About Us

Now in its 8th year, the DHL GradStar Awards recognises the most employable students in the country.
The Awards is a national programme and is free to enter for ALL tertiary students and recent graduates with less than 2 years’ work experience.

For students the Awards allow students to be measured against criteria that recruiters look for in the ideal employee. The awards challenge students to be their best, and identify their areas of strength and weakness. Together with our judging partners, the Future Fit Academy, with their team of recruiters and industrial psychologists we have devised the criteria for the Awards.

For Recruiters, GradStar offers a unique opportunity to fast track their recruitment process, as the Awards Sponsors get first access to all GradStar entrants, especially the Top 500 and Top 100 GradStar Finalists. Companies who sponsor GradStar  are the top employers in the country who are pushing the narrative and creating opportunities for young people.

The GradStar Programme offers students further access by offering them opportunities for networking, mentorship, introduction to employers and much more.

  • Students are able to download the GradStar App for free. This is a student only platform where students can create their profiles, network with like-minded students around the country on a social wall, and create meaningful connections. Students can download the app from their relevant app store.

Employers are able to sign up for recruiter subscriptions to the GradStar App, and conduct targeted search and match for their ideal candidates. Employers are also able to use the app as a powerful marketing platform to an engaged audience.

  • GradStar Connect – is a series of webinars supported by leading employers. Here students are able to attend presentations introducing them to work opportunities, get valuable work readiness advice, and learn soft skills.
  • GradStar conducts in-depth research into Barriers to Employment opportunities, and by listening to the voice of the student bodies, present the findings on the research in an annual research whitepaper – the GradStar Barriers to Employment Report
  • GradStar also identifies the companies that students most want to work for and these results are announced at the annual Momentum Metropolitan Students’ Choice Awards.

GradStar identifies with the student body and gives visibility to the most talented young minds in the country. This makes the lives of graduate recruiters a lot easier, taking the pain out of graduate recruitment. “

All varsity careers centres from across the country are contacted to market the GradStar programme to their students, ensuring representation from across the country and from all disciplines. We also advertise in relevant press and online forae.

The students go through a rigorous 4 phase judging process, culminating in a day of workshops hosted by potential employers (sponsors). All flights and accommodation for the students to attend the judging and celebratory Gala Dinner are paid for by BlackBark Productions.

In addition, all 100 top students are connected with a successful business mentor, recognised through the Rising Star Programme, to further ready them for the workplace. The mentorship café takes place at the GradStar Solutions Summit the following day (www.risingstarsummit.co.za), a business journey for the Top 100 GradStars, culminating in real-life business solutions for top companies. It is a journey of mentorship and problem-solving where top minds can create lasting networks and solve real-life problems.

Meet the Team

Laura Barker

CEO, BlackBark Productions

Laura is the founder of the Rising Star and GradStar future leader recognition programmes, now in their 12th and 8th year respectively. She also developed and founded the GradStar app, designed to match students with their ideal employers. She has a wealth of experience working with young people, organisations and companies alike and is deeply committed to uplifting and celebrating the youth of South Africa. She believes the amazing talent South Africa has to offer promises a bright future. Laura has also recently launched Schools Star – the largest learner work readiness and recognition programme to assist High School graduates.

Alister Swart

General Manager, BlackBark Productions.

As previous operations and creative director Alister Rejoins BlackBark with a wealth of product knowledge and insight on operations within the company. His current responsibilities include account management on the GradStar App, sales and marketing across all event platforms and assists with general event management and operations.