Graduate development critical for future of South Africa

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The skill set of graduate professionals, specifically in the technology arena, is of
paramount importance and yet remains under constant pressure

This is according to Susan Reis, Head of People Effectiveness at technology-based
professional services firm BSG.

The recent annual report by the World Economic Forum, ranked South Africa last
out of 62 countries in terms of maths and science education. Reis says that this is a
reality that BSG is committed to changing, because these subjects are essential for
SA?s economic future - essentially without strength in these domains our youth will
lack critical thinking and the ability to solve problems.

Representatives from BSG currently sit on the boards of several of South Africa?s
Universities including Rhodes University, the University of Stellenbosch, the
Witwatersrand, Fort Hare, Pretoria and University of Cape Town (UCT).

"Our intimate involvement with the institutions helps us witness the changing
nature of our graduates and help to adapt the degrees to suit the modern business
world into which they will be entering.'

On a positive note Reis says that the graduate recruits joining the business are
still helping to define the competitive edge that BSG is known for, namely effective
business analysis coupled with an intimate understanding of technical software
development, with a specific focus on user interface (UI) and user experience (UX).

"It?s becoming more prevalent in our industry that graduates from degrees such
as Information Systems (Hons) and Computer Science (Hons) arrive with far more
interest and experience in the aspects of UI and UX development than in years
past.'

In addition, she says that their understanding of the cloud and its applications is
becoming more superior to former graduates. "Our clients usually have a good idea
of what they want, but the message often gets lost in the communication between
the business and their IT departments. That?s where we come in - to partner with
them in translating the message, and developing an adequate, usually technology-
based solution to meet the challenge.'

Graduate recruitment is at the forefront of BSG?s talent attraction programme
and the company takes on between 15 and 20 graduates each year. "For a mid-
sized company of 160 staff, this is a substantial intake, and something that we pride
ourselves on,' says Reis.

The company recruits talent mainly from Computer Science and Information
Systems honours and has a comprehensive 12 month development programme to
support the Graduates transition into the workplace and in the first foundational step
in their career. Reis says that these degrees, coupled with the internal development
programme, schools the graduates for the two main streams of the business: the
software development division and the client-facing consultants. Our clients expect
the very best and that is what we deliver.

Many of the senior staff at the company joined BSG as a result of the graduate
intake programme. Reis mentions that both the Head of Professional Services, Ian
Munro and Head of Strategy, Gary Stocks were once upon a time masters graduates,
both from UCT.

Reis says that majority of the graduate and more senior employee intake is based
on a culture fit rather than driven by elements like package or perks. "Our business
is not about the "what?, it?s about the "why?. We?re all about striving to be a
proactive force for positive change. We were blessed with great educations and we
now have the opportunity to step up and pay it forward.'

Reis says that seventeen years ago she was involved in the conception of BSG
and it amazes her everyday how new team members and social trends influence the
way in which the business shifts. "The changing capability of our graduates, and the
way it affects our business, is just another endorsement of our talent attraction
programme from University level.'

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