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THE INFLUENCE OF GENERIC SKILLS ON EMPLOYABILITY POTENTIALS OF VOCATIONAL EDUCATION STUDENTS IN UNIVERSITY OF UYO
Background of the Study
Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is a practical based and job career skill instruction. It is any kind of education which has the main purpose of preparing individuals for employment in recognized occupation (Kennedy, 2011). The foundation of Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) was based on philosophy which was mainly established for self-employment and self-reliance of individuals who partake in it (Kennedy, 2011). Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) has remained a subordinate discipline in terms of societal recognition, adequate funding and parental/children choice (Kennedy, 2011). As such, a variety of components fall under the vocational education discipline, such as agricultural education, business education, family and consumer sciences, health occupations education, market education, technical education, technology education and trade and industrial education (Benson, 2007). People within the sphere of TVET must embrace and be proud of what they are doing in spite of societal perspective to debunk any wrong notion.
Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) according to UNESCO and FRN (2013), described it as a training or retraining programme, which is given in schools or classes under public supervision and control. Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is a system of education, which is predicted upon the teaching of skills and also demanding the professional or expert use of hands. Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is a continuous process of adaptation of the worker's training towards acquiring the minimum knowledge required. Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) is result oriented. It brings about technological advancement and aims to develop new manpower for employment, while also providing continuous training for those already qualified, so that the individuals can update their skills along with modern working methods and emerging technologies.
The concept of skill has been variously explained by many authors. Hornby (2010) defined skill as the ability to expertly carry out an operation. Hull (1992) in Obi (2006) defined skill as the manual dexterity through repetitive performance of an operation. Okorie and Ezeji (2009) remarked that the possession of skills is to demonstrate the habit of acting, thinking or behaving in a specific activity which has become so natural to the individual through repetition or practice such that it becomes automatic. Elijah (2006) described skill as a well establish habit of doing something. It involves the acquisition of performance capability. According to Coates (2006), the meaning and the practice of work in the new knowledge based economy is changing and the need for highly skilled and productive workforce is shaping economies worldwide. To increase the chances of employability of vocational education students, they need skills that are flexible and relevant to the demand's of today's industry.
The global economy has evolved into a knowledge-based economy, where skills and human resources have become the driving force for innovation, continued growth and corporate competitive advantage. The meaning and the practice of work in the new knowledge based economy is changing and the need for highly skilled and productive workforce is shaping economies worldwide. To increase their chances of employability. Beyond job specific competencies, a set of skills which are generic to a cluster of occupations is required for effective participation in the knowledge-based economy. Thus, employers are putting more weight on generic skills (Firth, 2011).
Kearns (2001) defines generic skills as key competencies that can be used across a large number of different occupations and which provides a platform for the development of employability skills needed by young people and adults. Generic skills involve little or no interaction with machines, but help individuals maintain positive social relationships and contribute to the work environment. Key generic skills include communication and interpersonal skills, problem solving skills, using one's initiative and being self-motivated, working under pressure and to deadlines, organisational skills, team working, ability to learn and adapt, using mathematical ideas and techniques, using technology, valuing diversity and difference and negotiation skills. These skills are independent of sector, underpin technical skills and draw on personal attributes.
However, the extent by which these skills need to be possessed varies from one occupational grouping to another. Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) students are expected to have well developed technical skills as well as generic skills that allows for flexibility, adaptability and ability to work across a range of jobs. Participation in the new knowledge based economy characterized by dynamic work environments and changing job descriptions, require generic skills for adaptability and relevance. Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) system in Nigeria must help students go beyond taking up immediate employment, to having high level of employability that will enable graduates to adapt to the demands of various jobs throughout a lifetime.
Whitemore and Fry (2007) defined generic skills as important jobs -related skills that involve little or no interaction with machines and whose application on the job is quite generalized. Generic skills complement hard skills and play an important role in shaping an individual. Generic skills are important because jobs today require flexibility, initiative and the ability to undertake many different tasks. They are not as narrowly prescribed and defined as in the past and generally they are more service oriented, making information and social skills increasingly important. Employers now focus on adaptation, cost reduction, increased productivity, and new markets, products and services. Employees need to demonstrate teamwork, problem-solving, and the capacity to deal with non-routine processes. They should also be able to make decisions, take responsibility and communicate effectively. Proficiency in the broad range of generic skills has become the main requirement for the modern worker.
