Ojo: Why Soft Skills are Imperative to Foster Innovation

Ojo: Why Soft Skills are Imperative to Foster Innovation

Adeyemi Ojo is the Business Development Manager, BIC, Nigeria. In this interview with Funmi Ogundare, he explained why soft skills are considered crucial for innovation and problem-solving in today’s complex and dynamic society. Excerpts 

Your organisation recently hosted the ‘Canvas of Change’ masterclass initiative for teachers in Lagos, Nigeria, why do you intend to expand the initiative into the wider West and Central Africa region? 

At BIC, we have a global commitment to improve learning conditions for 250 million students by the year 2025. We have various initiatives globally, relevant to the various regions we operate in. In Africa, and in Nigeria more specifically, we follow a holistic approach to education where we elevate learning conditions for students inside the classroom and in educational facilities, help students unleash their creativity through art, and support them all the way through university and as they enter the professional world through internship and mentorship opportunities. Our plans are rolled out in our flagship markets in Africa in the aim of impacting more students and teachers in line with our global commitment, under our sustainable development programme; Writing the Future Together’, aims to enhance our societal and environmental footprint. 

In your view, how significant are in-demand skills, and how well-prepared do you think young individuals are for the job market, enabling them to actively contribute to innovation and proffer solutions to the complex problems in today’s society? 

Recently in the job market in Africa, there has been a growing emphasis on a diverse skill set that goes beyond traditional academic qualifications such as Medicine, Accounting, and legal services. This is also reaffirmed by the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) report, which equates soft skills development to youth empowerment in developing countries.  In line with this, employers increasingly seek individuals who possess not only technical expertise but also skills including critical thinking, creativity, adaptability, and effective communication. These skills are considered crucial for innovation and problem-solving in today’s complex and dynamic society.

There is often a gap between the skills acquired through formal education and those demanded by the job market. Many graduates face challenges in translating their academic knowledge into practical, real-world applications. This underscores the need for initiatives like The Canvas of Change Masterclass which BIC hosted in Nigeria recently.  Such initiatives essentially aim to bridge the gap by providing young individuals with the necessary tools and insights to navigate the professional landscape successfully and fill the gap by providing educators with the relevant methodologies to empower young individuals and trigger innovative and critical thinking. It’s all about nurturing a creative, innovative, and solution-oriented mindset; creating a generation of leaders.

What is your view on the implementation of e-learning strategies in schools?

E-learning is growing at a fast rate. In Africa, e-learning is projected to grow by 12.10 per cent between 2023 and 2027, according to Online Learning Platforms Africa, resulting in a market volume of $600.10 million by 2027. With the advent of COVID-19, e-learning has also emerged as a transformative force in education, reshaping the traditional landscape and providing innovative solutions to the challenges posed by the pandemic. The closure of physical classrooms prompted a rapid shift towards online and remote learning, making e-learning an indispensable tool for continuity education. By incorporating technology into education, it enables an interactive and engaging learning environment for students and teachers across different continents or cities. This helps broaden students’ perspectives and exposes educators to new methodologies and learning techniques, preparing them both for a globally interconnected workforce. By combining e-learning with initiatives like the Canvas of Change Masterclass, we aim to create a dynamic blend that equips young minds for academic triumphs and for the real-world ahead. At BIC, we are keen to bring to the community initiatives that are driven towards fostering an independent and creative mindset that helps students develop confidence, build critical thinking, and learn to express themselves through different avenues. Our creation and support of a diverse range of educational initiatives worldwide aims to inspire a lifelong love for learning in students of all ages. 

In light of the prevalent youth unemployment in Nigeria, how do you perceive the potential impact of collaboration between stakeholders in the education and private sectors on the continent’s human and intellectual capital?

In Nigeria, where the issue of youth unemployment is paramount, fostering collaboration becomes a vital catalyst for sustainable and impactful change. Recent data from the National Bureau of Statistics reveals a positive trend, with unemployment rates decreasing to 5.3 per cent in Q4 2022 and 4.1 per cent in Q1 2023. However, addressing the nuanced issue of youth unemployment requires a holistic approach. Our partnership with esteemed educators like Femi Taiwo, Olasunkanmi Opeifa and Oluwaseun Kayode, is a powerful means to bridge the divide between theoretical knowledge and its practical application, specifically addressing the nuances of assessment and feedback in the learning process. These collaborations with experienced educators offer invaluable opportunities for skill development, ensuring that the teachers are not just theoretically educated but equipped with the practical tools necessary to guide their students through the complexities of the professional world that awaits them.  Our goal is to shift the mindset of teachers, creating a ripple effect that positively impacts their students in terms of both skill set and mindset thereby offering educational access that nurtures innovation, empowering the leaders of tomorrow to break new grounds in various industries and address the pressing challenges of unemployment in the country. 

In your collaboration with various organisations, especially in extending your impact beyond the classroom, how do you envision the ongoing and future effects of these partnerships on students?

Our approach to education is holistic, starting from supporting the infrastructure of educational facilities to encouraging self-expression all the way to empowering youth as they enter the professional workforce. Our partnerships with like-minded individuals and organisations support students to further develop cognitive and interpersonal skills, and creativity beyond the classroom and the traditional education system. Our Art Master Africa program, which has been running in the region for six years, empowers youth to express themselves through art and self-expression. Similarly, our collaboration with Enactus in the region and in Nigeria prepares students for the professional world and helps improve their critical thinking and business acumen, as well as helps expose them to the larger business community outside of the country through the Enactus World Cup participation. 

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