Wits graduates being failed by government internship delays

The university released its Wits Graduate Exit Survey‚ which seeks to determine the employment status of its graduates.
The university released its Wits Graduate Exit Survey‚ which seeks to determine the employment status of its graduates.
Image: Clement Lekanyane

Doctors‚ teachers and other professionals awaiting internship placement by the government are among the 19% unemployed graduates on the books of the University of the Witwatersrand.

The university on Thursday released its Wits Graduate Exit Survey‚ which seeks to determine the employment status of its graduates.

Overall‚ 52% of the respondents were employed‚ of which 97% found work within six months of completing their studies.

Nearly three in 10 (29%) were furthering their studies‚ while nearly two in 10 (19%) listed themselves as unemployed - including those awaiting government internships.

The survey targeted Witsies who were capped at graduation ceremonies between March 2017 and July 2018.

Nearly 14‚000 attended graduation during this period‚ of which around 6‚000 responded to the survey.

The private sector is the largest employer of Wits graduates‚ with 51% of those surveyed stating that they are in this sector.

Government employs 31% while 4% of respondents are in civil society and self-employed.

Of those who found work‚ 60% are in professions directly related to their field of study‚ while 17% are in somewhat related fields.

A substantial 97% of employed humanities graduates also secured employment within six months‚ defying the perception that humanities skills are not in demand‚ the university said.

"These findings are gratifying and reflect the quality of a Wits education. Our mission is to produce graduates who have relevant content knowledge‚ are also able to engage with the changing world‚ and can apply their knowledge in various settings‚" said Prof Andrew Crouch‚ deputy vice-chancellor: academic.

The knowledge economy requires that individuals become specialists and build on their first qualification to remain competitive‚ the university said‚ noting that many of its students were cognisant of this: "There is definitely a shift in the number of people pursuing postgraduate studies‚ raising the aspirations of the continent."

Other key findings include:

29% of the respondents were furthering their studies full-time or part-time. Women constitute 62% of those studying further. Men continue to dominate in the faculty of engineering and the built environment (EBE)‚ whether in enrolment or graduation numbers.

At 10%‚ EBE has the lowest number of graduates pursuing further studies and men constitute 65% of those who are studying further. 53% of graduates surveyed from the science faculty were pursuing further studies‚ with employability increasing with a postgraduate qualification.

South Africa’s total entrepreneurial activity is low compared with other developing nations‚ Wits noted. Only 1% of graduates indicated that they were self-employed.

The university intends to grow the number of Witsies who consider entrepreneurship as a viable option. As of 2019‚ all Wits programmes will have an element that promotes entrepreneurship‚ in addition to existing initiatives such as the Centre for Entrepreneurship and incubators at Tshimologong.

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