Thieurauf and Collins (2008) identified the following generic skills necessary for employability potentials of an individual to include:
1. Communication skills: Communication skills abilities to use when giving and receiving different kinds of information. Some examples include communicating ideas, and feelings. Communication skills involve listening, speaking, observing and empathizing. It is also helpful to understand the differences in how to communicate through face-to-face interactions, phone conversations and digital communications, like email and social media.is the act of conveying meanings from one entity or group to another through the use of mutually understood signs, symbols, and semiotic rules. According to Alo (2005), communication is a vital mean by which people exchange information, share ideas and feelings, described and project their inner and outer world, create and recreate things. Communication is the transfer, transmission or exchange of ideas knowledge, beliefs or attitude from one person to another. Communication is also described as the major tool in controlling, coordinating and motivating people to achieve a specific goal. Therefore, communication skills is seen as essential requirements for employability potentials of an individual.
2. Organizational skills: organizational skills can be termed as a set of skills that help an individual achieve higher goals in life. These skills help an individual implement the procedures, monitor growth and ultimately achieve set goals. Organizing skills means arranging all requisite resource including human, and non-human in a systematic order, such that when they are being used or applied in the production, the operations will be without interruption or gaps in the activities and time plan to adversely affect production. Organizational skills are a prerequisite in any organization. These skills are highly sought after, and no organization look forward to recruiting a candidate who does not possess these skills. This is because employees that possess organizational skills work systematically in an organization and achieve results as planned. Organizational skills in the workplace can include general organizing, planning, time management, scheduling, coordinating resources and meeting deadlines (Grandy, 2008).
A productive and successful employee is invariably someone who has good Organizational Skills. It is one of the most important transferable skills expected at workplace by the employers. An individual may possess several essential skills such as leadership skills, communication skills or interpersonal skills that make him or her successful at work. However, organizational skills are key skills with a difference. They are not only concerned with abilities and behavior, but also include interaction and association with colleagues and the manner in which an individual carry out organizational responsibilities professionally. Organizational skills involve handling and managing people, quality, systems, policies and operations. These lead to increased productivity, efficiency and overall growth of the organization.
3. Teamwork skills: Teamwork skills involves the ability of the individual to work confidently within a group of people, contributing ideas effectively, taking share of the responsibility, being assertive rather than passive or aggressive, accepting and learning from constructive criticism and giving positive, constructive feedback to others. Many employers seek evidence of team or group working skills in their employees. Effective team working applies communication and organizational skills in group context. All employers are keen to recruit graduates who are able to cooperate, solve problems and work in teams. As less hierarchical organization have emerged with project teams, self-managed work teams and management teams, so the requirements to "Get on well with people" and to "Work with and through others" become increasingly important (Philips, 2005).
Past studies on employability of graduates have placed great emphasis on the supply side efforts in generic skills development which includes the tertiary curriculum design and delivery mechanisms. However, the responsibility of employers in providing training to prospective graduates and collaborating with universities in enhancing generic skills has been raised.
Brown and Hesketh (2004) defined employability potentials as the relative chances of getting and maintaining different kinds of employment. Beyond this definition, employability further entails the capability of an individual to gain and maintain employment. It further shows where one stands relative to others on the Job continuum. For individuals, employability depends on their knowledge, skills and abilities. Central to employability is a solid foundation on generic skills. For an individual, employability skills connote the broad range of proficiencies which he or she needs to secure, keep a job and to progress in a career. Employment and employability are not the same thing. Being employed means having a job, being employable means having the qualities needed to maintain employment and progress in the workplace.
Employability from the perspective of Higher Education is therefore about producing graduates who are capable and able, and this impacts upon all areas of university life, in terms of the delivery of academic programmes and extra curricula activities. Employability potentials means the development of skills and adaptable workforces in which all those capable of work are encouraged to develop the skills, knowledge, technology and adaptability to enable the individual to enter and remain in employment throughout their working lives (HM Treasury, 2007).
Adikpe (2010) observed that graduates are unable to maintain employment after graduation. This is attributed to lack of generic skills such as communication skills, organizing skills, teamwork skills, creativity skills, problem-solving skills, leadership skills, information handling skills among graduates. These skills are believed to be an effective tools which could actually help to sustain an individual in a work place. In this study, organizing skills, communication skills, and teamwork skills have been discovered as the main components of generic skills to be addressed to Vocational Education Students. It therefore, becomes relevant for some concerted efforts to be made towards determining the extent to which generic skills influence employability potentials of Vocational Education Students in University of Uyo.