A team of students and alumni from the Vega School of Brand Leadership (Vega), a division of the Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), took top honours at the 2015 Loeries Creative Week, recently held in Durban. Dr Carla Enslin, national academic head, at Vega, says this is an important indicator that industry ready graduates is not only critical to bridging South Africa’s skills gap but also key to grooming innovators as well as future leaders. 

The twenty-first century has seen an explosion of knowledge and technology. But modern economic activity, innovation and growth cannot take place without skilled human capital. We know that the propagation of knowledge and skills is crucial to the lifeblood of any self-sustaining economy. It is, therefore, important to ask what role higher education can play in nurturing the modern day student with the necessary resources required to prepare them to graduate ready to take on the workplace.

There is a clear skills gap between what employers want and need, and what graduates are capable of offering. This means that institutions of higher learning need to do much more to assist their graduates become ‘work ready’.

But is this entirely the responsibility of these institutions?

At Vega our strength lies in our relationship with industry. We know that it is only through collaboration with the working world that the fundamentally synergistic nature of the interaction between creativity and strategy, inspiration and innovation as well as idea and deed can exist. This ensures that we equip our graduates with both analytical and reasoning skills as well as get them ready for the workplace. 

Platforms such as the Loeries act as a benchmark to measure our relevance to industry as they highlight the type of professional we mould. The Loeries are a non-profit association dedicated to the recognition of creative excellence in the African brand communications industry. Their annual awards ceremony is recognised as the region’s most prestigious creative festival.

This year current Vega students as well as alumni were nominated for no less than twenty six Loerie awards – taking home thirteen awards.  These included four Crafts, four Bronze, three Silver, two Gold as well as the 2015 Young Creative award won by Melusi Mhlungu. Further, for the first time the Loeries awarded an incredible five bursaries and scholarships to talented learners, worth a total value of over R1 million. The lucky recipients will now have the opportunity to study at Vega or at our sister school the Design School of Southern Africa.

Further, Vega students recently won a Wooden and Graphite Pencil award at the prestigious International D&AD New Blood Awards. This confirms Vega’s position as South Africa’s top training ground for creative talent.

Human capital development and the role of higher education in contributing towards economic growth and societal progress is an age old challenge which requires constant re-evaluation and robust debate. However, there is little doubt that more cross pollination needs to happen between institutions of higher learning and industry so that the two feed into each other simultaneously.

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