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Tthe effect of Kaizen-based training on the work-readiness of graduates from South African universities of technology
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Universities, particularly those that offer vocationally-oriented programmes, aspire to increased student employment rates; while students in vocational education have expectations with regard to their employment prospects in their chosen fields. Concerns about graduate unemployment in the University of Technology sector in South Africa has led the sector to engage in collaborative, international interventions with the intention to enhance students’ work-readiness. The focus of this study is a kaizen-based short course, known as the ‘Employability Improvement Programme’ (EIP), an initiative between the South African Department of Higher Education and Training, the Japan International Cooperation Agency, and South African Universities of Technology, with the intention to equip students with work-readiness skills and dispositions that are valued by employers. While potential employers generally regard University of Technology graduates as being technically competent, they have expressed concerns about students’ work-readiness in terms of their inter-personal skills, as well as their internalisation of work-related values, including professional ethics. The literature on work-readiness was drawn on to develop a conceptual framework for work-readiness in technical and vocational fields. The conceptual framework, that is, ‘the main things to be studied – the key factors, concepts or variables – and the presumed relationship among them’ (Miles & Huberman, 1994: 18) provided the key indicators by which the EIP was evaluated. The study also developed a theoretical framework based on Legitimation Code Theory’s ‘Specialization’ dimension (Maton, 2014: 29-33). The Specialization dimension includes the concept of ‘gazes’. The idea of the gaze, which is more commonly applied in fields related to the Arts and Humanities, was extended for application in technical and vocational education. The gaze of the technical practitioner is a ‘trained gaze’, but this gaze is insufficient for work-readiness. Drawing on concepts of work-readiness and the theory of specialised ‘gazes’, this thesis studied the effect of the EIP curriculum, pedagogy and spatial affordances across a range of technical and vocational fields. The evaluation methodology assessed the curriculum, pedagogy and spatial affordances the programme against a framework of abilities and dispositions that could enhance their future work-readiness. The findings of the study revealed that participants displayed some features of work-readiness following completion of the EIP, but found that the short course was insufficient to address all work-readiness factors. The thesis thus shows that a short course has a limited ability to extend the trained gaze of the technical student to encompass work-readiness, and argues that longer-term, more integrated forms of training are necessary to expand the technical gaze of the University of Technology student towards work-readiness.