Phuhlisa students hit the ground running

27 March 2006

Getting a job after varsity can be a real nightmare, especially in competitive graduate employment markets such as South Africa. Many graduates have to contend with the frustration of having potential employers demand not only their qualifications, but work experience as well.

That's how UCT's newly launched Phuhlisa Learning Programme comes into the picture: it affords students the opportunity to work in areas relevant to their studies during vacations, gaining relevant practical experience and work-related skills while studying.

Derived from the Xhosa word phuhlisa, which means adding value through getting external help, the programme is a joint initiative of UCT's Commerce Academic Development Programme (CADP) on the one hand and commerce graduates in the corporate sector on the other. The programme, which was initiated in July 2005, provides students in the CADP with a variety of opportunities in different companies as a way of broadening their range of educational and life skills.

Speaking at the launch, Calvin Mojapelo, CADP programme officer, said that his role in the programme was to approach different companies employing or being run by commerce alumni and request them to take students for work on vacations. Interested firms would then forward the types of skills and requirements to UCT.

"We advertise the various positions available and interested students can send their applications and motivations," Mojapelo explained. "Successful students will then be deployed to different companies during vacations".

In addition to being exposed to contextualised workplace learning, students also benefit by having their varsity fees paid for or by receiving stipends from some companies.

The firms involved in the programme so far include Mettle, Mbendi Information Systems, Chevron, KPMG, Deloitte, Allan Gray and Thebe Tourism Group. Alumnus Duncan Saville has been particularly generous in his support. Mark van Wyk, a graduate of the UCT's CADP programme and now a CA at Mettle, said it was gratifying to be part of the programme, assisting UCT "grow their own tall trees".

Brian Paxton from Mbendi Information Systems said he became part of the programme after his wife, who works at CADP, introduced him to a student who had financial problems. They helped by offering him a job opportunity.

"We build on the foundation UCT gives students by exposing them to the general business knowledge that our website deals in, for example just what a listed company entails to the fact that Boston is a town in the US and not a country."

One of the beneficiaries of the programme, Onele Ncokwana, a BCom student in economics and finance, said the programme had given him an opportunity to work and experience life in the workplace.

"It's a different picture from the university where the student studies to pass for themselves. At work it is about team work."

He said the programme would give him an added advantage when looking for employment because of the prior work experience.

Nwabisa Matinyana, a fourth-year BCom student, lauded the programme for opening up opportunities to CADP students from townships and rural areas and who normally have limited exposure to the office environment.

She said: "This programme allows you to meet people from different cultures and races and prepares you to face challenges in the workplace."

Speaking at the launch of Phuhlisa last week, Professsor Ian Scott, head of the Academic Development Programme at UCT, made the point that the real agents of change are the students themselves.

"Students must demand of the curricula the skills they need in the working world. The issue of the day is the conundrum that exists where, on the one hand, there is a severe shortage of skills in South Africa, and, on the other hand, there is growing graduate unemployment."

For more information please contact Calvin Mojapelo at 650-4022 or e-mail

Creative Commons License This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Please view the republishing articles page for more information.