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Why Select An MBA?

The MBA remains a highly sought-after and popular business qualification.

Monique Verduyn

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What will you get out of an MBA? Skills firstly, including economics, finance, marketing, operations, management, and accounting. But MBA programmes are also designed to impart soft skills such as leadership, teamwork, ethics, and communication – all of which are critical for effective management.

In addition, the MBA offers access to a network of fellow students, alumni, faculty, and business and community leaders. This network can be very useful when beginning a job search, developing a career path, building business relationships in your current career, pursuing expertise outside your current field, or launching your own business. After all, entrepreneurs need access to capital, business partners, vendors, and clients.

Is now a good time?

In a recessionary environment, an MBA offers the opportunity to reassess career goals, assess strengths and values and learn new skills. By taking the time to invest in your own personal development, an MBA enables you to ride out the slump and return to the job market refreshed, refocused and retooled.

The current economic climate makes the MBA more valuable than ever, according to Shireen Chengadu, GIBS MBA Programme Director.

“People looking to upskill themselves find that the generalist MBA programme gives them in-depth exposure to a wide variety of disciplines, so whether you are seeking to move to a different career portfolio or perhaps start your own business, the MBA gives you the all-round experience you need to overcome the downturn and the skills you need to ride the upturn.”Chengadu notes that the MBA has always been a popular choice of study in South Africa.

“Most of our students’ study fees are covered by their employers, which indicates the ongoing popularity of the MBA in the workplace. Employers continue to recognise the importance of developing a leadership pipeline for the future.”

When to enrol for an MBA

In the US, young graduates proceed straight to business school. In South Africa, most business schools prefer their students to have some work experience. “To engage constructively on topics such as finance and management, some experience is required to ensure that the students actually get value out of the exercise,” says Chengadu.

“With some work experience, learning is optimised.” GIBS requires a minimum of five years’ work experience, with at least two at management level. GIBS’s full-time entrepreneurial MBA is however open to graduates who have worked for a year or two and are keen to get their own business off the ground.

The University of Cape Town Graduate School of Business (UCT GSB) MBA programme is also geared toward mature adults who have proven academic ability and business experience, says Tom Ryan, associate professor at the UCT GSB. “Students are selected on their capacity for personal and professional development.

Generally, they are over 25 years old, have a minimum of three years’ work experience, have completed are cognised tertiary degree and are fluent in English.”Wits Business School requires at least three years post-university experience, with applicants who have more experience standing a better chance of being selected.

Criteria for admission

MBA programmes worth their salt have rigorous admission criteria. At UCT GSB, candidates who don’t meet the tertiary degree requirement, but who are considered to have high potential based on other selection criteria, may be required to complete further assessments as determined by the school.

In addition, all applicants are required to write the Graduate Management Admissions Test (GMAT).“GSB uses anumber of other indicators of ability and motivation,” says Ryan. “These include essays about life experience, goals, attitudes and values; evaluations from referees; and details of job, educational and extramural activities. All applicants are interviewed either by the MBA Director, members of the faculty or alumni.”

“We consider applicants who hold an undergraduate degree, have four years’ work experience and achieve a satisfactory result on their GMAT,” says Zimasa Koyana, manager, academic programme, at WBS. “We do also consider a small number of exceptional individuals who do not have degrees.”

The GIBS admission process includes a test that measures learning potential, numerical and verbal skills, and  critical reasoning, as well as a GMAT. Applicants must hold an undergraduate degree. “In addition, applicants have to write essays on a number of management and leadership topics; we look at these to assess writing skills, as well as the ability to develop and sustain an argument.” says Chengadu GIBS also runs an annual 60 Second Challenge which requires candidates to post a video of themselves on YouTube to convince viewers in 60 seconds why they are the most deserving candidate for a scholarship to study the full-time entrepreneurship MBA.

What is the key content of the MBA?

The WBS MBA has attendance courses which include business simulation, group dynamics, personal leadership and social responsibility; core courses include accounting and finance, economics for business, human resource management, marketing management, operations management, ethics, sustainability and governance.

In a similar vein, the GIBS generalist MBA exposes students to all the disciplines of business as well as several compulsory electives such as sustainability, business ethics, and leadership.

GIBS’s entrepreneurship MBA places additional focus on entrepreneurial development, looking at elements such as business finance – as opposed to corporate finance. “Once students have completed the course, they have all the tools they need to start business,”says Chengadu.

“It’s not only about the formal curriculum, but also about aspects such as networks, mentors, venture capitalists, angel investors, small business units at banks, and exposure to a range of successful entrepreneurs. GIBS’s generalist MBA programme is offered over two years. Because the pressure is intense, students learn to handle stress and perform at a high level. “You cannot learn about pressure without being exposed to it.”

WBS has been ranked for a number of years by the Professional Management Review as the leading business school in Africa and had its MBA degree ranked number one in the Financial Mail for the sixth consecutive year. “Lecturers on the programme are known for their outstanding teaching abilities, business and research experience,” says Koyana. “But the student mix is just as important as the syllabus. Our students benefit not only from the school‘s outstanding local and international lecturers but also from the wealth of experience and viewpoints brought to the classroom.”

