De­liv­er­ing on the MBA in­vest­ment

The Star Early Edition - - NEWS -

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

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