Success Project

1.2 Background of the SUCSESS Project In 2019, the Erasmus+ “SUCSESS” project was awarded by the European Union to several partner universities in South Africa, Finland and the UK. This project was motivated by and awarded due to the critical and consistent problem of youth unemployment in South Africa. The project kicked off in February 2020, just as the consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic lockdowns started to decimate the labour market. The issue of youth unemployment in South Africa was a reality before the COVID lockdowns and has persisted to this day. According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) of Statistics South Africa, in the first quarter of 2022, the unemployment rate was 63,9% for those aged 15-24 and 42,1% for those aged 25-34 years, while the current official national rate stands at 34,5% (Quarterly Labour Force Survey Q1, 2022: 16). The report states that although “the graduate unemployment rate remains relatively low in South Africa compared to those of other educational levels, unemployment among the youth continues to be a burden, irrespective of educational attainment” (Quarterly Labour Force Survey Q1, 2022: 16). Employability has therefore become a vital issue for government, business and educational institutions to address, thereby elevating the objectives of the SUCSESS project. The SUCSESS project aims to strengthen the cooperation between higher education institutes (HEIs) and enterprises in South Africa. Currently, universities all over the world are shifting their pedagogical approaches toward experiential learning practices, and South Africa is no exception. According to this approach, the role of students, academic staff and industry collaboration changes. Students take on a more active role in the learning process by participating in joint development projects. The role of academic staff also evolves - they no longer feed students with new knowledge but rather, they act as facilitators or coaches, helping students reach new competencies. The value for businesses in this knowledge triangle (students-lecturers-industry) is to support business development and innovation. More innovative and profitable companies will support regional and community development and ultimately enhance prosperity. The period 2020-2023 saw a tremendous amount of work done on the project with the collaboration and knowledge sharing between the South African universities of Pretoria, Johannesburg and Zululand and universities from the global north including Haaga-Helia University of Applied Sciences and Oulu University in Finland and the UK-based SheffieldHallam University. This partnership served to be invaluable during a time when teaching and learning globally required a rethink due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The project was comprised of various work packages. In Work Package 1, primary research amongst students, lecturers and industry was conducted which identified the gaps in university/industry collaboration and recommendations on increasing students' employability were made. 5