WBS takes an interactive approach to management education, the goal being to empower people to handle business challenges both locally and internationally. “The case study teaching methodology creates the space for students to exercise analytical and decision-making skills and at the same time encourages students to respect differing opinions, challenge their own thinking and question conventional wisdom.”

Global Perspectives

The GIBS MBA includes a global elective which is a compulsory ten-day programme that gives students a choice of travelling to India, China, South America, and the East or West Coast of the US, providing them with the opportunity to benchmark their skills at a global level.WBS has a student exchange programmewith business schools throughout the world.

“One of the electives offered on the WBS MBA is an international study tour,” Koyana adds. “The visits expose students to leading companies in the countries visited, and develop an appreciation of their economies. UCT GSB aims to be a leader in management development and applied research in emerging markets.

“We consider this emerging market distinctiveness as a real strength which the school is well placed to develop further,” says Ryan. “We have one of the most internationally diverse MBAs in the country. The importance of this for ensuring our students attain an MBA that is globally relevant and recognised cannot be underestimated.”

UCT GSB students can apply to spend a semester at an international university – the UCT GSB has exchange programme links with 27 international business schools.“The exchange allows students the opportunity to study and live in a different environment and to gain a fresh perspective on their development,”says Ryan.

Monique Verduyn is a freelance writer. She has more than 12 years’ experience in writing for the corporate, SME, IT and entertainment sectors, and has interviewed many of South Africa’s most prominent business leaders and thinkers. Find her on Google+.

Company Posts

Rethinking Learning In The 21st Century

The changing world of work has disrupted the three elements of the traditional ‘career’: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

Wits Plus

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Vital Stats

Traditionally the concept of a ‘career’ was considered to include three elements:

  1. A career represented our expertise, our profession, and ultimately our identity.
  2. A career was something that built over time and endured. It gave us the opportunity to progress and advance.
  3. A career gave us financial and psychological rewards. It made life meaningful and paid us enough to live well.

The changing world of work has disrupted all three elements: Expertise, duration, and rewards.

A career can now be as long as 60 years; at the same time, due to rapid advancements in technology and the changes that bring about in the workplace, skill sets can become obsolete in as little as five years.

Increasingly, companies need to rethink the way in which careers are managed and learning opportunities are delivered, and many have already begun to overhaul their career models and L&D (Learning and Development) infrastructure in line with the digital age.

Related: Your Investment In Knowledge

Employees’ learning behaviour is also changing. In the past, employees were able to obtain the skills required for their career early on and as a once-off; now, the career itself is a journey of learning, up-skilling, re-skilling and continuous reinvention to remain relevant and to thrive in the changing world of work.

Older employees who studied at a time where most of one’s learning occurred prior to entering the workplace, find themselves working alongside millennials who place greater value on learning and progression rather than on earning potential as a first priority.

Eighty-three percent of the respondents surveyed in Deloitte’s 2017 Global Human Capital Trends survey say their organisations are shifting to flexible, open career models that offer enriching assignments, projects, and experiences rather than a static career progression.

However, in today’s fast-paced business world, even if companies are restructuring L&D delivery, no one is going to make you engage in a strategy that is essential to your future success – continuous learning. You will have to take the initiative yourself.

Noted self-help expert W. Clement Stone, in his many writings on this topic, recommended that one spends anywhere from a half-hour to two hours a day in study and thinking time. This tireless dedication, combined with an insatiable curiosity, will equip you to excel in the future world of work. What’s more, learning new skills and knowledge can be fun!

The good news for both companies and for employees is that an explosion of high-quality content and digital delivery models offers employees ready access to continuous learning. The Wits DigitalCampus offers a range of accredited and fully online short courses to support your continuous learning.

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Company Posts

Your Investment In Knowledge

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

Wits Plus

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Vital Stats

Most people spend their lives collecting, spending, and worrying about money — so much so, in fact, that they say they “don’t have time” to learn something new.

However, some of smartest and busiest people in the world — Barack Obama, Warren Buffet and Bill Gates — all spend at least one hour a day on deliberate learning. They see what others don’t: That learning is the single best investment of our time that we can make. As Benjamin Franklin said long ago, “An investment in knowledge pays the best interest.”

When you understand the value of knowledge, in this world where technology is rendering previously expensive products or services much cheaper (and even free), it’s just a matter of getting more of it. Dedicate yourself to constant learning!

One of the very benefits of ongoing technological advances is that it empowers an accelerated and personalised learning experience that puts the learner in the driver’s seat. Modern learning harnesses the speed, power and ubiquity of digital capability. Online platforms, software and mobile devices means that the traditional hurdles to learning — such as income, status and location — have just about disappeared. Knowledge can now be gained by anyone with the passion to pursue it and the commitment to stick with it.

