"It's necessary for all of our graduates to take part in a programme that allows them to become familiar with the challenges of our country while at the same time gaining experience and developing their skills," Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande told the Mail & Guardian on the sidelines of the policy conference.
While not immediately forthcoming on the details of the proposed service, Nzimande indicated it would be similar to the internship served by medical graduates in state hospitals.
"This community service will be no less than one year. And our graduates will be absorbed into that service within the public sector predominantly but also the private sector to a lesser extent," he said.
The minister said this could range from LLB graduates running law clinics in rural areas to engineers gaining experience at public works.
Nzimande indicated this would be compulsory for all students at tertiary education institutions – even those paying for their own fees.
"This is not only for those we fund directly but also for those funding their own studies. The government subsidises those studies too," he said.
Nzimande said the scope of expected outcomes for any graduate entering such a programme would have to be monitored so candidates "don't simply make photocopies and fetch coffee".
This state service proposal follows discussions presented on the National Youth Service Programme at the conference on Thursday.
During the social transformation commission report back, Arts and Culture Minister Paul Mashatile indicated the youth service would be aimed at "developing the skills of young people that have no opportunities".
"We don't want too many young people just loitering – or doing nothing," Mashatile said.
Time in the military
Details on the National Youth Service are sketchy at best.
Mashatile said while it would not be compulsory, the service would "benefit" all young people – even those with tertiary qualifications who chose to take part.
Mashatile indicated the National Youth Service may encompass spending time in the military.
"Even the ones that go to the military won't necessarily be taught to use guns. There's a lot of skills that be learnt in the military," he said.
While it's unclear how the graduate community service and National Youth Service would operate, Nzimande said the two would work "hand-in-hand".