As it appeared in the Daily Nation on September 25th 2018
After four years in business school, many university graduates get into the job market or into the world of entrepreneurship. As they settle in, they realize that they did not learn enough. There is so much more, some of it basics that they need to learn while on the job. The same is true even for those that have advanced degrees in business. Not everything we need to know about business or what we need to be able to run a business successfully is taught in business schools.
In Kenya today, many university students have enrolled for business related degrees. The business schools where they study offer various specializations. Business administration, marketing, finance, human resources, entrepreneurship, procurement and the like are some of the common specializations at undergraduate level. Most students make their choices based on their qualifications or based on limited information about what the job market needs. Most students have no access to career guidance in their initial stages of course selection. In addition, not many of the business schools professors have the much-needed experience in the real world of business. However, many have a good understanding of the theoretical foundations of the courses they teach. I have also met a few that teach with only one aim, to get paid and they teach whatever courses comes their way. These challenges make some of our business schools unable to do justice to the business graduates.
Having been a student in two business schools and taught in one, I believe there is much more that business schools can do to prepare their students. I liked it that at Park University in Parkville Missouri, we had business professors with hands-on experience; they gave us exposure to real work experience. One of the other business schools that I attended focuses on the broad learning outcomes that cut across all the courses offered at the university. The six learning outcomes at USIU-Africa namely high order thinking, literacy, global understanding and multicultural perspective, preparedness for career, leadership and ethics and community service and development have set the Chandaria School of Business graduates apart. I believe there is more to business school than learning about Michael Porter’s five forces in a strategy class or about transformational leadership theory in leadership class.
Despite spending so many hours in class with other students, I have observed that most business school graduates do not have the much needed people skills. In particular, during their time in college, most students fail to see the important role that interpersonal skills and especially communication plays in their career advancement. Many are also unaware of the need to build relationships with those they work with. In an entrepreneurship course for example, the need to build strong long lasting customer relationships to support business growth may be overlooked. Why don’t business schools teach basic soft skills? Why don’t they put into practice the best business practices such as effective communication? Business schools need to go back to the basics. They need to prepare their graduates for the real world where people skills are in high demand but in short supply.
Lucy Kiruthu is a Management Consultant and Trainer. Connect via twitter @KiruthuLucy