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Human Resource Management at VUT

by Staff Reporter

Interested to find out what it’s like to study Human Resource Management at Vaal University? Penelope Makala shares her student experience.

I studied Human Resource Management at the Vaal University of Technology (VUT). Currently I work as an HR Officer for a big South African company.

Before my studies I matriculated in 2006 at Riverside High School in Vereeniging, Three rivers. My high school subjects included

  • Business
  • Management
  • Biology
  • Geography
  • History
  • English
  • Afrikaans
  • Life Orientation

Since I was young, I’d always wanted to study LLB Law and become a lawyer.

Choosing where to go is easier said than done

The time that led to my final decision of going to VUT was quite challenging for various reasons.

Childhood Dream vs. Newfound Interest
In 2006 our Riverside High School head master took us to a career expo in Sandton City where reps from different institutions enlightened us about career options, specific courses, and what it’s like to be in the working world. The info really fascinated me, but I was still stuck on the idea of studying Law.

Unexpectedly, however, the expo introduced me to a new field of study that fascinated me and quickly became my second choice of study Human Resource Management. I really enjoyed hearing about what professionals like HR Generalists, HR Officers and HR Coordinators did on a daily basis.

Interacting and interviewing candidates with different personalities, and taking care of employee wellbeing were things that really appealed to me.

Family Pressures
I was under a lot of pressure after I completed Matric. My parents wanted me to attend an institution located close to home, and made it pretty clear that they wouldn’t support my moving to Johannesburg to study, when Vaal University of Technology was just around the corner. They were not prepared to pay that kind of extra accommodation cost in addition to food allowance.

When it came to finally deciding, I had to consider all the factors. I eventually decided to apply for my second choice, because I would be studying towards something that interested me, while also making my parents happy.

Human Resource Management at VUT

Without much further ado, I went straight from Grade 12 to my first year studying Human Resource Management at Vaal University of Technology (VUT).

My subjects were:

  • Personnel Management
  • Quantitative Techniques
  • Industrial Relations
  • Business Management
  • Operations Management
  • Management of Training
  • Labour Law

I did well, but like many students, I struggled more in some areas than others. For example, I attended extra tutorials and late evening classes to improve my marks in Quantitative Techniques.

After three years, I graduated with my HR National Diploma, and thereafter spent one more year completing a BTech.

What it’s like to study at VUT?

The HR course was very interesting, and I learned a lot about employee wellbeing and about the theoretical approach to disputes and other scenarios that may occur in the workplace.

Studying at VUT was fascinating; I met a lot of people from different places from in and around South Africa, as well as from other African countries. I also got along very well with the lecturers. In the end I also loved the fact that VUT was near my hometown. I was, after all, bread and buttered in the Vaal.

The only thing I didn’t enjoy very much during the time at VUT was doing presentations, because I was rather shy. As soon as I started working, however, this changed in the blink of the eye. I now excel in presentations, and genuinely love giving them.

VUT has produced people of good characters, and graduates who go on to lead very successful careers – for example VUT graduate David Tlale, who is now a well-known Fashion Designer.

Balancing Studies and… Everything Else

Living at home with my parents while at varsity was a bit of a challenge.  I am the first born of three, which meant I had to do chores at home before studying. It took away some opportunities for me to experience the ‘typical’ student life. I missed all the first year balls and picnics, because my parents were very strict.

Although I agree that you should learn to become independent at an early age, it can become quite frustrating to be swamped in chores during your studies. Especially when you’re a first-time student, you want to be mixing and mingle with other students. I still managed to do this, but it was challenging.

Because of my upbringing, I always tried to figure things out and solving subject problems myself, instead of seeking out help from fellow students. It made things a bit tricky. At the end of the day, I was dedicated to tackle my studies with everything I had.

Finding a job

Finding a job in South Africa is a challenge in itself. In our country, it often comes down to having the right connections, and knowing someone in the industry you want to work in.

After graduation, I spent roughly a year at home, looking and applying for jobs everywhere. It was quite emotionally draining, and I was close to giving up.

I don’t think I would have made it anywhere without my parents’ support.

My parents showed a lot of support and helped me with the application emails. My dad made a hundred copies of my CV and dropped them off everywhere. He spoke to everyone he could, but nothing seemed promising.

I then saw an advert in the newspaper offering an HR internship, and immediately applied.

When I got the call for an interview, I was really happy, because finally there was a light at the end of the tunnel.

I went for the interview, and soon after, I started working there on a 6-month contract. It was a small company owned by a young female business lady, and my main responsibility was to arrange interviews and book the boardroom.

4 months after leaving that position, l started working at a new place. A friend of mine had called me up when her company was looking for an HR graduate. After relocating to Witbank, I started working as a Payroll Administrator. One year later, I was promoted to HR Officer, which is still my current position in the company.

Tips and Advice for Students

My advice to matrics and high school students is the following.

  1. Do Your Research
    Make sure you research different courses within your desired areas of study. Look at different institutions and read the faculty handbooks.
  2. Have a Plan B
    Ensure that you always have a course option B, just in case course option A doesn’t work out.
  3. Study Full-Time
    It is possible to get a qualification with part-time study, but it’s going to take you much longer. So, while you have the opportunity to study full-time, do it.
  4. Be Positive
    Not always easy, but this helps you get through times when things don’t go according to plan. Nobody is perfect. We all have our ups and downs, and when a module or test goes south, just remember that failing something isn’t always the end of the world.
  5. Focus
    Focus, focus, focus. Do this however you need. I recommend studying in the library, as opposed to at home, to avoid distractions from family members or friends. But this may be different for everyone.
  6. Do What You Love & Love What You Do
    It’s plain and simple.

Admission Requirements for HR Management at VUT

To qualify, applicants needs at least:

  • English (50%)
  • Pure Maths (40%) or Maths Lit (50%)
  • An additional subject (40%)
  • Three additional subjects (40% each)

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