Based on the World Bank’s Human Capital Index (HCI), which measures the potential productivity of the next generation; children born in Sub-Saharan Africa today will be only 40% as productive when they grow up; as they could be if they had complete education and full health. This is because Africa’s HCI score is 0.4, compared to a global average of 0.57.
Human Capital is a measure of the; skills, education, capacity and attributes of labour which influence the productive capacity and earning potential of individuals. According to the OECD, it is defined as; “the knowledge, skills, competencies and other attributes embodied in individuals or groups of individuals acquired during their life; and used to produce goods, services, or ideas in market circumstances”.
These values are determined by the technical skills, qualifications, education levels, work experience, intelligence, habits, personality; and geographical area of each person. Yet, in recent times, soft skills now play a huge role in determining the human capital of individuals.
Why are soft skills relevant to Human Capital Development?
According to research, soft skill-intensive occupations will account for two-thirds of all jobs by 2030. It is estimated that; between 400 million and 800 million individuals could be displaced by automation and would need to find new jobs. Workers of the future will spend more time on activities that machines are less capable. These activities include; managing people effectively; applying emotional intelligence; communicating with others as opposed to physical activities, collecting, and processing data, where machines would exceed human performance.
In retrospect, the move from a goods-based economy to a service-based economy; has been associated with the shift from hard skills to soft skills. According to an article by Archbridge Institute; “as automation quickly replaces jobs that are routine in nature; more job opportunities are now found in career paths that place increased value on soft skills.”
By the time they reach 32, millennials will likely hold four different jobs. Thus, to enable the development of human capital skills that will transcend time; there should be more focus on soft skills which are more transferable than technical skills or qualifications.
With particular focus on the African continent; research shows that emotional intelligence; a soft skill; is one of the top human capital skills that needs to be in constant supply for the economic, social, and political development of Africa. This is because a high level of emotional intelligence significantly increases productivity output; enables the development of stronger relationships that are necessary for the growth of people and organizations in Africa.
According to the former CEO of General Electrics, Jack Welch; “No doubt emotional intelligence is more rare than book smarts; but my experience says it is actually more important in the making of a leader. You just can’t ignore it.”
How to build soft skills
To prepare people for this impending shift, societies will need to address key areas. This areas include scaling and re-imagining workforce skills development. Businesses in all industries can take a lead in some areas. These areas include on-the-job training and providing opportunities for workers to upgrade their skills. Yet, the onus falls on tertiary institutions to provide high-quality education; that adequately prepares young people for the workplace of the future.
Research conducted by Harvard University; the Carnegie Foundation; and Stanford Research Centre, have all concluded that 85% of job success comes from having well-developed soft skills; and people skills, and only 15% of job success comes from technical skills and knowledge (hard skills).
Also, within tertiary institutions; their often-strict curricula needs to be adequately modified to ensure the current student body are being equipped with skills that are required for success in the workforce. Courses within tertiary institutions should co-exist with new; and evolving courses that would adequately improve the human capital of young students through soft skills development. This can be achieved by working with independent organizations to create structured learning experiences; that address soft skills for students in the tertiary education system.
Credit: BusinessDay (Gbemisola Abudu)
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