It is midmorning and Sharifah Nabukenya, a former tailoring student at Bwaise Vocational School, Mukalazi zone is already seated in her tailoring workshop which she shares with three other beneficiaries. “After graduating in 2014, with a few other colleagues, we were each told by the school to write proposals presenting a business idea and plan. Because we had been given the necessary skills during out training - such as business management among others, we were able to present the best business ideas in the proposals, which saw my colleagues and I get startup capital,” Nabukenya shares.
The general outcry in the country and beyond has been equipping students with hands on vocational, technical and business skills, so they are able to maneuver the competitive job market. However, apart from carpentry, shoe making, tailoring, cookery and all other such courses, other soft skills that help a vocational school graduate survive the turbulence of life.
Just like Nabukenya, Jeremiah Mugoya, a second year plumbing student at Nile Vocational Institute, Jinja, agrees to the same. “For example, when I go out to start working in the field my clients will need someone who can effectively communicate with them, keep time, in addition to being able to deliver results. But as a person, I need to be able to manage my finances and business well meaning, I will need these skills for survival,” Mugoya says.
Yahaya Walusansa, the academic registrar Uganda Technical College Kichwamba, notes that they equip their students with soft skills alongside hands on skills.
“Students study entrepreneurship for example and implement it during their time of study. As we speak, there is an ongoing marketing project. Students were tasked to create products and market them. Some are washing cars, others making juice and using different techniques to attract customers for their products,” Walusansa explains.
He further mentions that the world of work is very versatile yet their main goal is not to create job seekers but rather makers.
“These kinds of skills can help students start up their own initiatives. When they have the technical knowhow, for example in construction, electrical or mechanical, a missing link of these skills may make them continue looking for jobs,” Walusansa notes, adding that these are further assessed and the students given a coursework mark, which in the end, becomes part of the overall training.
In fact, he notes that teaching soft skills is part of a module that has been introduced in the skills curriculum alongside communication and computer applications.
Additionally, John Baptist Ndinawe, a carpenter who owns a carpentry shop in Nsambya, Kampala shares that possessing such skills can save one additional costs of running a business, but also competence in other aspects of life. “You see, in my small workshop, I do not need to hire a person to keep my books and business records because I was given the skills on how to. I also know how to handle my customers and, to socialise with the general public because keeping good relations with other people is important to my job as I deliver quality,” he notes.
Speaking on the same matter, Soteri Karanzi Nabeeta, the executive director Management Training and Advisory Centre (MTAC), says although the individual maybe skilled in shoemaking or catering, they need the ability to attract people but also serve them diligently. “They also need to keep right their business records. What we literally aim at is sending out somebody that is more or less complete, especially in what they practice. That is why equipping our students with these skills becomes important,” Nabeeta says.
As institutions aim at building and producing an all-round student, students too ought to take initiative in developing their soft skills so as to graduate as complete products.