An education expert has advised matriculants considering their post-school options to shy away from signing up for arbitrary qualifications that may make it challenging for them to build a career after their studies.
Natasha Madhav, senior head of the ICT programme at The Independent Institute of Education (IIE), said the most important advice she has for prospective students, given the difficult economic climate in South Africa and the associated challenges of finding suitable employment after graduation, is to look at qualifications and institutions that will prepare them for a specific career and the world of work.
The worst courses of action are ... spending valuable time and money on something that may not lead to a career, or following your friends' lead because you are not clear on your own aspirations.
"The worst courses of action are to sign up for an arbitrary qualification with no real understanding of how you can leverage it post-graduation, spending valuable time and money on something that may not lead to a career, or following your friends' lead because you are not clear on your own aspirations," she says.
Additionally, they should ideally line up at least one or two extra options, as they may find their circumstances and preferences have changed by the end of the year.
Madhav advised learners who don't know what to study to consider what kind of work they would find interesting, and then work backwards to determine a suitable qualification.
"It is also worth remembering that there are literally new fields and careers opening up every year — things that your teachers, parents and friends may not even have heard about," she said.
"So don't settle on a university and then only investigate what they offer in terms of qualifications. Do it the other way around — determine what you would like to do, determine what qualification would enable you to do that, and then find out which institutions offer that."
If you're interested in becoming a chef, for example, it makes sense to find an institution that offers that qualification, as there are reputable culinary schools in South Africa.
The world of work is rapidly evolving and, to be competitive in the job market, candidates must try to match their qualification as closely as possible to the work they would want to do one day.
If, for instance, you are interested in game design, it is advisable that you look for a study opportunity at an institution that offers this qualification, instead of doing a generic three-year degree and then attempting to break into the industry thereafter.
The same principle goes for a host of other career-focused fields, such as copywriting and communications, digital design and marketing, IT and networking qualifications, and business qualifications.
"The world of work is rapidly evolving, and to be competitive in the job market, candidates must try to match their qualification as closely as possible to the work they would want to do one day," said Madhav.
"Making that determination takes time and clarity of thought in the face of all the options out there, which is why matriculants should make the best of the few weeks of grace they have left and get their future plans sorted now."