The skillset of graduate professionals, specifically in the technology arena, is of paramount importance and yet remains under constant pressure, says 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 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 17 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.”