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Graduate Jobs?

by Janine Basel

Are There Any Jobs for University Graduates?

THE GOOD NEWS about Graduate Jobs:

According to a report conducted by Stellenbosch University published April 2013, commissioned by The Centre for Development and Enterprise, only 5% of graduates are unemployed.

This is a significant finding in a country plagued by high unemployment. Consider further, the increase in the number of graduates in the market; from 463 000 in 1995 to 1,1 million in 2011, then these statistics are even more note-worthy.


The above notwithstanding, many of us can quote authoritatively on how many young graduates we know without jobs! It is true that of the graduates looking for work, the higher percentage of unemployed graduates is young graduates (20 – 29 year olds), and only 2% unemployment for 40 – 65 year olds. Of course the reason for this is a discussion in itself, and includes lack-of-work experience, peripheral “soft” skills and perhaps too-high first job expectations.

The other study of significance is the Adcorp Labour Statistics. This shows higher graduate unemployment numbers, but has been criticized for lack of accuracy.

Now the question becomes: How broad is the category for the term ‘Graduates’? Referring to the CDE Study, this includes graduates with a Bachelors degree or higher from a University. Other reports including Adcorp and other Labour statistics, usually refer to Graduates as a broader term encompassing any tertiary education including FET colleges and private tertiary institutions.

So, Now What?

Firstly there has to be an emphasis on choosing a well-reputed university at which to do your degree. The obvious fact is that not all tertiary institutions are created equal! Make use of international reports and question future potential employers in your prospective field. They are surprisingly open on this topic.

The lowest graduate unemployment at 4% includes accountants, lawyers, medical doctors and engineers, and there is only 3.1% unemployment for those in the commerce, science and actuarial science fields.

The student needs to be raised throughout university on “soft” skills – ability to communicate, think critically, work in teams, problem solving, time-management and the softest of the “soft” skills: listening.

Graduates need to take whatever work experience they can during the course of their university career. This article on “Job Guarantee” gives a good strategy to follow throughout university to ensure job eligibility..

Tips for you

Once graduated, take an entry-level position. Once you have a foot in the door, then your own abilities and ambition will take you places. Take advantage of the University Career and Counselling services. It is in the university’s interests to have their graduates employed. There are a good number of learnership programs which very often lead to full time employment. Seek them out.

A last point to take away, is that in this labour protected climate, employers are risk-averse to new hires and are looking for people to hit the ground running. Repeated surveys show that companies need workers that are motivated, flexible and self organized and knowing the fundamentals of office life. Take advantage of vacation work, and internships after graduation to be as well prepared as you can be.

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