Johannesburg – While South Africa’s unemployment rate continues to rise, a programme taking place at the University of Johannesburg (UJ) is proving to be hugely successful, preparing marketing and retail students for the modern workplace and providing them with both valuable practical skills and job opportunities.
The programme, a collaboration between UJ and the Direct Selling Association of South Africa (DSASA), began 14 years ago in 2002. To date it has benefited more than14 000 students who have earned a combined total of R8.8 million. In addition, part-bursaries totalling R600 000 have been awarded.
The programme ensures that students gain practical personal selling and sales management experience by exposing them to direct selling. It teaches them the basics of business and how to sell, equipping them with skills they can use immediately to earn an income and demonstrate that they have acquired practical sales experience whilst at the University.
The programme is a compulsory element of their marketing and retail course work.
“The initiative has a positive impact on students, by imparting sales, finance and business management skills, as well as giving them increased confidence,” says Dr Marius Wait, Head of UJ’s Department of Marketing Management.
“Marketing carries with it somewhat of a glamorous connotation and many students and prospective employees lack an in-depth understanding of what lies ahead in the real world. This programme enables students to be exposed to the Direct Selling Industry and gain practical work experience.”
This collaborative project has proven so successful that some UJ students are now choosing to continue with their direct selling endeavours after graduating. The project has also been well received by industry, with many companies approaching UJ directly to employ their experienced third-year students. This competitive advantage that the UJ students have over other students is evident by the number of final third-year students finding employment.
“We are incredibly proud of the success of our collaboration with the DSA. Together we are creating well-rounded, competent marketing and retail students who are going out boldly and strengthening the South African economy,” said Dr Wait.
From health and beauty options to financial products – the direct selling industry contributes a massive R8-billion a year to the economy, and has created income opportunities for approximately 1.4-million people, either part or fulltime, making it a significant contributor to the job market.
By partnering with a tertiary education institution, like UJ, the DSA – the leading ambassador for the local Direct Selling Industry – is further boosting its contribution to the country by upskilling graduates, generating employment and providing new sources of income.
UJ Alum, Tsidi, says that she learned to put into practice what she had learned in the classroom, and that learning about direct selling taught her people skills, communication skills, how to think on her feet in a real-life sales environment as well as important persuasive skills. “One of the advantages of direct selling is that it’s simple for anyone to do, even with full-time jobs”.
“Few people realise the massive contribution that the direct selling industry brings to our economy, as well as its ability to empower South Africans with valuable sales and business skills, as well as interpersonal skills, confidence and the ability to build their own small and medium sized businesses,” says Ernest du Toit, Chairman of the Direct Selling Association.
“We are extremely proud of our collaborative efforts at UJ and remain committed to the programme. We foresee that this sustainable initiative will continue to create skills, experience and outstanding results, well into the future, and provide real and credible job opportunities for graduates.”