Top private education experts have found a good way to improve the employment
prospects of new graduates by focusing specifically on what employers want, over and
above the skills and knowledge that come directly from the curriculum.
And, according to Dr Felicity Coughlan, Director of The Independent Institute of
Education, the success of one work-readiness campaign – driven by Rosebank College
in the past year which led to the direct placement of 548 graduates – could have
lessons in it for others.
She says finding employment after graduation remains a key challenge for all
students in SA.
“The issue of graduate employment has been high on both educators’ and the
government’s agendas and employers are being called on to open their doors to
interns through mentorship and empowerment programmes.
“Those trying to unpack the issues impacting on graduate employment opportunities
note various problems ranging from a lack of match between employer expectations and
graduate skills to the overall state of the economy and the tough global economic
“But there are some pockets of excellence which seem to have overcome these problems
and there are learnings from graduate employment plans which could be useful,” she
Lillian Bususu, National Graduate Development Manager of Rosebank College, says the
success in its employment project for graduates was largely driven by focusing on
the direct feedback from client organisations about the attributes that new
graduates most need.
“We worked with particular employers to understand what it is that they needed and
undertook to supply students that best met these standards.
“Success in our initial placements resulted in further opportunities for students
and has now led to a stable relationship between the campuses and the targeted set
of employers. This was supplemented by skills training and grooming sessions with
the graduates, to develop the less tangible attributes needed.”
Dr Coughlan says Rosebank College was part of the Independent Institute of
Education’s Work Readiness Programme, which prepares students for the world of work
beyond their curriculum.
“They used our work readiness programme as a platform and supplemented this with
targeted matching of graduates with particular employers.
“The programme focuses on the key things employers are looking for: verbal and
written communication including effective listening; personal organisational skills;
technical proficiency; and a demonstrable ability to solve problems, make decisions
and generate solutions.
“Employers also want graduates who have the ability to work in a team while
retaining ownership of individual outputs. This is a skill which is of huge value to
employers. Rosebank College adapted its programme to include developing student
understanding of team dynamics and their individual contributions to their team’s
She says a further area receiving increasing focus, particularly for entry-level
positions, is a real understanding of customer service.
“Customers have become far more demanding and aware of their consumer rights.
Graduates need to understand what huge risks there could be for an employer and
their overall brand perception in the wake of bad customer service. They need to
understand what it means to be an employee and have clearer understanding of
“The most important thing we add to the knowledge and skills our graduates already
have is the work ready skills employers most want. We want to graduates to
understand that their new employers expect them to provide a return on their salary
investment as soon as possible.
“I think the success of the programme is evidence of what is possible when higher
education colleges focus specifically on the things that employers say they are not
finding in the current pool of available graduates,” she said.
According to Statistics SA’s Population and Social Statistics, about 4.5 million
people were looking for work in the fourth quarter of 2012. About 61.3% of the job
seekers did not have matric.
Figures show the unemployment rate remains high among those between 15-24 years of
age (50.9%). Of the total 10.4 million in this age group, 3.3 million (31.6%) were
not currently studying or working.