Botho University had invited industry chiefs and human resource managers to an evening of leadership and talent with emeritus professor of organisational behaviour at INSEAD, Paul Evans, early in the week.
Vice chancellor Sheela Raja Ram said in her welcome remarks that there is a chain of blame as the industry complains that graduates are not job-ready and universities say students that come for first-year are highly under-prepared.
“We really need to focus on the solution to this huge issue. It has a really big impact on how our economy in Africa can grow into the future. We are like the three blind men trying to figure out what the elephant looks like; we have our own perceptions and vested interest therefore there is no point where we have to sit and come to a common understanding,” Raja Ram noted.
She said they recognised early in their 22 years of existence the importance of reinforcing core disciplinary skills, core disciplinary knowledge with soft skills.
“For a lot of this to happen it needs to happen outside the classroom. A combination of learning and meaningful application and in the space between industry and classroom is the space where this happens,” the vice chancellor said urging industry players to work together with learning institutions to find creative ways to work with each other to solve industry problems.
Evans, who has been a member of the Botho University advisory council, said that the industrial revolution is making middle skilled jobs disappear extremely fast because of automation. Evans said universities need to prepare students for this changing environment by introducing out-of-the classroom programmes that will help bridge the gaps.
The professor noted that human resource departments now want personality or good social and collaborative skills rather than just good technical skills.
“People with social collaborative skills learn fast and are high potential people because of their ability to work with other people. Innovation is networking and collaborating with other people,” Evans said.
He went on to urge the industry to go back to basics when things get complex. People, he said, learn through challenges but one has to balance that with managing the risk. According to the professor, rotating employees and coaching is the way to develop leaders.
He further urged the industry to keep doors open for students to learn what is happening in the world of work as a way of bridging the gap.