The University of the Western Cape’s (UWC) Division of Student Development and Support (SDS) successfully graduated its first students' programme designed and implemented to address the harsh reality of graduates being suitably qualified due to no work experience but not necessarily prepared for the work industry.
A former UWC student and graduate of the programme, Taran Beukes from Mitchells Plain, said: “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.
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 programme aims to promote professional excellence and for students to acquire real-time experience and practical organisational skills.
“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,” said the DVC for Student Development and Support (SDS), Professor Pamela Dube.
The pilot project was launched in 2019 after 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.
According to Prof Dube, the SDS conceptualised the GCDP based on a research study. “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.”
A Stats SA report revealed in that the first quarter of 2021, 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.
Zenade Mzantsi from the Eastern Cape, one of the graduates of the programme, said: “I applied for the internship because it is a familiar community where I used to serve while I was a student and where I hope to gain work experience and skills. By representing the department and their services, I hope to be relatable to the students and to become an impactful part of the development of the student community. With this internship, I hope to acquire new soft, hard and networking skills.”