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Nation Builder’s tips for managing CSI bursary programmes
As South Africa tries to transform the demographic profile of both private and public sectors, finding the right candidates for the right positions often starts with looking for people with the appropriate training and qualifications. That, along with the prevalent view that education is the gateway to unlocking life’s opportunities, means that most companies with CSI programmes focus on education.
This has seen a rise of CSI spending in that sector, with Trialogue reporting that in 2015 almost half of all CSI budgets were dedicated to educational projects of various types.
One popular way for companies to unlock educational opportunity is through bursaries. While scholarships are typically given in open competition and with no strings attached to candidates selected for their ability, bursaries are a bit different.
Bursary programmes usually look to both financial need and academic potential, and may come with post-qualification working conditions (this often being a welcome thing to young graduates looking for work in a slow-growing economy).
The most important thing to note about bursary programmes is that the successful ones tend to be comprehensively managed. Here, the CSI funder is in for the long-haul that makes for holistic education of beneficiaries, and produces a steady stream of graduates.
Before we look at the factors of success, let’s remember why bursars sometimes fail:
- Sloppy and haphazard selection processes result in poor outcomes.
This also applies where companies simply allow a pre-selected group of beneficiaries (such as the children of some employees) to automatically qualify for bursaries and/or to choose courses they’d prefer, rather than what they’re best suited to.
- Students sent to culturally-different environments without on-going mentoring and other support can find it particularly hard to succeed.
- Inflexible bursary conditions sometimes don’t allow for needed adjustments to courses being followed, nor allow for longer times needed for success to be achieved.
- Home circumstances that negatively affect non-boarding students may result in study failures. Failure also sometimes occurs, of course, through simple student irresponsibility.
Things to consider:
Bearing these things in mind, here are some things to consider for a successful bursary programme:
- There are no shortcuts to managing a successful bursary programme. This work should be approached comprehensively, with a long-horizon view, and with an appreciation of this being complex work.
- If one of the reasons for the bursary programme is to secure needed skills for the business, then the nature of the programme must be carefully designed to match business needs. This includes the choice of partner academic institutions, and must ensure that the business has a strong presence in the bursar selection process.
- The selection process must be a thorough one, should stick to core and easily-understood selection principles, and be transparent throughout.
- Selecting a candidate based on ability alone is not enough. Personality and its effect on academic potential is also important. Excellent bursary selection processes therefore tend to include aptitude and personality testing.
- Similarly, youngsters applying for bursaries may not fully comprehend the correct types of study to follow, and including as career guidance component in the final stages of selection can be important.
- People who apply for bursaries for post-school study are most often in need of full funding, and this should include tuition fees, textbooks and IT, board-and-lodging, transport, and pocket money.
- Build a strong and open working relationship with the academic institutions concerned, both to better understand what is required of students attending these institutions, and to work together in monitoring student progress and needs (academic and personal) throughout the study process.
Nation Builder companies can get the complete Good Giving Guide Series (individual philanthropy; best-practice in CSI; CSI insights by development sector) at http://www.proudnationbuilder.co.za/#!resources/uvgly