Last week, I attended the launch of Strathmore Institute. Maybe it’s time I mention that I’m an alumna of Strathmore University just to avoid talking in many parables going forward. Strathmore Institute is the professional training arm of Strathmore University and its mandate includes but is not limited to professional courses in accountancy, information technology, management, entrepreneurial skills, enhancing teaching and management skills. So in case you’re looking for an institution that offers any of the above, you’re welcome!
A look at the program of the day excited me! The chief guest, key note speaker and panelists were giants from various sectors in this country so it was quite interesting to hear what some of the top employers had to say about professional and training courses which academically, are ranked lower than a degree. And you can guess it already, there was a lot of emphasis to go back to gaining skills learnt in a professional course that can’t be acquired in a degree. One of the speakers put it so well, that a great worker has knowledge + skills + right attitude. You see, they did not say or…nope! That’s the recipe and all need to be included. Your degree adds you knowledge but not necessarily skills. You need to go beyond your degree to get some very necessary skills especially those in line with your degree or career choice.
Tesla has been employing engineers without degrees and this is what someone had to say about it, “Who wants to hire some nob that’s done a B.S or masters in comp sci to roll out their 2k3 ad migration when they have never touched the software? You’d much rather hire a 20 something who has been tinkering and testing the product while flipping burgers and spitting in your onion rings”. That sounds harsh to anyone but putting emotions aside, how true is that statement? We have been so consumed with academic qualifications and have put aside skill qualifications and this is the headache most employers are facing. We have more graduates than technicians. During the launch, the message was the same from all employers, ‘We are spending a lot of money and time training graduates and interns skills that they should have learnt while still in school.’ And while our education system here in Kenya has sadly made us more obsessed with grades and theory, I think it’s time that we do our part to the best. Join clubs, volunteer, sign up for professional courses. Fill in the gap that our education system creates as we hope and pray that one day things will change.
For employers and aspiring entrepreneurs, how about we change the narrative? Let’s stop hiring people based only on academic qualifications. Let’s test their skills. This way, Universities are challenged to equip their students with both knowledge and skills. I’m challenging myself to carry out simulation interviews with my next employees which will test their skills, ability to think, ability to learn and solve problems. If a person with a diploma does better than one with a degree then that’s good, they get the job. Many big organizations probably do this already but reality is we currently have more SMEs so inevitably, most graduates will end up working in SMEs so this is a challenge especially to SMEs.
As usual, I’d love to hear your take in the comment section below. What are you doing or planning to improve your skills? If you’ve done any professional course e.g. ACCA, CPA, CMA, CHRP, CISCO, CFO etc. what have you gained that your degree did not give?