MUT introduces Work Readiness Programme to strengthen its WIL programme

Bheki Hlophe – 082 432 1805                                                                         3 June 2020

For immediate release

MUT introduces Work Readiness Programme to strengthen its WIL programme

While some other South African higher education institutions are considering scratching work-integrated learning (WIL) as part of their academic offering, MUT has decided to forge ahead, and strengthen its WIL programme. The Department of Cooperative Education at MUT has, among others, added a Work Readiness Programme as a prerequisite for the practical WIL component.

“The Work Readiness Programme is now timetabled and is included in the academic system of qualifications that have a WIL component. This year we have already trained 245 students. Some training is still pending as a result of the early closure of the University,” said Lindiwe Myende, who is driving this initiative at the Department of Cooperative Education.

Myende said that the Work Readiness Programme is a 15-week programme that prepares students for the world of work. Its curriculum covers job search strategies, CV writing, interviewing skills as well as soft skills. The practical element of the Work Readiness Programme, the Employability Improvement Program (EIP), is a direct response to concerns by employers about students’ lack of soft skills, which impacts on their employability. Just like WIL, the EIP integrates soft skills theory training into practice.

In terms of CV writing, the department has introduced CV Clinics. These are consultation sessions which are offered to students as they begin to write up their CVs in preparation for their WIL placement. The CV Clinics help the students to package their skills for potential employers to notice. The Work Readiness Programme has a simulation component that teaches students teamwork, and solving problems as a collective. The programme also teaches students how to manage time, contributing to company productivity by identifying and avoiding resource wastage. This is part of the kaizen-based Japanese philosophy of production.

The department has connections with a Japanese organisation, JICA (Japan International Cooperative Agency), whose ethos is to drive production without wastage. Its philosophy is, “only get what you need when you know when to use it”. That way the amount of resources needed is properly measured, and there is no time and money wasted.

Work Readiness was originally launched in 2011 through a partnership between JICA and the Department of Higher Education and Training. It was first piloted at MUT in 2012 and was rolled out in 2016, resulting in the training of about 700 students. In 2017 a process began to institutionalise it and make it an eligibility criterion for entry into the practical WIL component.

“Between 2018 and 2019, we trained about 2000 students,” said Myende

The programme’s objective is to shift the mind-set of students from campus life to the world of work. It is designed to enhance sought-after skills that the employers are looking for in future employees. Most of the students who are in the programme are those with a WIL component as part of their qualification.

“But we haven’t excluded those without a WIL component. Through the simulation, students are given the platform to enhance and practice their soft skills while acknowledging their weaknesses and identifying their strengths.  It also gives them the platform to learn by doing, thus applying the ‘what into how’ principle. In this way, they learn to enhance their understanding of a good work ethic, as well as improve their behavioural skills and personal characteristics,” continued Myende.

The other aspect of the training is that the students are taught the importance of organisational structures and communication channels. Myende said the training has enabled the students to see the bigger picture and to think outside the box.

“They now know that being in the workplace is not only about doing your duties and getting paid, but also about being productive, solving problems, managing time, working in teams, being creative, thinking logically and critically, and also demonstrating leadership skills,” said Myende.