The SAGEA development insights 2023: Press Release

Employers are engaged in creating meaningful connections with graduates and an increased focus on mental health & wellbeing.

The SAGEA Development Insights Survey 2023 is the definitive study of graduate employers and their graduate development activities. The survey is the main source of information about graduate intakes and development in South Africa.

The study examines employer graduate intakes by gender and ethnicity, how employers are addressing diversity and inclusivity and how this is being measured. It also explores the differing graduate retention levels and looks at the current challenges facing graduate development teams in South Africa.

How the SAGEA Development Insights is Researched

The SAGEA Development Insights Study is carried out on behalf of SAGEA by High Fliers Research, the specialist student and graduate research company.

Research for The SAGEA Development Insights Study took place from October 2022 to January 2023, using an online questionnaire. The study sought to measure key areas such as intake profiles, diversity, assessment, development, funding, and graduate retention as well as key challenges facing employers in the marketplace.

Key Highlights from Insights Study

  • More than half of our employer participants have been running graduate development programs for ten or more years, with 20% having three to five years’ experience running programmes.  Only 15% were relatively new to graduate development, having running programmes for one to two years.
  • South African graduate intakes are focused on Finance and Accounting with more than half of Employers in this sector bringing in large intakes, followed by ICT.  The growing demand for Data Analytics and Data Scientists is also notable. 
  • When asked why they are offering graduate development programs, 38% said they employ graduates to develop future leaders for the business, with 32% hiring graduates to fill roles requiring in-demand skills.  The remaining 30% hire graduates to perform entry level work, which may lead to further opportunities within the business.
  • Much of the support for graduate development is driven by the CEO and Executive team, with increasing line-manager involvement and responsibility for the development of graduates.  Many organisations are providing training and support for line managers on effective performance management and how to meaningfully engage young talent.
  • Diversity remains a top priority as employers use their ability to build young talent as a key differentiator for the future.  Black females make up around 35% of intakes, black males make up just under a quarter and Indian and coloured males and females, combined, make up a fifth of graduate intakes.
  • Many employers are focussed on building a hybrid working environment for their graduate intake, with more than 60% of organisations offering two to three days of the week working from home, or virtually.  This is, of course, sector-dependent.
  • South African employers tend to have a high dependence on contract employment as opposed to permanent entry level roles, with more than 60% of graduate roles contracted in this way.  This is in stark contrast to countries such as the United Kingdom and Australia who tend to hire permanently at a rate of more than 50%.  This is a concern given that the SAGEA Candidate Insights project, an annual study of more than 2 000 young professionals, indicates that seeking out long term career prospects and security of employment are among their highest priorities.
  • The number of employers seeking SETA funding, as an alternative funding model for their programmes, is relatively low, at 34%.  This is an area where SAGEA is endeavouring to collaborate more with our sector funders to ensure that skills are built appropriately in response to the new and emerging careers of the future.
  • Whilst most employers indicate that diversity and the retention of scarce skills are priorities, data is difficult to collect with many systems not providing the granular data required.   SAGEA expects this to be a significant focus in the future to understand patterns that would assist in positively influencing retention.  Retention of young professionals ranges between 80% at year one, dropping to around 74% by year three.  There is a need, in our view, to focus on the more granular nuances around what skills are being lost and why.

In this year’s survey we asked respondents for qualitative input on their key concerns and challenges when it comes to young talent development post-Covid.  The feedback received can be summarised into three key themes:

  1. The need to create connection for graduates.
  2. Mental health and wellbeing and the support that employers should be providing.
  3. There are certainly opportunities to make use of collaborative tools to deliver some development content digitally.

Says Cathy Sims, Executive Director of SAGEA, “Building talent is a key differentiator for many organisations going forward, particularly in the knowledge economy.  We are delighted to see so many employers investing significantly in building their future workforce with a focus on diversity, inclusion, and scarce skills.  Data and analytics will play a fundamental role in the future of the HR function, and we hope to see improved measurement as a key future focus.

Participating Employers

A total of 78 graduate employer entries are included in this report, including:

Absa Bank
Allan Gray
Anglo American
Astron Energy
Auditor General of South Africa
AVI Limited
Bain & Company
Baker McKenzie
BDO South Africa
Boston Consulting Group
Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr
Cofco International
Council for Scientific & Industrial Research (CSIR)
Deloitte Audit
Deloitte Consulting
Dimension Data
Discovery Limited
Ericsson South Africa
Financial Intelligence Center
Fundi Capital
Genesis Analytics
Glencore Operations
Globeleq South Africa Management Services
Huawei Technologies
Imperial Logistics
Mckinsey & Co
Mr Price Group
Multichoice Group
Oceana Group
Old Mutual
PKF South Africa
Procter & Gamble
Rand Merchant Bank
SAB, part of ABInBev
Standard Bank
The Shoprite Group of Companies
Tiger Brands
Toyota South Africa
Webber Wentzel
Werksmans Attorneys
Worley RSA