VUT hosts SABPP student chapter relaunch: Fostering Agile and Resilient HR Leaders

By: Qhawekazi Memani – 27 October 2023

On  25 October 2023, the Vaal University of Technology’s (VUT) Human Resources Department, within the Faculty of Management Sciences hosted the South African Board for People Practices (SABPP) relaunch of the student chapter at VUT. The event, held at the VUT Desmond Tutu Great Hall, centred around the theme of “Building Agile and Resilient HR Leaders.”

Notable attendees included esteemed faculty lecturers, first-year to advanced-level Human Resources Management students, and Mr. Xolani Mwanda, the Chief Executive Officer of SABPP. He was accompanied by his distinguished team, including former VUT student, Ms. Busi Zulu from the Absa group, and Ms. Busi Xulu, the Learning and Development Manager at the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA).

For VUT, the relaunch of the student chapter represents a dynamic effort to reinvigorate and fortify its presence within the university community. The event served as a platform to reconnect existing members and attract new ones, creating a sense of unity and belonging among students. It also aimed to foster professional development by providing opportunities for skill enhancement, industry insights, and networking with peers and professionals. Furthermore, the chapter strives to elevate academic excellence through academic support, resources, and mentorship opportunities.

By encouraging leadership and initiative, the relaunch empowers students to assume active roles within the chapter, cultivating a culture of proactive involvement. Through exposure to industry, community outreach, and service projects, students are encouraged to apply their knowledge in real-world contexts. The event also established a platform for students to connect with peers, faculty, alumni, and professionals, potentially leading to valuable internships and career opportunities. Overall, it served as a catalyst for fostering academic, professional, and personal growth, preparing students for successful careers and active participation in their respective fields.

In her welcoming address, Professor Christel Marais, Associate Professor in the Department of Human Resources, emphasized the hope that the momentum built by SABPP would propel the students into the world of work.

Pleased to be back at VUT, guest speaker Mr Xolani Mwanda thanked the HRM department for the opportunity to come and address VUT students and highlighted that the day marked an important one in history. He announced that currently, there are 12 universities within the SABPP chapter, and that they were at VUT to launch the biggest chapter with more than 50 HRM professionals.

Recalling on the last three times he was at VUT, he said it was exactly in the very same hall the event was hosted, at a time his former boss was awarded with an honorary award from the University and urged the students to honour the man who was honoured by VUT. Delivering his speech, he said: “I did not become an HR Professional by accident, I did HRM because of passion.” Explaining HR procedures, he further stated that as HR professionals they deal with the most complicated thing – a human being and their job has no routine. He continued to say that he was at VUT to reward third year students with certificates who will soon be HR professionals, a journey he claimed he will then walk with the students.

Speaking on the importance of the day’s interaction, he said it would lead to permanent relationships.

“I have once sat at a university like any other student and noted one principle that cuts across and that is to finish anything that you start, don’t start things if you won’t finish. “If you can’t be disciplined now while studying you won’t survive in the workplace,” he said, adding that this is why other companies sit with poor performance issues – it is because of people who never get it right from the onset.

Next speaker was Marcia Swartz, a VUT advanced diploma in Human Resources Management who won first place in the SABPP competition earlier this year. Marcia presented on the event’s theme and also gave a  reflection on the whole competition experience and winning first place.

Ms  Xulu who manages learning and development at NYDA delved on her life journey of agile resilience and refusing to believe that she was incapable of success. . She also highlighted that HR is no longer the same, that digital technology has taken over and a digital mindset is therefore paramount. She also shared qualities of a resilient leader and made suggestions on how students can rebuild going forward.

The event was also packed with competitions for the students under different hashtags. The first-year students’ hashtag won – #Building a resilient workforce which is Aswell the motto for the 2024 student chapter.

An excited Ms Busisiwe Ramabodu: VUT Executive Director HR then took to the stage to address the future leaders of HR. In her address she said she hopes for more regular engagements with the department and students. In her presentation she discussed the modern leader postCovid and digitalization and digitization, social media led times and artificial intelligence to name a few. She also touched on the employment cycle and shared the five C’s – context knowledge, credibility, courage clout and care that keep her afloat as an HR leader. Big on supervision, mentorship, and people development she also delved on the importance of finding a mentor. A cyclist herself, Ramabodu noted that organisations are faced with high suicide rates, burnout, mental health issues, and therefore “you need to be proactive in taking care of self.”,

The new committee was also announced and will be chaired by: Sinovuyo Gotyana, 2nd Vice Chair:  Nompumelelo Mbele, 1st chair Dolly Witness Mpanza. The students were inducted to their duties by Mr Mwanda who said: “We will support you, please do your best,”. He also urged the other HRM students to support their newly elected leaders.

VUT currently has more than 300 students in the chapter and is one of the biggest chapters in South Africa. Mr Mwanda also handed over the biggest chapter certificate to Prof Johan Van Der Westhuizen, the head of department: HRM.