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An investigation of industry expectations on industrial engineering graduates: a case study of development programmes in South African universities
Post apartheid South Africa experienced major economic turbulence with poverty, unemployment and skills shortage, with most manufacturing and other key economic sectors affected by poor productivity and a subsequent downsizing of their labour work force. At the same time, many economic opportunities arose, including the full impact of globalisation, the emergence of China and Africa as economic partners and becoming a full member of the Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa (BRICS) economic development group by the year 2010. The government and business communities at large realised the necessity for skills augmentation in order to expedite economic development and alleviate the scarcity of employment opportunities and growth across the major economic sectors. The backdrop of the economic upheaval of 2008 and 2009 placed manufacturing firms under pressure to reconsider their current operational strategies by streamlining their organisations and adopting aggressive lean and cost saving approaches in order to remain competitive. There is a perceived lack of alignment between industry and institutions alike, sometimes resulting in a perception that graduating industrial engineers do not entirely match industry expectations. Thus, it is imperative to explore the articulation and relationship between those industries that rely on the skills of industrial engineering technologists and the graduate industrial engineers with emphasis on the skills expectations as stressed by the national priorities and the academic capacity to meet these skills expectation in today’s competitive professional arena. This perceived lack of alignment between end user requirements and the service provided falls within the ambit of the field of quality management. This study focuses on two main sample groups within two areas of interest: • The industrial engineering student community and their respective academic environments; and • the relevant industrial engineering industry and its working environment. A self-administered questionnaire coupled with a number of interviews is employed in order to gather the required data. Grouped samples, involve the relevant industry employers, students and academic institutions. The research explores the pertinent roles and responsibilities expected of industrial engineers and industrial engineering technologists on entry into the working environment, as compared to the current level of training offered by various institutional bodies as expressed by the South African qualifications authority (SAQA) and the national qualifications framework (NQF). The validation of the analysis and outcomes of the study culminates through the exploration of the following: • The influence of skills levels on productivity within the relevant industrial engineering industries. • The demand and supply of industrial engineering skills. • Skilling industrial engineering graduates for their required roles and responsibilities. • Governing bodies responsible for the curriculation of industrial engineering programmes, offered by institutions of higher learning. The study aims to proffer valuable knowledge by identifying better opportunities for employment in the industrial engineering field, the addition of value towards better industrial engineering schooling and output quality of students emerging from institutions, and lastly superseding earlier misconceived perceptions of industrial engineering.
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