How Can We Achieve Scale with Quality, Affordable Life Skills Programming?


Recent discussions in multiple forums have emphasized the importance of technical and vocational education and training (TVET) being demand driven - reflecting current and future opportunities in productive value chains - and that part of the TVET training must include soft skills and life skills for effective and long term engagement in the workplace, the economy and society.  These discussions have highlighted the multiple skills sets implied by this approach: (a) literacy and numeracy, (b) workforce readiness, (c) the hard skills needed to perform the job tasks, (d) the soft skills needed to be successful in the workplace, and (e) life skills to develop planning, adaptability, and other skills to manage family, economic and social options to meet one’s life’s goals and to live one’s life’s story.

There are programming options for soft skills/life skills that can facilitate scaling up quality programming to reach large populations cost-effectively, beyond simply replicating model programs.  The best combination of program options depends on consideration of the audiences to be reached with life skills, including: literate vs. non-literate; youth versus work experienced adults; access to formal job markets vs. informal economic activities; and access and use of various technologies for information exchanges.  These different audience segments require different media and messages for effective communication and acquisition of skills.

Various media options also are dependent in part on whether certain skills, such as effective team work or conflict resolution, require the onsite engagement of trainers with learners for information transmission and practice (“high touch”); whether some skills, such as using data for decision making, could be effectively taught and practiced through internet or cell phone media (“high tech”); or whether some skills, such as valuing people and group dynamics,  could be conveyed through radio programs and practiced among peers (a combination of high tech/high touch). 

There is no one best life skills program.  Taking the above options into consideration can contribute to cost-effectively scaling up skills acquisition for specific audiences.  Additional contributors to success, scale and sustainability include:

  • Life skills need to be integrated into all training activities, not delivered as a standalone “subject”;
  • Effectively training and supervising teacher or trainers is consistently cited as necessary for achieving and maintaining a quality program;
  • Government adoption of life skills within primary and secondary curricula will facilitate their acceptance and adoption; and
  • To be demand driven, life skills curricula must have intrinsic value to the individual for use in life and extrinsic value in the market place to be “sold” for employment.

Content for this blog came from learning events DAI, Walmart, and Making Cents International organized in November, 2012 to address questions surrounding how to achieve scale with quality, affordable life skills programming. Similar discussions have taken place at Making Cents' 2012 Global Youth Economic Opportunities Conference and the 2012 WISE Conference in Doha.

C. Howard Williams, Ph.D.
Principal Development Specialist
Economic Growth/Private Sector Development