More graduate programmes needed to ensure work-readiness among SA youth
In the past 15 years, graduate employment has risen in South Africa, despite the country’s exceptionally high unemployment rate. While a third of people are jobless, graduate unemployment has declined to under 5%. This according to new research by a leading think-tank, the Johannesburg-based Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE).
“The myth that graduates are struggling to find work can be set aside for now,” says Natalie Rabson, Marketing Manager at Boston City Campus & Business College. “The problem, however, is that graduates who are entering the workplace are not ready for it and a clear skills gap exists between what employers are looking for, and what graduates are capable of offering.”
In a 2009 study on South African graduates from the perspective of employers, it was already highlighted that a disparity exists between the expectations of employers and the work-readiness of graduates and that those expectations exceeded the level of work-readiness.
It has become clear that tertiary institutions need to do much more to help their graduates become work-ready. Surely this cannot entirely be their responsibility? Business and industry have to be held accountable as well – whilst universities or colleges are there to help graduates develop analytical and reasoning skills, business does have a role to play in getting students ready for work.
Fortunately, it does seem that things are changing for the better and some tertiary institutions are finding themselves driven towards producing graduates more fully prepared for the workplace. This needs to grow, and tertiary institutions and corporates need to create dialogue and communicate on workplace skills and experience. Education, therefore, needs to ensure that it is meeting the needs of its ultimate objective, the employer, and this can only happen if there’s more dialogue between colleges, universities, and employers in general. Boston has found that the best way to encourage this is by increased interaction and placement of students into internships and workplace opportunities as part of their course or degree requirements,” says Rabson.
Graduates also need to be properly matched to businesses in ways that focus on business needs. Taking more care in the placement of learners into the correct career, and then the placement of graduates into internships or work-experience opportunities, whether at corporate, government or SME level, will see a huge improvement in the success of workplace skills development. For this reason, Boston has offered the Career Compass, an assessment of one’s interests and attitude, free, for over 20 years. “Matching your education to your passion is one of the greatest instruments for academic and professional success,” says Rabson.
Boston City Campus & Business College, for example, has for years now directly taken on this challenge faced by students. “Yes, getting the necessary qualification is important, but acquiring hands-on experience and skills to help further one’s business knowledge and one’s understanding of workplace culture is as important. That’s why Boston has a recruitment office with a full-time manager. Through this office, students get the opportunity to interview for positions and apply, and often secure an internship or employment. Whilst internships can lead to permanent employment, the overall experience gives learners the chance to spruce up their CV’s and build experience in a real-world working environment,” says Rabson.
Boston has also launched the unique Graduate+ programme. This gives learners the confidence that their future is secure with the institution behind them. Those who opt into this programme, and meet the requirements, will be offered one of three options on graduating if they do not manage to secure employment within 6 months. These include assistance in finding employment, a postgraduate diploma for free, or a cash incentive that will support you will you continue to seek employment.
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