Industry events: high impact when prospective graduates engage with roleplayers

AgriCAREERConnect prides itself in ensuring that the “industry meets fresh minds”. This has a crucial role in ensuring that industry/company representatives communicate its expectations with prospective graduates. During previous AgriCAREERConnect events, companies had representatives which introduced the company and proceeded to speak about their career journeys. The prospective students then asked questions and engaged with the company representatives. However, for the year 2023, AgriCAREERConnect format has been changed. The new format gives prospective graduates an opportunity to attend industry related events, for the duration of the event.

There are several benefits of this format.  For companies, they get to interact with students in person in as well as in a social setting. This enables them to witness the character of the students, whether it will be well fitted for the specific company culture. Secondly, the company representatives present at the specific event get to interact and introduce the student to different roles available at the company. This is beneficial for both the company and the student and can spark the student’s interest in the company and industry. 

    Recently, the Citrus Academy in partnership with AgriCAREERConnect hosted several ‘Youth Leader’ students at the CGA Citrus Summit in Gqeberha from 14 – 16 of March. The students were sponsored by Freshworld, Prophet, Villa Crop, Kaap Agri, SAFPRO (SA Fruit Promoters), AgriJob and CGA. All students extend gratitude to their respective sponsors. 

    The students benefitted greatly from this format and it was a great opportunity for students to network and engage with prospective employees. Additionally, considering that most of the students who attended the Summit are Citrus Academy bursary students, and are funded by the Citrus Academy and Agriseta, this will ensure that the industry increases the uptake and retention rate of Citrus Academy bursary graduates in the citrus industry, and that the skills offered by graduates are not lost to other industries. 

      The consensus among the students on the exposure they had at the Summit was that it broadened their understanding of the citrus industry. Sigcine Manyota who was sponsored by Freshworld remarked that attending the Summit made her realise how everything in the citrus value chain is connected. She added that it is not only about producing the best product but it is also everyone’s responsibility in the supply chain to ensure that the best quality product goes through all the stages in the value chain, without losing its value and it arrives to the destination in its best quality. For prospective graduates, having a broad understanding of the full agriculture supply chain is crucial. It enables them to identify their key interests within the industry and thereafter, develop the necessary skills applicable to that specific supply chain functionality.  Zimasile Ntseke who was sponsored by AGRIJOB to attend the CGA Citrus summit pointed out that listening to the black growers from the Citrus Growers Association Grower Development Company during the transformation discussion was the highlight for her. The growers pointed out three main challenges and concluded with sustainable solutions to these challenges. Additionally, Louisa Maloka-Mogotsi highlighted that growers are ready to welcome students for in-service training and internships. However, they will need support from the government and all citrus industry role players.

      I really enjoyed the Summit. I would never have thought that the whole industry literally comes together like that to plan and make decisions about the future of the industry. Besides being super interesting, it was amazing to see the amount of coordination and collaboration behind such a huge industry. I learnt a lot, I made many notes and much of the wisdom shared will stay with me when I enter the workspace and even just applying it to my studies and life in general. Also, I picked up some nuggets for research purposes since I’m doing my MSc in Agricultural Economics at the University of Pretoria.” – Tumelo Ramapela.

      Through exposure and mentorship, the industry-funded graduates can be retained. This will contribute towards the dire need for diversity and transformation within the industry. AgriCARERRConnect will continue to partner with the agriculture sector and put the spotlight on high calibre graduates.
      Compiled by:  Makhosazana Ngwenya