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Strategic career development of black engineering graduates in South Africa: the workplace experiential approach

Olorunjuwon Michael Samuel (Department of Management & Human Resource Management, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Sibongile Magwagwa (Department of Management & Human Resource Management, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)
Aretha Mazingi (Department of Management & Human Resource Management, University of the Witwatersrand, Johannesburg, South Africa)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 5 July 2019

Issue publication date: 20 January 2020

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to evaluate effectiveness of the graduate development programme that was aimed at the recruitment and professional development of black engineering graduates through the workplace learning method.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper adopted qualitative research strategy using in-depth interviews with semi-structured interview guide that was developed after an extensive review of related literature. Data were analysed using thematic analysis technique.

Findings

Result of the paper indicates that the strategy provides an effective mechanism for the inclusion and professional development of black engineering graduates. Coaching and mentoring relationships were found to be an effective way for knowledge and skills transfers.

Research limitations/implications

Although this study presented valuable insights into the complexity of the graduate development programme in South Africa, the authors consider it appropriate to draw some limitations to study for in order to provide some guides on the conduct of a similar study by future researchers. It is important to state that qualitative studies inherently lack external validity that limits its generalisability to a wider context. Further, a non-probability sampling method was used in this study thus posing a threat to the scientific representativeness of the participants. At last, but very important is the emotion and tension that is usually associated with social research and discussion regarding the legacies of apartheid in South Africa. This research was not insulated from such sensitivity and social influence. To this extent, while practical efforts were made to mitigate this factor during the interviews, there is no guarantee that the respondents were completely honest, and not influenced by extraneous nuances and considerations in their responses to the questions. In view of the methodological and social limitations to this study, future researchers could consider, for example, the use of a mixed methods wherein a quantitative research component is conducted on trainees of the programme in order to validate or disprove the answers provided by the training managers which were purely from operator/organisational, rather than training participants’ perspective. The mixed method approach could also enhance the external validity or generalisability of the research outcome to a wider context. At last, the administration of structured questionnaire through the use of a web-based survey could potentially eliminate emotions, social tension and response bias since both the researcher and respondents do not engage in a face-to-face contact and personal interaction. This also effectively protects personal identity of both the researcher and respondent.

Originality/value

Not much research has been conducted in the direction of the graduate development programme as an effective strategy for the career advancement, inclusion and affirmation of black engineers within the engineering landscape of South Africa. Corporate and professional skills development managers could integrate the outcome of this paper into a policy framework that shapes corporate social investment, diversity and inclusion management at the workplaces.

Keywords

Citation

Samuel, O.M., Magwagwa, S. and Mazingi, A. (2020), "Strategic career development of black engineering graduates in South Africa: the workplace experiential approach", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 10 No. 1, pp. 32-48. https://doi.org/10.1108/HESWBL-02-2019-0030

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited