2021 has been a year nobody could have predicted, yet as we begin to normalise life with Covid, our attention turns back to the economy and the youth.

For the past 6 years, BlackBark Productions has operated the GradStar Awards (, identifying the most employable tertiary level students from thousands of entries each year, and this year was no different. Last week, on December 2nd, GradStar announced the Top100 Students of 2021, and also the ’10 of the Finest’. However, this year, we added a little extra to the entry form: asking the students to list their top 5 preferred employers. No suggestions were offered and no sectors put forward, the students were just asked to name the 5 companies they would most like to work for. After receiving almost 5000 responses, over 23,000 unique answers, the data was mined and the Students’ Choice Awards of 2021 was born.

Announced by the students in live event on December 3rd, and attended by both the employers and the students, the results were a result of employer branding conducted over the years, sometimes predictable and sometimes surprising.

Laura Barker, MD and Founder of the GradStar Programme says; “We are over the moon to be host the bp Students’ Choice Awards, these young people are our future and are here to take the country forwards, their opinions matter and we need to hear what they think. We developed the bp Students’ Choice Awards as a demonstration of our commitment to our future leaders who have had such a turbulent year, and also corporate South Africa who have developed some amazing innovations in the workplace during extremely challenging economic conditions. Congratulations to all the winners.”


Category Winner First Runner Up Second Runner Up
Automotive Daimler BMW Volkswagen
Banking & Financial Services Absa FNB Standard Bank
Broadcasting & Media Multichoice SABC Media24
Energy, Chemicals & Heavy Engineering Sasol BP Shell
Consultancy Deloitte PwC KPMG
Education Universities & Colleges Schools other than Government Pearson Institute
Electronics Siemens Samsung Tesla
FMCG Unilever Coca-Cola Tiger Brands
Healthcare Netcare Mediclinic Lancet
Healthcare Insurance Discovery Metropolitan/Momentum Liberty Health
Insurance Discovery Old Mutual Sanlam
ICT Accenture Google Amazon
Leisure, Travel & Hospitality SANParks Marriott Tsogo Sun
Mining & Minerals Anglo American Exxaro Epiroc
Pharmaceutical Aspen Johnson & Johnson Pfizer
Professional Services Bidvest Dalitso Holdings Future Fit Academy
PS – Auditing and Accounting Deloitte PwC KPMG
PS – Consulting Engineering Hatch Zutari AECOM
PS – Legal Bowmans Cliffe Dekker Hofmeyr ENSAfrica
Property & Construction WBHO Concor GVK Siyazama
Retail Shoprite/Checkers Woolworths Takealot
State-owned Enterprises Transnet SARB Eskom
Telecommunications Vodacom MTN Telkom
Transport & Logistics DHL Transnet Imperial Logistics



  • Absa
  • Deloitte
  • PwC
  • FNB
  • Standard Bank

The full report provides insights into students’ preferences in grad programmes and their contents as well as announcing the preferred employers making it a MUST READ for all those involved in the graduate recruitment space. The questions were formulated by forming a steering group of graduate recruiters from organisations including McKinsey, Old Mutual, Absa and bp, ensuring the content is up to date, valid and relevant.

The research report is available for download from our GradStar website (

If you have suggestions for additional questions to be included, or for any further information, please contact the below addresses.

Yusuf Seedat:;

Laura Barker:


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