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ASUU strike: A wake-up call for skill acquisition

By Gbenga Adebambo
28 May 2022   |   2:36 am
A statement signed by ASUU president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said this was to give the government enough time to satisfactorily resolve all the outstanding issues. While ASUU wishes

The Academic Staff Union of Universities (ASUU) has extended its two-month strike by 12 weeks.

A statement signed by ASUU president, Prof. Emmanuel Osodeke, said this was to give the government enough time to satisfactorily resolve all the outstanding issues. While ASUU wishes to give the Federal government ample time to resolve issues, I doubt whether it also puts into consideration the impact of this dilly-dallying on students’ destinies.

This piece is not to justify ASUU’s overzealousness and its unending strike actions or encourage the complacency of the Federal Government in tackling what has become a reoccurring menace in the educational sector.

The purpose of this piece is to help students get the best out of the unsavoury power tussle between ASUU and the Federal Government by helping them channel their idle time and resourcefulness into something more productive and rewarding while the imbroglio persist.

The world is gradually moving from degrees to skills. When a company is looking for the problems you can solve, they look at the skills you have acquired and not the degrees that you have obtained. A college degree is no longer the main ticket to success and wealth. Skills matter the most. The future of work won’t be about college degrees, it will be about job skills.

Graduates who want to secure their future must work more on their skills than their degrees. The rate at which people are acquiring skills is becoming alarming and graduates without skills will definitely become obsolete in the emerging world. It is either you have skills or you will be skewed out of opportunities.

According to different estimates, approximately 45 percent of university graduates are either unemployed or employed in professions for which they did not need the degree, that they possess. Companies and hiring managers are overhauling their hiring practices to focus on competencies over formal education credentials, don’t be left out! Degrees only show that you are teachable, it is only skills that reveal the problems that you are capable of solving. The world is evolving every day and having exceptional skills is becoming more relevant in the workplace than a college degree. I have seen people change careers to fields that have nothing to do with their degrees just because they have the requisite skills needed.

Reno Omokri said: “If you have a degree, you can still be poor. If you don’t have a degree, you can still be rich. But if you have a degree and a skill, you can hardly be poor. Nothing kills poverty like skills. Companies are looking for skilled workers, not degree workers”. Every degree holder is not necessarily skilled. It is the skill that helps to achieve the target and not the degree. There has been a lot of talk about the need for graduates to acquire certain soft and digital skills if they are to survive in a future fuelled by technologies such as coding, automation and robotics. These skills will not only make graduates more employable but will also equip them better to interact efficiently in the workplace and with the larger society.

There are three types of skills. We have ‘Surviving’ skills, ‘Thriving’ skills and ‘Soft’ skills. Surviving skills are also referred to as analogue or vocational skills. They include: Phone repair, plumbing, photography, fashion designing skills, etc. These sets of skills are low-paying skills. They are just to make ends meet and also for survival. They don’t really attract so much wealth except when the customer involved is a high-paying one. Thriving skills are also referred to as digital skills. They include Coding and programming, Artificial Intelligence (AI), cloud computing, digital marketing, video editing skills, etc. These sets of skills are high-paying skills. They are the skills for all times and are very critical for any graduate that wants to thrive and not just survive in this digital age.

For example, phone repair skills will help you to survive but coding skills will help you to thrive and flourish wherever you go. Soft skills are also referred to as transferrable or ‘human’ skills. They are needed to maintain relationships, communicate effectively and also enhance problem-solving. They include communication skills, problem-solving skills, critical thinking skills, etc.

Though both ‘Surviving’ and ‘Thriving’ skills are geared towards solving problem but there is a very wide margin in the degree of wealth that they can attract. Soft and transferrable skills have a significant impact on graduate employability and are critically needed to help graduates function seamlessly in the workplace. These include: Communication and interpersonal skills, problem-solving skills, teamwork and collaborative skills, critical thinking and creative skills, analytic reasoning skills, time management skills, relationship management skills and decision making skills.

It has become very obvious that universities need to innovate to make degrees more relevant for tomorrow, as we have many graduates roaming the streets because their certificates lack relevance to industrial needs.

In order to be relevant in the 21st Century, graduates must acquire “human” and digital skills that smart machines can’t replicate. ‘Surviving’ and ‘Thriving’ skills will get you hired but soft skills will get you promoted.

The basic truth of life is that the skills that are needed to be much sought-after and become more successful in life are not really found within the walls of the classrooms. Whenever I interview graduates, I am not so keen on their qualifications, I am only keen on their special skills, experiences and their unique approach to problem-solving. Most of them cannot even apply the knowledge they have acquired in school to solving life problems. I have seen engineering students work as bankers. I have seen medical doctors with great skills in web and graphic designs. I have seen lawyers that are very dexterous with finances. The list is endless. The future of work will put a high demand on our skills, not our college degrees.

The mind-set shift from college degrees to skill acquisition and continuous learning is already reaching a tipping point. The future of work won’t be about degrees. More and more, it’ll be about skills, and no one school, whether it be Harvard, Oxford, Stanford or MIT or Cambridge, can ever insulate us from the unpredictability of technological progression and disruption. The tide is turning and times are shifting, it is becoming very obvious that the world is shifting to the age of skill acquisition. We are actually in the era of skill revolution!

Grow your talents and skills through a consistent practice and progressive learning. Learn to relearn and unlearn. Raise the bar for yourself always. Investing at least one year to study and learn a high-income skill could provide you with opportunities that will guarantee your financial independence for the rest of your life.

I specially advise parents to use long vacation periods of their children to acquire skills and not just for another round of home and rigorous lessons. The kids that will become functional adults tomorrow are those with the necessary skills to solve problems in their communities. As a parent, if you have to choose between skill acquisition and home lessons for your children, please choose the former.

The time has come when job seekers will be employed based on the needed skills, regardless of how they acquired it. Companies are looking for skilled workers, not degree workers. I want specially advise undergraduates that are presently at home as a result of ASUU strike to spend their time acquiring skills that will make them functional adults in the society. Acquire skills that will help you solve problems instead of waiting endlessly for ASUU strike to end.