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Jacquie Bhana - Mentorship of bursary candidates – a fresh canvas


Jacquie Bhana - Mentorship of bursary candidates – a fresh canvas

Around the beginning of each year, students start their university careers, which provides a great opportunity for organisations to reflect on their young talent pools.


Many organisations focus mainly on the recruitment of graduates OVER bursary students. However, there is enormous benefit in recruiting students who are entering university, straight from school, and sponsoring their bursaries.


This approach must be viewed as a business imperative, as a way of re-imagining their future teams, and not as a corporate social investment intervention.


There are two ways of looking at the benefits of such a programme:

  • Firstly, funding bursaries goes a long way to assist in addressing the countrywide problems of student funding; and

  • Secondly, companies can recruit the best students, each of whom can be seen as a ‘fresh canvas’, ready to be taught workplace processes and ways of working, early in their careers.

Companies can grow their human resources with excellent, first-class talent by building current teams with new thinking, and cleverly combining the new with the experienced as well as with institutional knowledge.


Currently I work with a number of bursary students as mentees and have had some great insights into this process. I have worked to enable my mentees to have clear direction, focus and achieve quantifiable success in the businesses they are working. I have assisted them to take ownership of their roles, and encouraged them to learn and develop into the people they would like to be. Within the organisations they are employed, I have focused on nurturing them to become effective, efficient, happy and productive contributors to business success.


Underprivileged schools are a great place to recruit potential bursars. Businesses that include these schools in their strategy will find that there are a number of excellent students with much potential. I currently work with a number of such students and they have proven to be hard working, striving to make it against all the odds. These students are hungry for knowledge. They possess certain life skills that students from more privileged backgrounds do not always possess, such as problem solving and critical thinking.


In addition, these students and their communities have a strong loyalty to the brand of the organisation that sponsors them. This loyalty helps with the future recruitment of bursary students, and as such, organisations will naturally attract great students. Other advantages of this strategy are as follows:

  1. If the bursary student pool overall is oversubscribed with a diverse group of candidates, employers have the luxury of selecting those who best fit the organisation’s goals and values. Those who do not join the organisation have had the benefit of work experience and are more employable.

  2. Certain life skills and business skills can be developed during the students’ university studies, so that transition into the business world is much easier, and candidates will be more productive and effective on appointment. Skills such as business skills, presentation skills, building confidence, work ethic, business writing and communication are all examples of skills that are essential in the world of business. I have had interesting conversations with mentees on topics ranging from relationships to mental health and dressing appropriately.

  3. Students have a fresh perspective and are more confident about sharing ideas around innovation, as they have not yet been socialised and have not developed early fears of strictly conforming and fitting into the business.

  4. They are still in a competitive environment at tertiary institutions and it is a great time to build on ideas at this early stage in their careers. They want their ideas to be taken seriously, and there is a willingness to learn.

  5. It helps to build a diversified and inclusive workforce. Students are far more inclined to engage with business colleagues and socialise with them. They are far less encumbered by the past and are more robust at interpersonal communication than the older workforce.

  6. They usually have great technology skills, which will go a long way towards building overall technology use and innovation in organisations.

One part of this strategy that worked extremely well in one of the businesses that I partner with, was the complete involvement by the leadership team in the recruitment, induction, availability and visibility of the leadership team, including the CEO. The process affirmed the seriousness of the programme to participants, and helped the leadership remain in touch with the students. After all, the investment is huge, and this strategy helps to build a solid business model of introducing new employees to a long term, successful and structured capability building process that adds value to the business.


The end result of this innovative approach to bursary students is a vibrant, robust and exciting programme with a great talent pool from which to select the best candidates.


For more information

C: +27 83 386 8343

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