Being a recruiter and in a position to view firsthand the caliber of graduates coming out of the school and university system, I am often amazed that students with high exam results can fail so dismally in the workplace. This can only be attributed to the value the education system places on rote learning. The South African education system continues to place huge emphasis on the theoretical in favor of the practical, and this doesn’t bode well in results-driven industries.

Research done by the Council of Higher Education (CHE) showed that more than half the students that drop out of higher education institutions across the country, do so during their first year. This tells me that while schools and universities think they are doing enough, the statistics definitely tell a different story. And this statistic, of course, is a major problem for businesses that want to hire employees that can hit the ground running.

So how can parents help their children, whether they are matriculating or completing their last year of university, to be better prepared for the workplace. Here are some helpful ideas:

1. Teach social and communication skills
May young employees resign from jobs because of personality conflicts and the inability to work with other people. Providing your child with opportunities for social interaction is very important. Having playdates, sending them on camps, encouraging them to speak their minds etc, are excellent opportunities where your children can learn what is acceptable social behaviour, how to express feelings in a socially acceptable way, take criticism without becoming outwardly upset or angry, cooperate with others, ask for help when needed, and ask for more work once initial tasks are complete.

2. Give children specific chores
This provides a sense of responsibility and teaches them the value of working as a team. I recently attended a Grade 4 art of learning workshop where the presenter advised that by giving kids chores that they will be not personally benefit from, like feeding the dogs, will help them accept the responsibility of sitting down on a Saturday to spend an hour studying. And in turn will teach young employees to assist colleagues in need without personal gain.

3. Provide daily opportunities for your children to make choices
Ask your children to make simple and familiar choices, for example, what to wear or what toy to buy with their pocket money. These simple choices teach your children to a) make the decisions they don’t really want to make, or that are difficult to make, b) take responsibility for the consequences of their decision. Both invaluable job preparing lessons.

4. Allow your children to experience natural consequences
As parents, we often want to shelter our children from any pain, sadness or disappointments, but this is a natural part of life. When our children make a choice and it turns out to be a bad decision, we can provide the opportunity for them to learn about these mistakes. And, we can teach them the appropriate way to conduct themselves through the mistake, and how to right the wrong.

5. Help your children to be punctual
Believe it or not, you can teach your children to be punctual. Encourage them to set an alarm clock and wake up on time for school. Teach them to prepare for the next day by laying out their clothes or packing their school bags the night before.

6. Encourage volunteering
Volunteering can teach children much about what is expected at work without putting too much pressure on them. Volunteer experiences provide opportunities to learn job skills, meet new people, learn to communicate with people and learn to do a task in a certain time period and do it well. It is a great opportunity for career exploration. Encouraging your children to volunteer in a workplace also provides them with some insight into what is expected of them, and the kinds of skills they need to develop. For example, working a photo copy machine, how to create and send scans, how to answer the phone, how to dress appropriately, how to use Microsoft Office, or the use of Facebook Ads – things schools don’t teach, but where you, as the parent, can come in and either teach them these skills or enrol them into an online course.

7. Teach your children worldliness
Consider, for example, the advantages of the child who has been to the capital city and has seen what’s there compared with the child who has never left the village. Allowing your children to experience the world is imperative to their learning of how the world works, and the life-knowledge they gain by these experiences will be invaluable to the way they react and respond to people.

It is important to let our children know that their world will be a world of constant challenge and change, and being strong and prepared means being able to change. And for parents, starting early in preparing your children for work will ensure they have better opportunities to be successful in their employment.