In addition to incorporating business and workplace skills related learning in undergraduate programmes, the widely posited graduate incubation system provides an effective approach in equipping unemployed graduates with the required knowledge and skills to undertake successful entrepreneurial ventures. However, as is the case with most social challenges, this will require a collaborative undertaking between South Africa’s education, private and public sectors.
Here, unlike existing graduate development programmes, these incubation programmes need to adopt a more generic business upskilling approach instead of focusing on upskilling graduates to take on specific roles within an organisation. Developing this type of general business experience, skills and authority in their chosen fields will greatly contribute towards improving new graduates’ employability and the likelihood of becoming successful, sustainable entrepreneurs.
But the overall benefit is not only skewed to graduates. Businesses stand to benefit from accessing a very deep talent pool of work-ready professionals thereby eliminating the ongoing challenge of having to employ graduates that are far from work-ready.
In the end, it is simply not viable to have universities focus on imparting core knowledge and skills to undergraduates in the current systems and then sending them out into the world of work and hope that some organisation will employ them, when in reality businesses are looking to employ work-ready graduates who are able to hit the ground running.
Unfortunately, however, the recent track record shown between tertiary institutions and business in sharing responsibility for education and professional development is not a good one. And what is urgently required is for academia and industry, together with government support and funding, to work together to ensure a work-ready pool of graduates with base qualifications.
Not only is this a far more responsible systematic education model, but ultimately adopting this systematic and highly integrated approach is also more practical for students. Ultimately, it has the potential to greatly improve the probability of employment and ongoing career success for the country’s graduates, providing a viable solution to the ever-widening skills gap.