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New programme launched to help reduce the high rate of graduate unemployment

Thabo Mohlala

One of the common reasons graduates struggle to find employment is the misalignment of their expectations and those of the potential employers, said Sabelo Mbuku, head of communications at the Transport Education and Training Authority (Teta).

Mbuku was talking to SABC news on Friday about the Work Readiness Programme (WRP) which Teta has introduced to help graduates adequately prepare for the job market. The programme provides graduates with soft skills that most take for granted but which, he says, are crucial to ensure they are ready to work.

Mbuku said qualifications are just certification of one’s academic achievements but they are not enough to land a graduate a job. He said employers wanted someone who will hit the ground running and help the company to achieve or increase its profit margins.

“Qualifications somehow get into one’s [graduate’s] head because you raise your expectations based on them and forget that the employer is more concerned with productivity and profits. And now when you walk into that company and are not ready to deliver to the expectations of the company -irrespective of your qualifications -; chances are you may not get the job because in the eyes of the employer you are not ready for the job. You need to be prepared so that when you get employed you become productive and this is what will excite the employer,” said Mbuku.

Nomalungelo Nkabinde, one of the beneficiaries of the programme, shared her experiences. Qualified with a diploma in logistics, she said she also struggled to find a job. She said things changed for the better when she decided to volunteer instead of looking for a fulltime job. She underwent two months’ theoretical programme and spent four months with the host employer to gain practical experience and she finally got placed.

She said she found this very helpful as it exposed her to a real work situation, adding that graduates need to change their attitudes. “To me, attitude is everything, for instance, when I started on this programme I used to earn R2, 500, which is sponsored by Teta. And when I told other graduates they looked at me with disbelief because they felt it was too little,” said Nkabinde.

“When you have high expectations you are going to look at things like salaries; that I have a Masters’ degree and I should be earning so much. And only to realise that you have to start at the low end and that will certainly cause some discomfort. So we need to close that gap so that we increase the appetite and help you to tone down your expectations to realistic levels,” said Mbuku.

He said a graduate who has gone through the programme not only has a point of reference but is also taught how to apply for a job and this opens up opportunities for an interview.  “And by the time you are interviewed for a potential employment in the future, you have been through all these processes. It is no longer a shock for you and so you’ve got to be ready before the opportunity comes because when that opportunity presents itself and you are not ready, you might miss it and it may not come back again,” added Mbuku.

He said in most instances when graduates walked into a workplace they realised their expectations could not be met as they thought. What WRP does is to get them to minimise their expectations by giving them valuable soft skills that prepare them for the work environment.

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