Big companies shun Humanities Careers Expo

by Charlotte Chipangura

The annual Humanities Careers Expo was shunned by major companies after only two organisations showed up for the event on August 29.

Thabang Madileng  of the Counselling and Careers Development Unit (CCDU), which organised the event, said 13 different companies had booked for the expo but had simply not turned up. Only Robert Bosch indicated that they would not be able to attend.

“This year we tried to make it diverse by inviting employers from  non-governmental organisations, government and the private sector. We think they did not come because we did not attach a fee to the expo,” explained Madileng.

Humanities students felt let down and disappointed by the no-show. BA Honours (Media) student, Lethabo Malatsz said she was “not happy”.

“Im feeling discouraged, I’m having second thoughts. I’m thinking I wasted my time doing humanities. I’m doing my post grad now and was hoping I would find companies offering bursaries. I thought I would see YFM, SABC and News24 here. IT, Accounting, Commerce and Chemistry career expos had major turnouts.”

Madileng said there would be another general expo this year but not another one exclusively for the Humanities. Responding to questions about the poor response, Madileng said: “It’s a big concern. We market for all students but just struggle to find employers for our humanities students. Some companies have specifications, like engineers and accountants.

“Consulting companies usually take students from humanities but it’s mostly students who do Industrial Psychology or other programmes that are industry specific.”

Vega contact navigator, Palesa Mofokeng said the university should target companies that best benefit the students and invite those.

“It’s not that there is no demand for humanities students. It is just poor planning.  If companies are made to pay R500 to book their spots here, trust me they would be here because people always turn up when they are made to pay.”

Vega came to Wits to recruit post graduate students for the programmes the college offers. The second organisation that attended was the Avril Elizabeth Home for the intellectually disabled, represented by Linda Spangenberg and Jenny Ford. Spangenberg said the home was looking for volunteers to do their accounts as well as physiotherapists to assist the physically handicapped.

Industry visits chem Witsies

The tables were turned recently when jobs came looking for Wits students.

Two events were held in Senate House – one for IT and Engineering students, the other organised by the Chem Society. A number of companies came to Wits to increase brand awareness and encourage students to apply for winter internships.

Former Witsie Hazel Bomba, a chemistry graduate and 2010 Chem Society chairperson, attended the event as a representative for her company. She said students should start thinking about securing employment while studying, to avoid panicking when they eventually completed their studies and found themselves jobless.

“I actually got my job because of career day. I was helping the guy who is now my boss with logistics for a career day and he asked me to send my CV and I got a job!” Bomba now conducts research into mining explosives for AEL Mining Services.

Bomba advised Witsies not to be satisfied with just their undergraduate qualifications. “A postgraduate degree gets you ahead faster. When there is a career guidance fair, take pamphlets and get in touch with the companies; volunteer even.  Jobs don’t come knocking on your door. Well, mine did, but that doesn’t happen every day.”

Chairperson of the Chem Society, honours student Amy Rudenberg said most students thought chemistry was all about research because they did not know about other career options.

This was the reason the Chem Society decided to take their future into their own hands by inviting potential employers. She said the fair also linked Witsies with potential bursary sponsors and vacation jobs.

Joe Welte, Corporate Quality Manager at Nestlé, encouraged students to take advantage of graduate trainee programmes offered by companies, adding that his company ensured trainees got exposure to the entire business by rotating them between different divisions of the company.

“Companies want experienced people, but students need to start somewhere, which is where graduate trainee programmes come in.”

Rudenberg said she was thrilled the fair was a success and had benefited students from other faculties as well. Some companies said they welcomed applications from science, human resources, law, and engineering.

Rudenberg said the Chem Society also organised colloquia for post-graduate chemistry students to talk about their research topics, and offered an award for the best research. The Chem Society is student-run and has been in existence for several years. After a few dormant years, it was resuscitated in 2010.

Published in Wits Vuvuzela, 12th edition, 2nd May 2012.