Latest News Archive

Please select Category, Year, and then Month to display items
Years
2017 2018 2019 2020
Previous Archive
09 March 2020 | Story Prof Francis Petersen | Photo Sonia Small
Prof Francis Petersen
Professor Francis Petersen is the Rector and Vice-Chancellor of the University of the Free State

The shortage of skills is a global phenomenon and employers are concerned about the need for skilled professionals to meet the demands of various sectors of their economies. This situation has reached worrying proportions in South Africa, where it has become apparent that there is a nonalignment between the skills graduates are equipped with and those that are required in the workforce. 
Moreover, the continuous contraction of the South African economy is further spurring the unemployment crisis: the weak economic performance is not sufficient to create jobs in line with the growth of the working-age population. It is also evident that skills shortages and a lack of social capital have become a systemic problem that prevents access to jobs. 

Preparing graduates for the world of work
Unemployment in South Africa is about 29%, according to Statistics South Africa’s latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey; the unemployment rate of people between the ages of 15 and 34 years is 56%. Earlier this month, President Cyril Ramaphosa announced in his State of the Nation address that the country is facing its highest unemployment rate since 2008. Referring to youth unemployment as a “crisis”, the president said about two-thirds of the 1.2-million young people entering the labour market each year remain outside employment, education, or training.

There is an argument that a university graduate should not necessarily be job-ready, but must have the ability to think, to adapt and to learn relatively quickly. Even with this expectation, it is critically important to understand the world of work and to have a relationship with the job market. This is not only important from a future employment perspective, but it will also bring the job market closer to the academic curriculum and the research agenda of the university. It goes a long way towards starting to co-create solutions and conceptualising futures that are more inclusive and sustainable.

UFS interventions to improve student success
The University of the Free State (UFS) has taken collaboration with the private sector, industry, and commerce very seriously — most of the academic departments have industrial or sector-specific advisory boards through which robust discussions are taking place concerning the curriculum, appropriate funding to students, interventions to improve student success, challenges of the job market, and which research projects are essential to tackle. Through these boards, a relationship between the university, industry, the private sector, and commerce is established. This is a good starting point not only to address employment, but also to provide a catalyst for optimising an ecosystem to address the country’s economic challenges.  

UFS has also established a Short Learning Programmes office, as we believe that training and retraining workers in an ever-changing job market is essential. 
Our proactiveness in creating platforms of engagement with companies about student recruitment — as well as motivating companies, donors, and funders to employ and fund our top graduates — is evident through the work of our Career Services office. Trends in job placement are identified to help us better understand which markets to tailor our programmes to, and to create corporate partnerships for job-training opportunities. Keeping our students informed about career opportunities and equipping them with the skills and grit to make them employable — whether it is to find employment or to start their own business, is the Career Services’ goal.

Developing an entrepreneurial mindset 
Entrepreneurship has a vital role in combating unemployment. Equipping students with an entrepreneurial mindset is a priority, and “entrepreneurial thinking” is one of the university’s key graduate attributes. 

UFS supports the notion that preparing young jobseekers for the ever-evolving world of work is an integral aspect of their learning at university. We offer a compulsory foundation module to expose all of our first-year students to aspects of entrepreneurship, which are also captured throughout the curriculum.  
The UFS Business School has developed initiatives and training programmes specifically aimed at entrepreneurial enterprises. Our Centre for Business Dynamics works with the business sector, helping companies to stay competitive by bridging the gap between existing skills and those required by each industry. Short courses in entrepreneurship are among the tools they use to achieve this. Practical impetus is provided to students with business ideas through our Student Business Incubator; initiatives such as Young Entrepreneurs and the local chapter of Google’s Startup Grind U further stimulate entrepreneurial thinking.

Solving the skills gap
At UFS, we have found that to help the country in solving the skills gap and allow higher education institutions to thrive, various factors, such as industry, region, and job role are important. It has become all too clear that it is not enough to have only technical knowledge — a combination of skills is required for most jobs as technology becomes an integral part of daily tasks in the workplace. Education efforts should focus on areas that set individuals apart from machines and technology. 

There is a need for graduates to evolve with career opportunities, as many employers consider critical and strategic thinking skills as fundamental in middle-management roles. Collaboration, negotiation, emotional intelligence, cognitive flexibility, and resilience are important abilities in the workplace.

With the right skills and networks, our graduates will be able to secure employment, have enterprising mindsets to support and sustain themselves, and contribute to the development of their communities. 

A strong focus on employability as part of the core business of a university and the ability to equip our graduates with the necessary skills will remain crucial factors in the years to come. Our relationship with industry, the private sector, and commerce is crucial to driving this.

This article was published in the Mail&Guardian newspaper on 6 March 2020


News Archive

Staff, students, learners and the public opened their hearts during R5 coin-laying ceremony
2012-07-19

Photo: Sonia Small
18 July 2012

Amidst a festive atmosphere on the Red Square in front of the Main Building on the Bloemfontein Campus of the University of the Free State (UFS), students, staff, learners and members of the public came together to make their contribution to stop hunger.

In celebration of former president Nelson Mandela’s birthday, the university collected money and food in the form of a coin-laying ceremony, the packing of food parcels, and a message delivered by Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu in aid of the university’s No Student Hungry (NSH) campaign and Bloemfontein Child Welfare.

Representatives from schools in Bloemfontein donated their R5 coins, together with university staff, students, members of the public, and employees of Pick n Pay Hyper. Money collected at the coin-laying ceremony will be shared between NSH and Bloemfontein Child Welfare.

According to Ms Grace Jansen and Ms Carin Buys, patrons of NSH, the more than R42 000 that was collected will be donated to Bloemfontein Child Welfare in an effort by NSH to give back to the community. “We are impressed by the number of people who showed up and by the fact that people opened their hearts and pockets to give,” said Ms Buys.

Thirty employees of Pick n Pay Hyper in Bloemfontein were also present and packed 1 833 food parcels (equivalent to 11 000 meals). This forms part of a Pick n Pay initiative in cooperation with Stop Hunger Now that is being held countrywide today.

In total, 88 000 meals will be distributed in six cities in South Africa today. The 11 000 meals in the Free State have been donated to the university and according to Ms Jansen a social worker at the UFS will distribute it to other needy students. These are students who do not receive bursaries from NSH at the moment. Every food parcel contains rice, dried vegetables, soya, and vitamin and mineral enriched powder.

The university was honoured to have Emeritus Archbishop Desmond Tutu as the speaker at the event. He attended a dialogue in the Series of Dialogue between Science and Society today at the university where he took part in a conversation with Profs. Mark Solms and Pumla Gobodo-Madikizela as part of the Global Leadership Summit.

He made a special appearance at the university’s Nelson Mandela Day festivities. His message was simple but inspiring: “Everyone has, just like Madiba, the capacity to change lives. I hope there are people present who can say that they want to improve someone else’s life. You have the chance to make South Africa a country where no one goes to bed hungry. Help us to make South Africa a country where we have compassion for each other and care for each other”.

The UFS would like to thank the following schools for their contributions: 

Grey Kollege Primêre Skool
Grey Kollege
St Michael's School for Girls
Hoërskool Jim Fouché
Hoërskool Fichardtpark
Hoërskool Sentraal
Navalsig High School
HTS Louis Botha
Eunice High School 


 

We use cookies to make interactions with our websites and services easy and meaningful. To better understand how they are used, read more about the UFS cookie policy. By continuing to use this site you are giving us your consent to do this.

Accept