Related: Building Customer Relationships

We are only at the tipping point of what future learning technology can deliver. Artificial intelligence (AI) will transform all aspects of human capital management, including learning. Technology-enabled learning will be immediate and directly relevant to the task, for example:

  • personally tailored learning content and experiences delivered to you as and when you want or need them
  • chatbots and virtual assistants can source and categorise the information that you need for optimal decision-making
  • augmented and virtual reality simulations can provide a multi-sensory experience to speed up and embed learning.

Additionally, social connectivity already enables user-generated content to outpace and outstrip what traditional education and learning institutions can deliver.

Knowledge may be the new money but, unlike money, you don’t lose it when you use knowledge or give it away. Transferring knowledge anywhere in the world is free and instant. It’s fun to acquire and it makes your brain work better. It helps you think bigger and beyond your circumstances. It puts your life in perspective by essentially helping you live many lives in one life through other people’s experiences and wisdom.

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Entrepreneur Today

How Are South Africans Feeling About The Work Environment?

A new study reveals individual fear that their skills will outdate and a growing need for lifelong learning.

Andrew Johnston

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A research report by MasterStart has found that just 23.8% of working South Africans believe their current skills will keep them employed in ten years’ time. With the burgeoning Fourth Industrial Revolution accelerating the pace of change in the world of work, most South Africans are looking to ‘future-proof’ their careers. And for 95%, lifelong learning is the key to retaining relevancy.

Related: 15 Of The Best And Most Unusual Online Courses For Entrepreneurs

Based on a survey with a sample group of over 1000 people across varying demographics and industries, the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer uncovered that – while artificial intelligence (AI) and robotic process automation (RPA) are on the radar – other factors are currently seen as more immediate factors impacting job retention.

Andrew Johnston, CEO of MasterStart says, “Our workforce is clearly concerned, but positively, our research revealed that people are aware that frequent upskilling and reskilling will aid them in remaining relevant and employable.

In a country where unemployment is an ongoing issue, it’s imperative that we empower people to future-proof their careers by making lifelong learning opportunities continuously accessible in order to bridge critical capability gaps and compete with global standards.”

Some pivotal findings in the report included:

  1. It’s tough out there: 80% of the sample believed the job market to be tougher now than it was ten years ago. People in media and marketing especially agreed with this (92.9%), along with those in the manufacturing (87.9%) and financial services (87%) industries.
  2. Why’s it perceived as so tough? Both macro and micro factors were listed, including the political and economic climate, increased competition, fewer employment opportunities and rapid change.
  3. Age and lack of skills are the biggest barriers: While age was referenced most frequently as a barrier to future employment – especially for those over 50 – in the 18-24 and 25-34 year old brackets, lack of skills was seen as the most prohibiting factor.
  4. People in IT and tech felt most secure about their skills: Collectively, just under half the sample felt they’d been held back by lack of skills. 30% of participants in IT and tech were completely confident their skills would survive the ten year test. Those in other industries were noticeably less secure.
  5. We’re not yet comfortable sharing our workloads with robots: Close to a quarter of respondents felt AI had already impacted their industry, but just under 20% said they were completely comfortable sharing their workload with robots or processes automated by AI. Surprisingly, 18-24 year-olds had the highest level of unease about this.

Lifelong learning is the best way to remain relevant

Whilst the Barometer found a workforce in a somewhat sombre mood, positively, people were putting plans in place to learn further to acquire the skills they need.

It was good to see that 80% of respondents were planning to study in the future, with self-enrichment being the primary motivator (66%), followed by the aspiration to get further and be promoted (54%) and the desire to keep abreast with industry-related changes (41%). 58% of people favoured online learning, and a number had already completed courses.

Johnston says, “This shows a workforce that’s committed to continuously learning the new hard and soft skills that’ll entrench the adaptability required to survive the breakneck pace of the workplace.”

Those that had already studied listed the ‘big gains’ as being:

  • Tangible results: like a salary increase, promotion, skills (to be more marketable), more experience and more opportunities.
  • Higher performance: like better knowledge, keeping up-to-date, better understanding of the way the workplace works, faster completion of tasks, and having to employ fewer people as they had the skills themselves.
  • Better motivation and soft skills: like being better at dealing with people, the ability to explain concepts to clients, and overall improved communication skills.

Johnston concludes, “Given the competitiveness of the market – which will only increase with the rise of automation – having a sought-after skillset is the best way to guarantee ongoing job retention.  This means using learning to get to grips with AI and RPA in order to build efficiencies and one’s overall value-add.”

He says we also need to consider providing alternate adult education programmes to give young people the best chance of gainful employment, “It’s important we make ongoing online learning materials easily accessible in ‘snackable’, bite-sized pieces to make learning easier.”

Lastly, he believes a lot of learning is up to corporates, “Providing ongoing executive-level education grooms great leaders and provides turn-key or customised solutions to bridge big capability gaps to foster greater efficiency, productivity and profitability. Our research shows that South Africans are hungry to learn – so companies that provide this opportunity will have a greater chance of talent retention, and attraction.”

To find out more, access the MasterStart South African Workforce Barometer report here.

 Related: 6 Free Courses That Can Help You Become A Successful Entrepreneur

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