Zuko Hlanjwa, a student of the Central University of Technology (CUT), Free State, scooped up the second prize at this year’s National Excellence Awards hosted by the South African Board for People Practice (SABPP). As a top student in the Faculty for Management Sciences, he represented the CUT and competed with the five top-performing students of the Walter Sisulu University, Nelson Mandela University, North-West University, Cape Peninsula University of Technology and the University of Johannesburg. Dan Maritz, CUT spokesperson, says Hlanjwa and other contestants were judged on their academic performance, leadership position, sporting achievements, community engagement and other extra curricular achievements. Thereafter, they had to present and face the panel interview.“As the only representative of the CUT to enter the competition, Zuko held the institution’s flag high and never disappointed his lecturers and mentors,” Maritz says.Hlanjwa is mentored by Jacques Taljaard, lecturer in Employment Relations, and Prof. Deseré Kokt, associate professor in Human Resources Management, who played a role in preparing him for the competition. “They mentored and gave me presentation tips and I’m grateful that I did not fail them,” says Hlanjwa. He presented the topic “Why is a high rate of talent management essential for HR graduates entering the workplace?”The competition was his first and the experience of presenting to professors, doctors and professionals in human resources had been mind-blowing and inspiring, he says. “Although my eyes were set on the first prize, I am equally grateful for what I got, as it means I am the second-best student in the country. The experience has shown me that I have what it takes to take human resources to greater heights in South Africa and globally. “When I got back to campus, I received a victor’s welcome from my lecturers and peers. My achievement was also shared with the entire institution and that is when it hit me that this win was bigger than I thought. It has made a huge difference.” Hlanjwa says he was inspired to enter more such competitions for exposure and growth in his career. His advice to his peers is to always see challenges as opportunities and to channel the mind towards goals and desires. When sharing his future dreams, he says that his short term goal is to secure a full-time human resources job so that he can acquire exposure.