Dr Mathilda Chithila Munthali who is the executive director for the Agency for Scientific Research and Training (ASRT) strongly believes the country’s graduating students from both public and private universities lack an important component skill—soft skills. Our reporter JACOB Nankhonya caught up with her and had this conversation. Excerpts;
What can you say about soft skills in today’s job market?
The issue about soft skills is that these are skills that are needed across, whether you are a graduate or have been working for as long as 15 years, in whatever field. Examples of soft skills are like time management, leadership, conflict resolution, even how to play as a team member and several other areas. We provide training of that sort which is very good in today’s job market.
One of our focus areas on our website is what we call the youth hub. We post anything there such as jobs, scholarships and internships.
What is your experience with the youth with regard to soft skills?
lot of challenges. Sometimes you can have the youth in the interview room and you realize that they are failing even to articulate their abilities on what they are able to do and in the process be able to sell themselves. You see shortfalls in confidence and in presentation. When you put them in a group they are not able to interact. All they are thinking of is that ‘I have this academic paper then I will be able to get a job’. We need a lot of continuation in what we call professional development. A majority of them, not all, have a lot of gaps.
In the development of the youth where do you think is the best place where they can learn these soft skills?
From what I have experienced these have to be part of the curriculum in schools. However, I will tell you that the realization of how important the soft skills are is not only in Malawi, it is all around the world. We have always thought that when you are training in Information Technology (IT) for instance, then other areas such as project management are not important yet they are. In fact, IT was the first profession that realized that project management is important. We need to think about the work place as to how prepared are our graduates for the work place? What does the employer want? We need to be able to meet the demands of the work place.
So, what is ASRT?
The Agency for Scientific Research and Training (ASRT) started last year. We focus on research in all different sectors like capacity building for institutions and individuals. Health sector, education sector, agriculture and several other sectors. We work with associates who are experts in different fields of work. We have a pool of such experts whom we work with both locally and internationally.
What sort of trainings do you offer?
We offer several types of training and just last week we were conducting training on Geographical Information System (GIS) which is a very important skill to have. You will find out that a lot of partners involved in service provision are desperate to know how to improve on service delivery and GIS is one of the ways they can improve in that area. It is really looking at various improvements of service delivery using modern technology, talk of locating places such as schools, health facilities, it easier. n