Mother was right, a good attitude and hard work will get you far! This is according to the results of the European Union-funded study that evaluated the perceptions of students, industry and lecturers in the United Kingdom, South Africa and Finland.
The study is part of the ‘Strengthening university-enterprise cooperation in South Africa to support regional development by enhancing lifelong learning skills, social innovations and inclusivity (SUCSESS)’ project. Its specific focus is on collaboration between universities and industry. By benchmarking against best practice, the project will show how students can benefit through experiential learning, project-based learning, and inquiry learning.
The study surveyed 509 students, 40 lecturers and 28 representatives of different industries across the three countries. It aimed to establish the extent to which the teaching environment is preparing students for careers by improving the competencies and skills required by industry; and secondly, how collaboration between higher education institutions and industry is contributing to their work-readiness. The students surveyed are studying in one of three areas: tourism, hospitality management and business management.
According to the study, some of the attributes that top the list of what industry wants from graduates include a constant willingness to learn, good communication skills, a good work ethic and a positive attitude.
Apart from the required technical skills and knowledge, graduates who exhibit personality traits such as adaptability and person skills (a service orientation, attentiveness, friendliness, and an outgoing nature) are preferred by industry.
Even though the study got underway before COVID-19 hit South Africa, the serious impact of the measures taken necessitated the researchers to question industry players on how they believe the COVID-19 pandemic will affect the workplace, and how graduates could ensure that they stand the best chance of gaining employment. While the reality of the negative impact on jobs could not be denied, industry did give some guidelines.
According to the report, industry advises students to demonstrate the right attitude, which encompasses passion, flexibility, creativity, a willingness to learn, tenacity and grit, and also going the extra mile. Students should also work towards self-employment in this time.