously validate to ensure they remain relevant and predictive, we’re able to identify self-motivated underserved youth who are willing to learn and determined to succeed.

2. Training: Having trained 697 youths and counting who are ready to work in 2016, our model is centered on developing new work candidates, by engaging them in a 4-week entry-level training programme through lessons and role-playing teaching them industry-relevant skills that employers seek, such as communication, customer relations, timekeeping, conflict resolution, management, and teamwork. We develop the skills they do have and help them acquire those they don’t.

3. Placement: With our vast and growing network of our employer partners, we assist in leveraging on our candidate’s inborn strengths and create a pathway for them into the workforce. We placed approximately 70% of all trainees, with 53% of our 2016 trainees being immediately placed with 177 employer partners across sectors that include hospitality, retail, health, financial services, media, logistics, and education.

4. Support: We provide post-training support through monthly workshops and mentorship.

5. Employer Partners: We have strong partnerships with employers who have benefited from our approach. They include Radisson Blu, Spar International, Ruff ‘n’ Tumble, Café Neo, The Wheatbaker Hotel, Prince Ebeano Supermarkets, Printivo, The Ice Cream Factory, Filmhouse IMAX, Africa Courier Express, Kilimanjaro, Nuts About Cakes, Shawarma & Co., BarBar Cuts & Cocktails, Zenbah, Sweet Kiwi, Nuli Juice Lounge, RSVP, Salt, and Hans & Rene.

WAVE Academy itself has benefited from its own model, with 30% of its staff being Academy graduates.

Moving Forward

   Only by starting at the foundation can change be effected. The growing gaps in the Nigerian education system and the flaws of conventional hiring practices prevent most employers from properly capitalizing on the growing supply of unemployed youth.
   WAVE Academy, however, is well positioned to help employers change their hiring practices and ensure they recruit competent candidates. Our training programme stimulates the adaptive learning and collaborative problem-solving that businesses need to grow. 

“Our admission rate is about 30%... we’re screening for self-motivation, for a willingness to learn, for flexibility and adaptability,” says CEO Misan Rewane.

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