One would expect that as the academic literacy levels of the Kenyan population improve, the unemployment rate would significantly drop. The reality on the ground is far from the truth as the universities and mid-level colleges are unfortunately releasing theorists with little or no competencies into the job-market. Majority of our graduates today lacks essential employability skills. Unknown to graduate, employability skills like life skills and soft skills are not examinable in schools. Most of our universities’ mainly focus on the hard skills which are both examinable and certificates are issued to those student who attain the set qualifications. What this simply means is that graduates have to acquire these much needed soft skills from their interactions with both other people and their environment.

Job market’s understanding of the various skills is necessary if the goal of bridging the education-industry skills gap is to be realized. This issue will cover Competencies.

What is competency?

Competency generally refers to the combination of observable and measurable knowledge, skills, abilities and personal attributes that aid the employee in enhancing his or her performance and ultimately resulting in organizational success. Competency is both professions specific as well as industry specific. Competent job applicant says ‘I have what it takes to satisfactorily perform the duties, responsibilities and tasks as expected by the hiring organization’. A competent career builder challenges the recruiter to give him the job and tangibly prove their competency. This is especially so for applicants who may either be lacking relevant work experience or those with gaps in their career profile.

It is crucial to understand all the four elements of competency:

1. Knowledge

Knowledge this is the cognizance of facts, truths and principles gained from formal training and/or experience. Employers therefore seeks hires ready to share their acquired knowledge and are able to apply the same.

2. Skill

Skill a developed proficiency or dexterity in mental operations or physical processes usually acquired through specialized training. Skills are more practical than theoretical, demonstration is crucial to clinching the job at hand.

3. Ability

This is the power or aptitude to perform physical or mental tasks that are often affiliated with a particular profession or trade e.g. calculus, engineering, programming etc. Recruiters are normally advised to look out abilities that outside the traditional job designs yet can be tapped to improve organizational performance.

4. Attributes

These are properties and qualities or characteristics of an individual that make him or her stand-out from the rest. They are either genetically developed or acquired from one’s accumulation of diverse life experiences. Attributes are the most subjective element of competency.

There is need for all career hopefuls to seek information regarding the competencies required by the industries in order to increase their chances of successfully building an awesome career in their chosen professions.

By Goretti Kimani.