John Keells takes its popular Soft Skills workshops to the University of Colombo

Another successful edition of The Final Step soft skills workshops for University undergraduates was conducted by John Keells Foundation at the University of Colombo from 7th – 9th April 2015. The programme was conducted in collaboration with the Faculty of Management & Finance, attracting over 160 undergraduates each day. “The Final Step soft skills workshops organized by John Keells Foundation were very useful for me to develop my soft skills. All the content in every lecture was very resourceful to discover a new knowledge,” said Ranga Yudara, a final year student of the Department of Human Resources Management.

Conducted for the twelfth successive time in a Sri Lankan University, the main objective of this programme is to enhance the employability of local graduates by providing them a realistic perspective of employment opportunities in Sri Lanka and preparing them for the demands of the private sector, as the country’s primary employer. The 2 ½ day programme consisted of a series of five workshops which covered a wide range of topics including `Employer Expectations’, `Team Building and Leadership Skills’, `Personality Development and Confidence Building’, `Adapting to the Corporate Environment’, `Personal Grooming’ and `Corporate Hospitality’.

Addressing the gathering, Ms. Carmeline Jayasuriya, Head of Operations, John Keells Foundation said, “The CSR vision of John Keells is “Empowering the Nation for Tomorrow”; we are deeply committed to empowering young graduates like you – our future leaders – for the demands of the world of work. I believe our graduates have the knowledge and talent to succeed anywhere, but their “softer skills” need to be developed to give them that extra edge. Through workshops such as this, we hope to provide students with the tools to unleash their full potential and empower them to be successful in their future careers. We named this programme ‘The Final Step‘ because we believe it facilitates our undergraduates to step out of academic learning and step into the next phase of life – the world of work.”

The programme which was initiated in 2006 is conducted in collaboration with the University Grants Commission (UGC) and the respective Universities. Speaking at the opening ceremony, Professor P.S.M. Gunaratne, Vice Chairman of the UGC, noted, “This initiative is an important one as it addresses the gap between what university students learn and what is expected of them by their employers. Soft skills are a vital part and parcel of our life skills. Many of our graduates lack these skills which in turn makes it hard for them to stand out in such a competitive job market. Programmes such as this are considered with the highest priority and importance at the UGC. Many students do not get this opportunity, I hope that both graduates and education providers are mindful of this, and more initiatives are taken to develop these skills.” 

The sessions on `Employer Expectations’ and ‘Team Building & Leadership Skills’ were conducted in the form of panel discussions involving senior management personnel representing diverse backgrounds and years of experience, particularly in the private sector. The panel comprised Mr. Ronnie Peiris – Group Finance Director, John Keells Holdings PLC, Ms. Sharmini Ratwatte – Non-Executive Director MAS Group, Ms. Dilani Alagaratnam, President – HR, Legal, Secretarial, Sustainability and CSR, John Keells Holdings PLC, Dr. Harsha Alles, Chairman, Gateway Group and Mr. Dileep Mudadeniya – Head of Brand Marketing, Cinnamon Hotels & Resorts with Mr. Rohan Amirthiah Director, Wurth Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd. as the Chair/Moderator of the panel discussions. Praveen Fernando, a 3rd Year student of the Department of Marketing said, “The workshops provided useful knowledge and skills that would undoubtedly have an impact on our lives. I would like to express my sincere gratitude and appreciation to the Panelists for giving their valuable time to be a part of this workshop despite their busy schedules as well as the Faculty and especially John Keells Foundation for organizing this event.”

Workshops conducted by professional trainers followed, with participants being guided on how to draft an effective CV, successfully face an interview, enter and adapt to the work environment, practical tips on developing personality and confidence as well as improving personal hygiene and grooming as well as social etiquette. The interactive presentations on Personality Development & Confidence Building and Adapting to the Corporate Environment were conducted by Ms. Manique Mendis – Executive Director, Rainbow Resources Lanka (Pvt.) Ltd., while those on Personal Grooming and Corporate Hospitality were conducted by Ms. Nayana Karunaratne – Director Image Consultants. “We learnt many things about speaking in public, being confident, etc. The things we learnt today will be of great help to face the challenges we would face in the future”, said Anjali, a 3rd year student of the Faculty of Management & Finance.  

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