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Promoting career awareness among IT students in a South African context

J.T. Janse van Rensburg (North–West University - Vaal Triangle Campus, Vanderbijlpark, South Africa)
Roelien Goede (North–West University - Potchefstroom Campus, Potchefstroom, South Africa)

Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning

ISSN: 2042-3896

Article publication date: 19 February 2020

Issue publication date: 21 May 2020

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137

Abstract

Purpose

The purpose of this paper is to present an intervention strategy for promoting career awareness among IT students in a South African context, followed by a reflection thereof based on qualitative data collected from students. Career awareness during study has shown to be a factor in the work-readiness of IT graduates.

Design/methodology/approach

The paper suggests an intervention strategy aimed at promoting IT students' career awareness. It provides context of the exit-level higher education (HE) module used to implement the intervention. Career awareness is achieved by industry talks, projects and events. Interpretive data collection and content analysis are used to understand the impact of the intervention from the students' perspective.

Findings

Recommendations are made towards productive interventions for raising career awareness among IT students using industry participation in higher education. The proposed intervention comprises of a combination of industry talks, capstone projects and specific events. Students had largely positive reactions and made suggestions for additional interventions they would find beneficial. A hackathon attended proved the most influential where seven out of eight involved students received job offers from one company. Other students became aware of their own employability, limitations and preferred career paths.

Originality/value

Findings provide confirmation on existing feasible approaches and also introduces new interventions that may be generalised to other fields of study. The paper not only provides an instructional design for a module to raise career awareness but also reflects on the feedback of the students. The reflection provided by students acts as a point of reference to ensure that the process followed for the intervention is practical within a South African context. The paper highlights the perceived benefits of involving industry in higher education to raise career awareness, factors that may prevent career awareness among IT students and valuable suggestions made by students to further enhance the intervention strategy. An implication of the research is a set of guidelines identified towards bridging the IT theory–practice gap. These guidelines can be used by many educators in similar environments to justify their interventions.

Keywords

Acknowledgements

This research forms part of a doctoral study completed at the North-West University in South Africa, in the School of Computer Science and Information Systems. An ethical clearance number was awarded to conduct the research (ECONIT-2017-074).

Citation

Janse van Rensburg, J.T. and Goede, R. (2020), "Promoting career awareness among IT students in a South African context", Higher Education, Skills and Work-Based Learning, Vol. 10 No. 3, pp. 541-565. https://doi.org/10.1108/HESWBL-09-2019-0110

Publisher

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Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2019, Emerald Publishing Limited