In Africa we are conscious of academic qualifications as routes into work, but did you know that many employers are more interested in soft skills? Soft skills refer to how you work or behave; they are personal attributes needed for job success, including time management, listening skills, networking, teamwork, creative thinking, and conflict resolution. Soft skills, including problem-solving, leadership, communication, and teamwork are key to women getting a job or starting their own businesses.

A mentor has a crucial role in helping young people recognise and develop their soft skills not taught at school but can be developed through youth work. 

Here is an example of how young African women develop skills but don’t recognise them: 

Aisha took responsibility for cooking the meal for her peers, working with two friends. She was given a budget by her youth club leader. She had divided up the jobs so that together they could buy ingredients, account for what they had spent, and then cook for thirty people. It was a big task and she only had two hours to cook and serve the food. She was so proud when it was ready on time, and everyone enjoyed it. There was none left by the end! 

After the activity, the youth club leader asked her what she had learned. Aisha proudly said, “I have learnt to cook stew for 30 people”. “Yes”, the youth club leader said, “But you have done so much more”. 

So often in our activities, the girls only see the immediate thing they have achieved. As a mentor, you can help them to see the skills they learn. In this activity, Aisha has developed project management, time management, budgeting, planning and leadership skills. Whether she developed these through cooking for a crowd or building a bridge, these skills she can apply to new tasks and situations, making her attractive to employers.

Below are some useful links:


Reflection Questions

  • Are you aware of soft skills?
  • After reading the links, are you clear about what they are and why they matter?

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