Delivering on the MBA investment
THE University of Pretoria’s Gordon Institute of Business Science (GIBS) has taken to heart criticisms that South African graduates are not equipped with the relevant skills for the modern-day work place.
Tanya van Lill, Director Academic Programmes says, “This is particularly stinging when levelled at post-graduate students who have made substantial investments of time and money.
“It is why we have developed an MBA that equips graduates with the precise skills required by employers.
“By developing close partnerships with a number of stakeholders, including key business leaders, GIBS prides itself on ensuring its finger remains on the pulse of current trends.
“Our advisory board consists of individuals in the corporate sector and we work with international business schools to gain additional perspective.”
Van Lill explains: “Companies want people able to ask the right questions, get the right answers and take responsible problem solving decisions.
“Individuals need to be flexible and portable, able to work in different jobs, as well as different functions.
“This portability is also about being willing and able to work in different countries.”
With South African businesses driving expansion into new markets, van Lill notes that they want people who understand their business and their industry and are willing to use that knowledge to develop their markets.
GIBS MBA students must have work and managerial experience.
She says, “Most of our students come in with at least 10 years’ work experience and six years management experience.
“It is this know-how that enriches the classroom experience, as they bring their industry understanding to the discussion.”
The next key feature is the concept of experiential learning. GIBS takes learning a step further by challenging students with ‘curveballs’ throughout the course.
An example is the GIBS ‘Dynamic Competitiveness’ module which challenges students to understand their local context in order to adopt a more global outlook.
Students are required to complete an international immersion, either through an exchange with an international business school or through a GIBS-arranged trip to a foreign market.
“However,” says van Lill, “we found that, although they were amazed at what happens in other countries, they were blind to what was going on in their own country.”
To address this challenge, GIBS students complete a local immersion prior to the overseas leg.
This allows them to engage with business, political and educational leaders from various towns and cities around Gauteng.
“They then realise that there is so much happening around them and start wanting to affect change on the ground and making a difference,” she adds.
Van Lill believes this type of experiential learning greatly enhances the content and theory offered by an MBA.
“It encourages students to think about what they are doing and why they are doing it - a very valuable skill that they will take into the future.”
Taking the learning experience a step further is a focus on an invaluable peer learning experience.
With the help of fellow students, and input from mentors and coaches, GIBS MBAs are able to gain a greater understanding of their strengths and weaknesses.
Van Lill explains: “We equip them with the skills to provide mutual feedback and, by the end of the course, they know their personal strengths and weaknesses are able to measure their personal improvement.
Next year GIBS will launch an initiative to involve business even more.
This, she says, will helps employers gain a greater understanding of how best to use the new skills that their MBA employees bring to their jobs.
Tanya van Lill, Director Academic Programmes