By Carla Enslin, co-founder of Vega and Head of Strategy & New Business Development

The key to empowering people to become captains of industry and to build an economically thriving country comes down to empowering individuals on an educational level, and engaging more young people in post-graduate studies is the key to taking the country to the level it needs to be in order to thrive in the global community. 

Vega (a brand of The Independent Institute of Education – The IIE) was started 21 years ago by passionate individuals who saw the need for a more focused approach to education at a tertiary level than what was on offer at the time. Today, Vega alumni can be found at the forefront of their respective industries, working to bring meaningful change to the world in their own significant ways. 

President Cyril Ramaphosa recently pleaded with young people to stay in South Africa and to contribute towards building a better future for the country, instead of taking their talent and skills to seemingly greener pastures overseas. This is in response to the large number of skilled professionals who are leaving the country in search of other opportunities and a better quality of life. 

Their reasons are understandable – South Africa’s high unemployment rate and economic struggles are among the many reasons why young people are flocking to other parts of the world. In the meantime, South Africa is experiencing a critical skills shortage, where the demand for specialists and academics as well as artisans is growing far greater than the supply. 

Be the change

Postgraduate studies enable you to delve deeper and gather more in-depth knowledge within any chosen field, supporting the development of mental agility that allows people to not only absorb information, but to use it to produce compelling arguments and analyse and conceive meaningful solutions to challenges. 

This is not only useful from an academic perspective but could also be of benefit in the South African context. With government pledging its support to help empower more small businessesfor the sake of the building the country’s economy, individuals who are skilled and experienced in their fields can add immense value too. 

For instance, Brigitta Jordaan, a former IIE BA Honours in Strategic Brand Communication student at Vega, has channelled her post-graduate skills into empowering entrepreneurs and small businesses to do everything from conceptualising ideas to developing a brand and its products strategically and sustainably. Brigitta’s value-add through her post-graduate studies centres on using strategic, analytical and design thinking to approach the task of problem-solving in a more dynamic, out-of-the-box way. 

With half of all South African start-ups failing within the first year, it’s clear that budding entrepreneurs and start-ups need a well-rounded approach to running a sustainable business. We need to emphasise the importance of understanding the concepts of brand and brand building, as well as brand communication, in growing a business.  

Similarly, an IIE Master of Arts in Creative Brand Leadership prepares future brand and business leaders to deal with the ever-shifting landscapes of the world on both an academic and industry level. As a result, instead of being boxed in by conventional processes, a student pursuing a post-graduate qualification of this nature learns to seek new solutions to existing challenges that businesses and organisations face, which is exactly the type of thinking required to build South Africa’s human and economic capital. 

Strategic finance skills, particularly on a senior level, are also currently in short supply in South Africa. These insights and expertise are best acquired through qualifications aimed at developing a balanced approach to finance, branding, marketing and strategy. 

“Although the focus of my studies was on brand building and strategy, there were elements that included finance, economics and the legal dynamics of brand building and strategy,” says Moosa Molibeli, who studied an IIE BCom Honours in Strategic Brand Management at Vega. “This certainly provided a holistic view and approach to brand strategy.”

While we tend to focus more on growing skills in areas like finance and strategy, it’s important that we also give credence to the value of design thinking, which extends to so much more than just the ‘creative’ realm. For instance, industries faced with the disruption brought on by the advent of technology need creative solutions to solve complex communication challenges brought on by the digital era. 

This is where qualifications like the IIE BA Honours in Graphic Design and the IIE BA Honours in Interior Design at Vega are extremely useful – students learn to challenge conventional thinking to develop and apply more refined and innovative thinking processes, while considering the economic, social and environmental effectiveness of their solutions.  

These are just a snapshot of the many opportunities that individuals have to further their own knowledge and bring meaningful positive change to the country in the process. Post-graduate studies are the key to building the foundation required, so that individuals can go forth and turn challenges – whether economic, social or environmental – into solutions.

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