The #FeesMustFall movement is running riot, and free tertiary education is the demand, but
is the higher education system already producing too many graduates? Are there enough
opportunities in the labour market for every new graduate every year?
By examining the government’s quality indicators for learning and teaching, it is possible to
measure students’ experience, satisfaction and graduate employment outcomes. It is
essential to analyse how well the higher education system is meeting labour market needs,
and design innovative employer satisfaction surveys to assess the technical skills, generic skills
and work readiness of graduates.
Gizelle McIntyre, Director at The Institute of People Development (IPD), reports that South
Africa has one of the highest rates of public investment in education in the world. “At about
seven percent of gross domestic product (GDP) and 20 percent of total state expenditure, the
government spends more on education than on any other sector. Government spending on
basic education during 2015/16 is estimated at R203 468 billion.”
A recent study has revealed that only 0.07 percent of more than a million employees
permanently employed in South Africa hold a PhD, despite universities reportedly producing
14 155 PhDs in the ten-year period from 2002 to 2012. “The study, which looked at the
employability of PhD graduates in South Africa, indicates that graduates are struggling to find
employment in the country.”
According to Dr Amaleya Goneos-Malka, Post-Doctoral Research Fellow at the University of
Pretoria, PhD graduates are often excluded from the recruitment space because they are seen
as overqualified by human resource personnel. Goneos-Malka says that the first part of the
study looked at recent PhD graduates from 14 leading South African universities and
considered graduates’ perspectives and perceptions of the employment space. Fifty percent
of PhD graduates had either experienced, or had peers who had experienced difficulties
finding employment.
What then, you may ask, is the point? McIntyre believes the answer lies in ensuring work
readiness. “Approximately 600 000 university graduates are languishing at home, unable to
put into practice what they have learned,” says Labour Market Analyst, Loane Sharp). The
reality is that university qualifications are not the only qualities employers look for when
recruiting. “A lack of work experience, however, is another significant drawback,” confirms
McIntyre. “Most graduates in search of jobs either lack work experience, practical “on-thejob knowledge”, and the supervisory skills they need – or their degrees are irrelevant to the
job market. The South African Graduates Development Association (Sagda) blames a number
of factors for the country’s growing graduate unemployment crisis. One of them is
successfully matching those with skills to the jobs which require them.”
How can this problem be solved? According to Dreyfus and Dreyfus, “constructive workplace
learning is directed at shifting the individual from being merely competent to becoming
proficient or expert.” Various work readiness initiatives are available, including Learnerships,
PIVOTAL Grants and Workplace Learning, and PIVOTAL Programmes.
These initiatives should be aimed at meeting the scarce skills needs. “Scarce and critical skills
refer to an absolute or relative demand, current or future, for skilled, qualified and
experienced people to fill particular roles, professions, occupations or specialisations in the
labour market,” concludes McIntyre.

  • ENDS –

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *