Preparing students for the complex world of ‘adulting’

Ask almost any young graduate about the experience of taking their first big steps into the real world after completing their studies, and they will probably tell you that they were “never ready”. Along with paying rent and learning how to do a tax return, starting a new career can be challenging, and entering the job market with no idea of what to expect makes the ‘adulting’ process a lot more difficult.

With 31.2% of South African youth currently unemployed – 7.3% of which accounts for graduates – it’s vital that schools and tertiary institutions do more to ensure that students are better prepared to enter the working world and build sustainable, successful careers. Vega, an educational brand of The Independent Institute of Education (The IIE), encourages students to take a hands-on approach to their careers by taking part in projects like the annual Vega Brand Challenge.

Students from the Bachelor of Arts creative disciplines of Copywriting, Multimedia Design and Visual Communications, as well as Bachelor of Arts Strategic Brand Communication students, together with the students from Bachelor of Commerce, Bachelor of Business Administration and Honours at Vega, form their own advertising ‘agencies’ to tackle real-world briefs from real-life, paying clients. These paying clients form part of the contributors who raise funds for the institutions bursary programme.

The students work closely with clients over a gruelling five-week period to find solutions to complex challenges and deliver agency-worthy results. All funds raised from the Brand Challenge going towards the Vega Bursary Fund, giving young people from disadvantaged backgrounds the opportunity to attend Vega and enjoy the same life-changing opportunities.

“If I had to describe Brand Challenge in a few words, I would say that it’s an interesting, tough, and stressful experience – but it’s an experience of a lifetime,” says Cassi Matthews, a third-year BA Strategic Brand Communication student at Vega. “From the learnings to the challenges, including late nights, conceptualisation, building team relationships, and learning to listen to others, Brand Challenge is an experience that has helped me grow as an individual.”

Cassi’s Brand Challenge team, PHA|CES, tasked with repositioning the AEG brand to appeal to a younger target market, created a campaign called “Colourfully Precise”, focused on linking AEG’s German heritage with South African lifestyles by allowing consumers to add their own unique touch of colour to the product.“Our students have established a reputation of producing exceptional work for Brand Challenge clients, and are often rewarded with clients deciding to implement their work within wider brand communications strategies,” says Francois Barnardo, Johannesburg Head of Campus Navigator. “In addition, Brand Challenges are a great way for talented young students to earn recognition for their work and get noticed by industry leaders, potentially leading to employment opportunities on graduation.

Microsoft, one of the many prominent Brand Challenge clients in 2015, was so impressed with a print ad campaign developed by Vega Durban students that it decided to run the ads in national newspapers, while two teams from the same year were flown to Johannesburg to present their ideas to ABSA and the CEO of Barclays Africa. Two of these students were also offered work during their visit.

Projects like the Brand Challenge, along with the myriad of other career-building programmes run by Vega, equip students with the skills, insight and experience they need to succeed in fast-paced, high-stress agency environments. This offers a huge leg up when it comes to not only surviving but thriving in the real world.

“The Brand Challenge gave me the opportunity to take the knowledge I’ve acquired in the classroom and put it into practice, giving me an in-depth understanding of how to approach a brief, find solutions and present ideas as a team,” says Ikaheng Nethonzhe, who is currently in her third year of studying a BA Creative Brand Communication degree at Vega.

“Knowing how to interact with people and actively listening to and respecting their ideas are the skills that I believe every student needs to be prepared for the working world,” she continues. Ikaheng and her team, Zenith, were tasked with encouraging more brand engagement and in-store activity for Donna (formerly Donna Claire), and created the “Be a Donna, Not a Clairecampaign, which aimed to showcase the brand’s appeal to a wider target market, particularly curvaceous women.

Vega emphasises the importance of students being paid for their work to instil a sense of achievement for their talent and efforts, with all proceeds from the Brand Challenge going towards the Vega Bursary Fund, giving students from disadvantaged backgrounds the chance to study at Vega. “Our bursary programmes are effectively a way for students to pay it forward, and help other young people experience and enjoy the same opportunities they have experienced,” says Barnardo.

Get a feel for the Vega way of life at the Vega Open Day, taking place on Saturday, 28 October 2017. For more information about Vega and the range of IIE qualifications available for study in 2018, visit

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