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Nurturing 21st Century Graduates for a Changing World

By Brandon Govender – Enrolment Manager at Regent Business School

by Tia
Brandon Govender

The recent Regent Business School graduation ceremonies which took place on Saturday, 7 October 2023 at Durban ICC and Saturday, 14 October at Gallagher Convention Centre sparked Regent Business School’s Enrolment Manager, Brandon Govender to share some insights on the role of a business school in equipping the 21st century graduate for the workplace.

As over 1200 graduates collectively marked a significant milestone in their lives at our recent graduation ceremonies, I was struck by the evolution of the workplaces where they would be putting their new skills to use. This was an impressive group of graduates which included almost 100 MBA graduates. Among these exceptional graduates, over 130 students achieved their qualifications cum laude across Higher Certificates, Bachelor’s Degrees and Postgraduate programmes and are now prepared to embark on a journey to a future filled with success and fulfilment. The ceremony showcased the transformative power of higher education, regardless of age, and how it can change the trajectory of someone’s life.

However, in the 21st century, we find ourselves in the midst of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, an era characterised by unprecedented advancements in fields such as artificial intelligence, supercomputers, smart robots, and more. These developments are not merely changing the way we live and work; they are also transforming the skills that graduates need to succeed in this rapidly evolving landscape. Regent Business School, a leading private provider of higher education, has taken the initiative to equip graduates with the essential skills for the 21st-century workplace.

Regent Business School’s commitment to preparing graduates for the 21st-century workplace is unwavering. In this new era, the importance of soft skills and adaptability cannot be overstated. Today’s graduates need to be equipped with what are often referred to as ‘21st-century skills’, encompassing learning skills, literacy skills, and life skills.

Learning skills encompass critical thinking and problem-solving abilities. In an age where information is abundant and readily accessible, the ability to critically evaluate and synthesise information is more valuable than ever. It is incumbent upon a business school to ensure that its graduates can identify problems, generate potential solutions, evaluate these solutions, and implement effective strategies. They must be trained to think critically and creatively, approach problems from different perspectives, and make connections between disparate pieces of information.

In the digital age, graduates need to be proficient in using technology to access, evaluate, and create information. Literacy skills refer to digital, technological, and cultural literacy. They must understand the ethical and societal issues related to technology and use technology to enhance their productivity and problem-solving capabilities. In an increasingly globalised world, cultural literacy is crucial so it stands to reason that graduates must appreciate the diversity of human experiences and perspectives, understand the interconnectedness of the global community, and are equipped to navigate cross-cultural interactions with sensitivity and respect.

It is important to remember that well-rounded and effective graduates require more than just the theoretical knowledge. The rapid pace of change in the 21st century requires graduates to be flexible and adaptable with well-developed life skills including flexibility, leadership, and social skills. They need to be open to new ideas, willing to take risks, and able to learn from failure. Leadership skills are also essential, as graduates need to be able to influence others, manage teams, and drive change. When it comes to social skills, communication, collaboration, and conflict resolution are increasingly important in a world where teamwork and collaboration are the norm.

However, there is a gap between the skills our education systems are currently prioritising, and the skills graduates actually need. Traditional education systems have focused on teaching students to acquire content and knowledge in a rote fashion. While content knowledge is important, it is no longer sufficient for efficacy or success in the 21st-century workplace.

Higher education institutions, like Regent Business School, play a crucial role in bridging this gap. They understand the demands of the 21st century and adapt their teaching methods accordingly. This involves not only teaching era-relevant skills but also creating an environment that fosters personal growth and prepares students for the future work context. A move away from traditional lecture-based teaching methods toward more interactive, student-centred teaching methods that promote active learning, critical thinking, and problem-solving is critical.

The shift towards contemporary skills is not just about staying relevant; it’s about preparing students for the realities of the modern world. It’s about equipping them with the skills they need to thrive in diverse cultures and organisations. And most importantly, it’s about ensuring that our graduates are ready to seize the opportunities of the present day and turn the challenges of our time into avenues for innovation and growth.

The 21st-century graduate needs to be a lifelong learner, equipped with a broad set of skills that include learning skills, literacy skills, and life skills. Higher education institutions have a crucial role to play in equipping graduates with these skills. By doing so, they ensure that their graduates are prepared to navigate the complexities of the 21st-century landscape and thrive in the face of rapid technological and societal change.

The Fourth Industrial Revolution presents both challenges and opportunities. On one hand, the rapid pace of technological change can be daunting, and the skills required for success are continually evolving. On the other hand, these changes present opportunities for innovation, creativity, and growth, but only for those graduates who are equipped with the appropriate skillset.

In the face of these challenges and opportunities, adaptability is key. The ability to learn and adapt is arguably the most important skill for graduates today. This adaptability includes the ability to learn new technologies, to adapt to new work environments, and continually update their skills in response to changing demands.

The importance of soft skills cannot be overstated. While technical skills are important, soft skills such as communication, collaboration, and leadership are equally, if not more, important. These skills enable graduates to work effectively in teams, to influence others, and to navigate the complexities of the modern workplace, which now prioritizes mental health and company culture.

In addition, cultural literacy is increasingly important in an interconnected global economy. Graduates need to be able to understand and appreciate different cultures, to communicate effectively across cultural boundaries with respect, and to adapt to diverse work environments.

However, equipping graduates with these skills is not a task that can be accomplished by higher education institutions alone. It requires a concerted effort from all stakeholders, including educators, policymakers, employers, and the graduates themselves. Educators need to incorporate 21st-century skills into their curricula and teaching methods from the outset. Policymakers need to create policies and frameworks that support the development of these skills. Employers need to recognise the value of these skills and provide opportunities for graduates to apply and further develop these skills in the workplace.

The 21st-century graduate needs to be a well-rounded individual, equipped with a broad set of skills that include not only technical skills but also soft skills, cultural literacy, and the ability to learn and adapt. By equipping graduates with these skills, Regent Business School and other institutions can prepare them for the challenges and opportunities of the 21st century and enable them to contribute to the social and economic development of our society.

For more information about Regent Business School’s offering as a leading private higher education institution, please go to https://regent.ac.za/

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