Improving graduate soft skills and employability: Pilot feedback and lessons learned

Employers in Addis Ababa are struggling to find employees with the soft skills they require in addition to technical skills. TVETs often focus primarily on technical skills training and lack capacity to develop and deliver soft skills training. This is impacting the employability of LIWAY´s target group of poor women and youth.

To address the gaps, LIWAY partnered with Kepler Ethiopia, Addis Ababa Tegbareid Polytechnic College, and Nefas Silk Polytechnic College to pilot an intervention called the Sustainable TVET Graduate Employment Programme (STGEP). The aim… to ensure soft skills training is integrated in the TVET curriculum and increase graduate employability. The target… 780 TVET graduates.

By the end of the second quarter of 2022, 835 students had participated in the training and 616 graduates had secured employment. The pilot proved to be a success, and it was time to review feedback and lessons learned with existing and potential stakeholders.

More than 30 people were brought together to participate in a feedback and learning review workshop. Attendees included representatives from polytechnic colleges, public and private universities, the Addis Ababa Vocational Training and Technology Development Bureau, international NGOs and bilateral organisations, and the Ministry of Education. The guest of honour was the Honourable State Minister of the Ministry of Labour and Skills.

Overall, feedback was positive. The Country Director of Kepler Ethiopia noted that through the intervention, trainers have developed their teaching practices to include learner-centred methods that leverage technology. She further noted that not only did a high percentage of GEP beneficiaries get employment within six months of completing their training, but feedback from employers indicated that the graduates demonstrated more soft skills than their peers, which impacts their performance at work. These statements were echoed by other presenters, including the Vice Dean of Nefas Silk Polytechnic College and the representative from the Addis Ababa Vocational Training and Technology Development Bureau.

Positive feedback also came from programme graduates, one of whom reflected on how the soft skills he developed in the programme helped increase his income. More specifically, the skills learned help him every day with the marketing of his construction company and efficient management of his employees.

Key lessons learned were also discussed and summarised as follows:

  • Need for and value of soft skills: Employers are demanding graduates with softs skills, and both employers and graduates recognise that soft skills impact performance at work.
  • Teaching methods: The ´learning by doing´ model is the foundation for success. This includes classroom engagement, practical assessments, feedback exchange, and ensuring trainees practice the skills in class, referring to what they would face at work.
  • Guest speaker sessions: Feedback from employers highlighted the need for graduates to have a better understanding about the realities of the labour market. This helps them have the right expectations and better prepare for career success. Kepler committed to have at least two employer guest speaker sessions, whereby employers visit trainees at their training sites to discuss the realities of the job market and to share tips for career success.
  • Instruction language: Trainees prefer to receive the training in Amharic as opposed to English.
  • Employer engagement: It is key for curriculum suitability and programme success to engage employers by regularly communicating with them and collecting feedback on the performance of employed graduates. This also helps in building relations with employers, which increases employment opportunities for the graduates.

Workshop attendees called for the expansion of such initiatives to include other higher learning institutions and emphasised that the collaboration between education institutions and the private sector will help solve the mismatch between graduates’ skills and the needs of the labour market. In his closing remarks, the Honourable State Minister of Ministry of Labour and Skills highlighted the need for more initiatives that work to improve youth employability and noted that the government is working hard to solve the minimum wage problem for both the local and overseas employment market. He concluded with an encouraging commitment to continue to collaborate with the various market actors and provide the required support to ensure the programme is expanded to other TVETs in the country with the same goal of increasing youth employment.




LIWAY´s work in the skills system focuses on improving skills development to unlock wage and self-employment opportunities for women and youth. Within this system, LIWAY aims to improve the quality of trainers, curricula, and content, as well as improve marketing and institutional strength of TVETS and coordination among stakeholders. The skills system is led by Save the Children International.