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BUSINESS DAY

The long wait of the


unemployed commerce
graduate
BY PRINESHA NAIDOO, APRIL 29 2013, 10:22
A DEGREE in commerce once held the key
to a successful career in business. But two
years after graduating with a BCom in
financial risk management from Unisa,
Nkola Kabamba can still not find a job.
"As soon as we finished high school, they
told us there is a shortage of BCom graduates not that (when you graduate) people wont
hire you cos they want experience," he says. How can one "get experience without a job",
he asks.
A lack of work experience and specialised skills among commerce graduates has come to
be recognised as a barrier to securing employment.
It remains to be seen whether the multibillion-rand youth employment accord between the
government, business and labour will live up to the intentions of its signatories and create
jobs and training opportunities for inexperienced job seekers.
Mr Kabamba is part of the legions of South Africas 40% of unemployed youth one of the
highest in the world, and with a considerable number of graduates among them.
He is among the 4.5-million people who Statistics SA classifies as officially unemployed in
that he is available to work, would like to work and is actively looking for a job. While Mr
Kabamba has not found that job yet, his degree puts him in a stronger position than the
many without tertiary qualifications.
A recent report by the Centre for Development and Enterprise found that the number of
people with degrees has grown rapidly since 1995. And the vast majority have found
employment.
The study says in 1995 there were about 460,000 graduates in the work force, 4% of whom
were unemployed.
By 2011, there were more than 1-million graduates in the work force, with 5% unemployed.




BUSINESS DAY
But BCom graduates, in particular, struggle to find employment as they lack specialist and
practical skills required by business. Another reason is the poor health of the economy.
Mr Kabamba, like many other graduates, pursued a commerce degree to enhance his job
prospects partly owing to the impression that commerce graduates will "always" be in
demand. But he is living proof that this is not the case.
A marketing manager at Landelahni Recruitment Group, Tasneem Mohamed, says a BCom
degree is "simply a minimum requirement" for an entry-level finance position.
Among schemes meant to provide BCom graduates, and others with equivalent
qualifications, with work experience, is the Business Hub and Skills Training Programme,
launched by the South African Institute of Chartered Accountants (Saica) and the
Department of Economic Development last year.
Speaking of the programmes first phase in which graduates are taught both soft and hard
skills in simulated and virtual office environments, Saicas project director for transformation
and growth, Byron Riddle, likened it to a pilot learning how to fly.
"They dont go out into a real plane until simulation is done," he says. Once the graduates
earn their wings, they move to the second phase. In this phase, Mr Riddle says, graduates
work with the Small Enterprise Finance Agency to "assist clients with back office accounting
support". Mr Riddle says of the 100 participating graduates, 15 are retained by Saica and
70% are placed in employment.
But this still does not absorb all commerce graduates. Some, unable to find gainful
employment, have opted to study further. Emily Adendorff is one. She has a BCom, an
honours degree in economics and a postgraduate degree in law. She is completing another
honours degree in financial management.
Her decision to keep studying is motivated by what she terms "overspecialised job profiles",
which require skills often not included in her university curriculum.
Despite her good intentions, this may not have been the wisest choice. Craig Thompson, MD
of staff recruitment agency Michael Page SA, says the "general employer perception is too
much time in an academic institution means that candidates have not had sufficient
exposure to the working world and the associated work ethic and pressure that comes with
it".
But there are graduates, such as Carla Tarin, now a senior trainee accountant, who have
never experienced the ills of job hunting. KPMG awarded Ms Tarin a bursary in

BUSINESS DAY
2008, on the strength of her matric results. As part of the bursary, she is serving her articles
at the firm.
While most graduates crave some success, Fiona Johnson, a human resources expert at
KPMG, says humility and diligence are necessary for graduates to thrive. The career
trajectory for commerce graduates is highly dependent on the opportunities provided by
companies that they join and the graduates own work ethic, she says.
Graduates with professional qualifications "have the steepest career trajectory", which
means they are likely to scale the corporate ladder much faster, she says. All the more
reason why Mr Kabamba cannot afford to get despondent.
http://www.bdlive.co.za/national/education/2013/04/29/the-long-wait-of-the-unemployed-
commerce-graduate