The Department of Historical and Heritage Studies in the Faculty of Humanities, with Prof Berendien Lubbe as lead researcher on the project, has, in partnership with the Universities of Oulu and Haaga-Helia in Finland, the Sheffield-Hallum University in the UK, and the Universities of Johannesburg and Zululand in South Africa, been awarded substantial EU-funding on the Erasmus Plus Capacity Building in Higher Education programme for a three-year period commencing in 2020.
The project, entitled “Strengthening university-enterprise cooperation in South Africa to support regional development by enhancing lifelong learning skills, social innovations and inclusivity (SUCSESS)” was one of only 15% of successful global applications. The “SUCSESS” project aims at strengthening the co-operation between higher education institutes and enterprises in South Africa to support the employability of graduates, particularly from tourism and business programmes. The project will look at best case practices in Europe, particularly in Finland, where strategies to improve the employability of students by strengthening the cooperation with business life though internships and projects commissioned by enterprises and other organisations linked to various courses, have been very successful. Pedagogical approaches like experiential learning, project-based learning and inquiry learning are widely used at universities in many parts of Europe and is focussed on producing knowledge, skills, and competences that can be used in working life. This approach is also gaining traction in South Africa and is very much in line with national policies to enhance levels of employment and stimulate entrepreneurship. The application and use of information and communication technologies (ICTs) in the learning environment will play a major role in the project, both from a student as well as educator perspective. The overall idea is to support an inclusive and sustainable economy through good corporate and cooperative governance, strategic partnerships and collaboration, innovation and knowledge management.
Prof Berendien Lubbe, who is a Research Associate specialising in tourism in the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies, says that the project was born from a deep concern about unemployment in South Africa, particularly amongst the youth. She says that tourism as a growing, global and labour-intensive industry is well-positioned for both formal job-creation and for stimulating entrepreneurship. Tourism has also been identified by President Ramaphosa as a “priority” industry for job creation. There is broad consensus amongst leading tourism organisations, academics and practitioners that job creation in the tourism industry is dependent on increased levels of both foreign and domestic investment (in transport and tourism infrastructure as well as technology), appropriate education and innovative products and services to meet the changing demographics and needs of tourists. Demand/supply skills mismatch is increasingly being viewed as a critical issue for tourism.
Prof Karen Harris, Head of the Department of Historical and Heritage Studies, believes that the “SUCSESS” project will make a tangible contribution to the tourism sector in South Africa building both private and public capacity and aligns with some of the research already undertaken in the Department. In addition, she points out that this project also aligns with the UN Development Programme's Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), specifically Goal 8 which is to “promote inclusive and sustainable economic growth, employment and decent work for all”. Moreover, tourism is highlighted in Target 8.9 which states that by 2030, the aim is to devise and implement policies to promote sustainable tourism that creates jobs and promotes local culture and products.