Internships, job shadowing enhance graduates’ employability

Four universities in Africa are among the 250 universities globally that have been ranked by the Global Employability University Ranking and Survey 2022, or GEURS for producing employable graduates, according to recruiters of more than 800,000 young graduates in 2022-23.

Morocco’s International University of Rabat (IUR) was in 224th position and led the African quartet that also included Stellenbosch University, South Africa, (245th) and two Egyptian institutions, the American University in Cairo (AUC) (248th) and Cairo University (249th).

In this regard, the findings suggest that graduates from these four universities are more likely to be employed than their counterparts from other universities on the continent.

GEURS is a ranking index that is carried out by Emerging, a human resource consultancy specialising in higher education institutions and it is published by Times Higher Education (THE).

According to Seeta Bhardwa, the student content editor at THE, the increased presence of universities from Africa in this year’s ranking, compared with the previous few years, is a promising signal that shows that more recruiters are beginning to recognise that some universities in Africa are doing well at preparing their students for the world of work.

Employability drivers

Whereas their choice of institution and field of study can help graduates when they start job-hunting, GEURS applied six drivers, identified by businesses as the main contributors to producing employable graduates: academic excellence, specialisation, focus on work expertise, graduate skills, digital performance and internationality.

But, while employers considered the performance in all the six areas while judging the overall quality of a university, digital literacy, soft skills and subject specialisation emerged as important new factors for graduate employment since the COVID-19 epidemic.

Sandrine Belloc of the Emerging consultancy said 92% of the respondents in the 12th edition of GEURS believed universities should do more to increase digital skills.

“Today, digital skills are not the exclusive concern any more of computer science faculties and their students, but any university’s digital plan needs a transversal approach that includes all stakeholders,” said Belloc.

How institutions bolster employability

Bhardwa said the two Egyptian universities were appearing in the GEURS classification for the first time this year, while the IUR improved marginally from the 228th position it held last year. At the same time, Stellenbosch, at 199, was the best-placed university in Africa last year.

Maha Guindi, the executive director of the American University in Cairo career centre, said 86% of the institution’s graduates get jobs within one year after graduation.

“Employers participate in AUC’s job-shadowing programme with professionals from various industries being invited to represent career fields at career exploration events and organisations are also encouraged to offer internship opportunities to students,” said Guindi.

There are also indicators that graduates from Stellenbosch University are well-equipped for entry to the job market, according to the survey, ‘Graduate Destination Survey 2019-20’, which states that the employment rate for postgraduates of that academic year was at 76.3%, while that of undergraduates stood at about 71%.

According to the survey, the average employment rate was at 73.8% and there were indicators that about 37% of graduates had secured jobs at the time of graduation.

According to Marquard Timmey, the head of graduate career services at Stellenbosch, the employability of graduates in this South African university is enhanced as 75% of the students have gained work experience through internships by the time they graduate.

Amid efforts to increase employability of its graduates, the International University of Rabat offers dual degrees in collaboration with other universities around the world, providing students with the opportunity to study at these institutions to complete their degrees.

Established by the government in 2010, IUR has nine main schools, namely business, sciences, law, energy engineering, computer science and digital engineering, aerospace and automotive engineering, as well as architecture, dental medicine and the languages.

On its part, Cairo University is one of the oldest universities in Egypt and has more than 230,000 full-time equivalent students of whom about 3% are international students. The university has 25 faculties but its main strength lies in engineering, medicine, agriculture and archaeology.

In order of merit, the top 10 universities included Massachusetts Institute of Technology, California Institute of Technology, Harvard University, Cambridge University and Stanford University. Others were Oxford University, The University of Tokyo, National University of Singapore, Princeton University and Yale University.

A total of 44 countries and regions were represented, and institutions in Egypt, Estonia and Colombia appeared in the employability rankings for the first time.