Assessing work-based values: The missing link in improving youth employability
Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges are intended to equip youths with work-relevant skills, but the capacity of the labour market to absorb them is limited and South Africa has high levels of unemployment. Employers argue that young work-seekers from TVET colleges may well possess technical skills but lack employability skills, including appropriate work-based attitudes and values. In response to this scenario, a team of experts designed a short, interactive programme for TVET college students to acquire an improved understanding of and insight into their own values and how these inform their behaviour in the workplace. The values selected were respect, accountability, self-improvement and perseverance. The programme’s intended outcome was to increase the participants’ awareness of the link between values and their actions so that they could improve their own decision-making and their relationships with colleagues in the workplace. Following this programme, the students were afforded a period of workplace exposure during which they were required to reflect on their experience and how workplace behaviour revealed their own and work colleagues’ underlying values. A crucial challenge for the project team was to be able to measure any impact on the participants’ understanding of the values and how this understanding might guide their behaviour. The focus of this article is on how the assessment instrument was conceptualised, designed and piloted in South Africa and Kenya. The instrument was required to measure effectively any changes in the participants’ understanding of the meaning of each value and the adjustments in their ability to apply the values in real work-based scenarios.