To keep abreast of the communication skills of business professionals, Terri Grant, one of the founder members of the Professional Communications Unit and course convenor for commerce and computer science communication programmes, conducted a business communication needs analysis during 2002 and 2003.
"We always look to Europe and the US for answers but I wanted to find out what our graduates in the work place deem relevant and appropriate communication skills and whether we are providing these sought-after skills," Grant explained. "Also, while on sabbatical last year in New Zealand and Australia, I wanted to compare what we are doing with other universities in the Southern Hemisphere."
Globalisation and multiculturalism have ensured that graduates today need to compete on a world stage. The growing mix of local and international students at UCT helps create a realistic backdrop to and context for intercultural communication awareness and know-how, Grant added.
"It's all very well to learn theoretically, but students need to engage practically with traditional and electronic communications in a changing environment."
The participative team approach used provides ample opportunities for real hands-on learning. "Of course they learn as much from each other as they do from staff or course materials. This is the beauty of a 'brick versus click' establishment such as UCT."
The technical skills of accountants, actuaries, information system specialists, marketers, financiers - the whole host of career options available to commerce graduates - are often assumed, especially if a student graduates from what is perceived as a first-class university. "What distinguishes job seekers, setting them a cut above the rest, however, are the communicative competence skills so crucial in today's entrepreneurial economy," Grant noted. "In survey after survey, effective interpersonal and team communication skills top the list of what potential employers want. The recent business needs analysis confirmed these findings. The cyber world still demands good ol' people skills and face time."
Grant recently moved from the Career Development Programme in the Centre for Higher Education Development to the School of Management Studies with consultants Michael Fielding, the first PCU Director, and other part-time lecturers such as Mauveen Gomes, Claudia Kalil, Marie-Anne Ogle, Gaby Claassens, Salama Rawood, Jade Gibson, Farouk Mobara and Brenda Price. The PCU's doors in Beattie will close in June and re-open in the Leslie Building.
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