Skills trainers need to join forces with government and private corporates to find answers to the pressing need to facilitate and accelerate the transition of young South Africans into economic activity, particularly young people vulnerable to poverty and long-term unemployment.
Currently, the state of youth unemployment in the country has reached levels of great concern. Statistics South Africa confirmed that 25% of the existing labour force are not able to find jobs. Of the unemployed, 71% are youth between 15 and 34 years young. Almost 30% of young people between 15 and 24 not attending school anymore are not in employment, education, or training. More young women than men are unemployed. The worst affected are African and female youth, particularly those living in rural areas, in townships and informal settlements.
According to the 2011 Census, only 4% of young people select to get qualified through vocational training. Consequently, the country has a serious lack of employable skills, exacerbating the situation. Not to mention that a great majority of youth have never worked at all.
Unemployment is a key driver behind a struggling economy flamed on by unacceptably high levels of violent crime, theft, and corruption, which are consequences of increased poverty, says Ronnelie Niewenhuis, CEO of the Africa Skills Group.
Niewenhuis is concerned about the numbers of unemployed people remaining highest among young South Africans. “Especially our youth younger than 24 and those from poor households do not have the skills, knowledge, or social networks that will help them find work, not to mention a sustainable career.”
At the launch of the global New Skills for Youth (NSFY) programme, a five-year, global initiative by J.P. Morgan to empower young people to acquire the education and credentials to be career-ready and succeed in well-paying jobs, Hang Ho, Head of Philanthropy for Europe, Middle-East and Africa at J.P. Morgan, reiterated that “possessing the right skills is fundamental to the ability to compete for quality jobs. Quality technical training and new models of workplace learning are key to this.”
Niewenhuis says the best possible accredited skills training programmes are in place to accelerate and increase the number of young people to succeed in transitioning into employment. This also applies to youngsters who have either dropped out of school or cannot access universities. “As parents, guardian parents, private businesses, and government, we need to equip our youth to be able to enter the formal or informal sectors with relevant, marketable skills with a focus on workplace-based learning.”
A leading researcher in youth training, Prof. Peliwe Lolwana, challenged stakeholders to find innovative solutions to train unemployed youth to work in the informal sector. She concluded that it seems that the majority of young South Africans prefer to rather be unemployed than working in the informal sector. This trend stimulates conflict since this space is taken up by entrepreneurial foreigners. She stated that 84% of jobs in India are in the informal sector, compared to only 33% in South Africa.
According to a 2018 study, the “most serious threats to a prosperous and inclusive South Africa is the stubbornly high rate of unemployment among young people. If we include discouraged work seekers, more than half of the country’s youth are unemployed,” according to Murray Leibrandt and Ariane de Lannoy of the Southern Africa Labour and Development Research Unit at the University of Cape Town, and Leila Patel and Lauren Graham at the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg.
They found that the national education system still fails most young people, “leaving many without the basic skills required by employers. Children in no-fee schools perform particularly badly, with half dropping out before they reach matric. The post-school education system also struggles to provide students with the necessary guidance, support, and skills to prepare for the workplace.”
Niewenhuis says the integration of the essential life skills, including proper aptitude tests, budget tools, primary health principles, entrepreneurial study, and sound relationships, embedded into Artisan, business, and management programmes offer practical guidance and workplace support to young students.
“We facilitate a support service combining training with a matching-service between qualified youth and potential employers. It is important to know the value of the National Youth Policy, a partnership between business and government that aims to provide opportunities enabling young people to get work experience. Career development services assist efforts to eradicate unemployment among the youth.”
She notes that the interventions often place young people into existing job opportunities without addressing the need for an increase in the number of jobs. Harmse believes that appropriate career guidance and information about careers, as well as recognition of prior learning (RPL), has a major role to play.
We have to equip youth with the necessary skills by encouraging them to apply for registration; actively encourage employers to give young first-time work seekers a foot on the employment ladder; pay particular attention to the value of a small business, which currently employs two-thirds of employed youth; assist our youth with work-seeker support by producing CVs and reference letters and provide practical support regarding education and training options, says Niewenhuis.
Visit our website for more information on the focus on youth skills education and training programmes.