The Power of Soft Skills in Career Development

Soft skills are often regarded as secondary but in today’s world they have become essential. Soft skills are personal attributes needed for successfully executing tasks. They are character traits and interpersonal skills that characterise relationships with other people and complement hard skills in the workplace.

Since 2021, Kepler Kigali has been implementing the Soft Skills and Career Development (SCAD) project with a pilot at one Rwanda polytechnic college.

According to Sylidio Masengesho, Assistant Lecturer for Soft Skills at Kepler, soft skills can provide a competitive advantage in the 21st century yet they are often ignored in educational settings.

Soft skills are very important because we see many people who are experts in understanding technical issues but lack the soft skills that are required to get things done in more effective and efficient ways. We are providing a missing link in the training that is provided to students,” he said.

The project employs a Training of Trainers (ToT) approach and the training comprises a set of topics falling under professional and communication competencies, and career readiness training.

“We ran the pilot at IPRC Gishari in 2021 and we are scaling up to two colleges this year, including IPRC Kigali and IPRC Tumba,” Masengesho said. “The goal is to serve all the polytechnic colleges in Rwanda in five years.”

Masengesho said that soft skills are interpersonal skills that people need in order to do well in their jobs. They embody transferable skills and help to build emotional intelligence that can help to sustain individuals within the world of work. He said some of the competencies that are imparted to students include time management, integrity, honesty, teamwork, collaboration and professional networking.

“A person with soft skills always has a curious attitude that allows them to pursue professional leads. A person with soft skills will always have the potential to leverage available resources to tackle problems. People with soft skills have a room for learning. They usually don’t struggle with conflict because they understand how to walk through the situation. They have initiative to solve problems,” he said.

Prior to the training, teachers would deliver teaching without the student involvement and engagement. Following the SCAD training, teachers now use active teaching methodologies such as group work, gallery walks and think-pair-share to spark learners’ imaginations and initiative.

“We are measuring our outcomes on trained trainers and students. We want to measure how the trainers apply active teaching methodologies in class which reflects the Kepler teaching model. From classroom observation, we have seen how teachers are applying these active teaching methodologies in class,” said Masengesho.

In the pilot at IPRC Gishari, 146 students successfully completed the programme and Kepler collaborated to source industrial attachments for the students.

According to Masengesho, an assessment of the first cohort of the SCAD program revealed a 30 per cent employment rate since program completion in November 2021. This was even before they officially graduated in May 2022. The main goal is to reach 80 percent employment rate by the end of May 2023.

“When they went on industrial attachment, we ran a survey asking how our students were performing. A majority of the companies said that our students were exceptional performers on the job,” said Masengesho.

Softs skills are not much valued but have the potential of building a career. These are critical skills that determine how one does their job, interacts with people, how they manage themselves and how they handle little things.

We all need soft skills to know how to handle things and how to work with other people. It’s not about expertise or the mastery of the subject that will give you the value you deserve. Instead it is the combination of your expertise with soft skills. This is to mean how you interact with people, how you handle situations that you face at the workplace, how you communicate and how you navigate through simple things that other people may call nonsense,” Masengesho said.

In 2022, the SCAD program is expanding and will serve 900 students in three Rwandan Polytechnic Colleges.