01 October 2021

The Career Expo is empowering students with information they will need after graduating. It also seeks to give students an opportunity to network and get in touch with potential employers and some industry players. This year in 2021, 35 organisations took part in the career expo. Some of these included: Mpumalanga Department of Education (MPUEDu), Department of Agriculture, Rural Development, Land and Environmental Affairs (DARDLEA), Department of Labour (DoL), Department of Rural Development and Land Reforms (DRDLR), Department of Correctional Services, Mpumalanga Tourism and Parks Agency (MTPA) and Rainbow Chicken Limited (RCL) to mention just a few.

Student and graduate placement manager, Raymond Mkhwanazi, says the career expo has put both students and currently unemployed graduates in contact with potential employers and has thereby assisted them in the right direction on their career paths. The expo creates a platform through which students may seek recruitment opportunities, bursaries, and employment.

“The career expo provides the necessary platform for prospective employers to provide information on the skills and subjects needed if students want to work in their companies.  In summary, the career expo guides our students to become equipped with information they will use after graduation. We are giving them the tools that will make them employable.”

Bachelor of Arts student, Kenny Lethuxolo Nhlope, feels the career expo has assisted him with the right information. It also guided him to how which direction to take and what he should start focusing o before he graduates.

“There are a few things to do before I become employed, such as working on my resume while I am still studying, start looking for jobs that are in my career field and work to acquire the necessary skills for my career,” says Nhlope adding that job-shadow is fundamental for him right now. 

“This is the time for me to build a relationship with people that are already in the field to prepare me for employment. The spokesperson from the Department of Education mentioned quite a few career options within the department – apart from just being an educator. Now I know that there are career opportunities within this field that would be open to me if I further my studies.”

Entrepreneurship focus

In an economy where jobs are currently quite scarce, the career expo also highlighted the importance of entrepreneurship and creating opportunities rather than seeking employment.

“The career expo outlined the importance of shifting the focus to starting your own business and in so doing, creating more job opportunities for others. The creation of business plans was discussed, as well as the various avenues through which government supports small business owners and entrepreneurs.”

Master’s student, Thuso Chiloane, knows the benefits of attending the career expo. He says the expo has been very beneficial to him. Students are not only informed extensively about the job market, but also acquire the skills necessary to make job hunting more successful.

“Interview skills and professionalism. It bridges the gap between companies and organizations where students like myself wish to be employed. I urge students to take the time to visit the University of Mpumalanga YouTube page to watch the career expo and learn a thing or two about their careers and job hunting,” he says.

Chiloane further notes that many students waste time thinking there will always be more time. They should, however, make the most of every minute, and start early. It’s important to regularly update and finetune your CV, to work on self-development by attending workshops, becoming job ready and participating in entrepreneurial programmes.

“The reason I am where I am today is because I’ve been preparing myself and participation in these workshops since I was a first-year student. I always knew what I wanted to do and have continuously done everything I needed to do to pursue my dream. I have gained an incredible amount of knowledge through volunteering ad participating in various activities related to the field I am interested in. It’s really important that you start immediately, and not wait until you are in your final year.”

“Throughout your final year, and your last semester in particular, keep an eye out for entry-level roles that you’re qualified for. Tap into both your network and career centre to expand your search as they might have access to job leads that haven’t been posted yet,” advises Chiloane.

The UMP Career Expo has enjoyed great success so far and has been able to place graduates at organisations such as Rainbow Chicken Limited (RCL foods Limited), where 335 + 1 Chief Executive Officer 1998 – 2021, Perishable Product Export Board (PPECB); 60 graduates were placed from 2008 to 202; Hygro Training College 69 in 2020 to 2021; Recruit AGRI Farming with 23 graduates between 2018 and 2020; Ehlanzeni District Municipality with 15 graduates between 2018 and 2020; and Komati group placed 7 graduates in 2020.

@ Story by Cleopatra Makhaga. Picture used from university archives before COVID-19.