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Graduate Development Trends in South Africa: Initial Findings

By Cathy Sims

The South African Graduate Employers (SAGEA) recently conducted a study of organisational practice in graduate development.  The study included 90 organisations representing some of the largest and most well respected graduate programmes in South Africa.

Interesting highlights of the study included the following:

  • The main objectives for Employers who invest in graduate programmes are to build talent to support future leader pipelines, followed by a focus on developing scarce and critical skills;
  • In most cases, the agenda to build talent is sponsored by EXCO with more than half of companies embedding their graduates into their overall Talent management process.
  • A major focus in the last five years has been on doubling efforts to hire Equity candidates;
  • Many employers have focussed on building structure around entry level graduate intakes with most graduate programmes lasting between 24 and 36 months;
  • Employers indicated that graduates are well prepared for the world of work when it comes to team work, IT literacy and Interpersonal Communication. There tend to be gaps in areas such as problem solving and managing ambiguity and these skills require further development.

 Our study highlighted the following areas for further development:

  • While studies such as the SAGEA Candidate Insights and the Universum annual student research indicate that job security is high on the priority list for graduates seeking entry level opportunities as many as two-thirds of employers in South Africa are offering contract as opposed to permanent positions.  This is in stark contrast to the Australian and UK markets where the number of employers offering entry-level contracts are 20% and 30% respectively.  One wonders whether the legislation and funding models from SETAs is what drives this behaviour, though this requires further investigation;
  • Two thirds of employers use Psychometrics as part of their selection and assessment process though there is, in our view, a need for employers to ensure that they are clear on the intent of their programmes and what it is they are looking for. For example, “resilience” and “future potential” are regarded as important constructs but these tend to be measured by process-orientated rather than content-orientated assessments;
  • Employers invest significant resources in the development of graduates though few are  assessing the impact of these interventions or measuring their return on investment;
  • Three-quarters of employers indicated that retention of equity candidates was a primary concern for them but not enough is being done to track retention rates by race and gender which would provide data-driven evidence of trends and possibly reveal a clearer understanding of the key drivers of attrition.

The SAGEA study forms an initial review of graduate development practice in South Africa and it is our intention to use this as a base to set benchmarks and develop best practice guidelines in the future.  We look forward to engaging with as many employers as possible to enhance the experiences and development of our graduates and future leaders.

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Executive Director, South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA)

Sims@talk.co.za

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