The University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Division of Student Development and Support (SDS) is reaping the rewards of a programme designed and implemented to address the harsh reality of graduates being suitably qualified, but not necessarily prepared for the world of work. This is mainly due to a lack of ‘employability skills’ demanded by the modern economy’s world of work.
SDS responded with a Graduate Competency Development Programme (GCDP) to enhance workplace readiness for UWC graduates by means of providing internships and structured student assistantships. The aim is to promote professional excellence and for students to acquire real-time experience and practical organisational skills.
Realising that graduates are expected to enter the employment sphere with some work experience and exposure to a formal environment, with an appetite and knack to innovate and be competent problem-solvers, the pilot project was launched in 2019. It was implemented the following year by placing a select group of students in various participating departments within UWC. Today the programme successfully graduated its first students, with some of them employed within the university’s various departments.
Professor Pamela Dube, DVC for Student Development and Support (SDS), said: “This strategic initiative is an important measure to facilitate training, integration, employment and a skilled workforce – and may serve as an inspiration to other institutions who consider introducing a similar programme. It offers an opportunity to gain valuable experience for 18 months across SDS departments and offers the same opportunity for the current cohort of students who are already part of the Division.
“One of the most important tasks in any society is the education and training of our young people. It is key to employment, progress and a strong society and economy. The programme offers a holistic, enabling environment and excellent opportunities for students to develop to their full potential by contributing positively to the betterment of the campus environment and society.
Zenande Mzanzi is one of the graduates of the internship hoping to gain as much work experience as possible.
“It is for this very reason SDS conceptualised the GCDP based on a research study conducted by Mr Winston Middleton. We started implementing the programme and we are pleased to say, it is showing great success. It is all about universities engaging in better collaboration with the skills system to develop different types of work-integrated learning.”
Taran Beukes hails from Mitchells Plain. After matriculating, she attempted “the working thing” but quickly realised that the notion of “working oneself up” in the workplace was somewhat of a utopic one.
“I then returned to varsity full of vigour, completed my BA undergraduate degree and now have my Honours degree in Industrial Psychology. I decided if hard work and sweat was the 21st century key to success, I’d prefer to gladly crawl up that ladder. However, in these times where both qualifications and experience are demanded, I applied for this internship in the hope of attaining the necessary skills and experience that would propel me forward into my career.” said Beukes.
“One of my career anchors is service, and in this internship, I endeavour to serve the institution that has served me. I learned, practised and improved skills that would make me develop holistically and be better equipped for the world of professional work. As a former UWC student, and now classified as a UWC employee, I have been able to see how challenging the work environment can be. That being said, I still feel that my relatability, easy communication, can-do attitude, and teachable nature ensure success in everything I do, even if it requires more than one attempt.”
In the first quarter of 2021, according to Stats SA, the official unemployment rate was 32,6%. This rate was 46,3% among young people aged 15 – 34 years, meaning that almost one in every two young people in the labour force did not have a job. About a quarter (24,4%) of the youth have jobs and 45,3% of them participate in the labour market.