Thousands of unemployed youth queue for the opportunity to hand in their CV at the Johannesburg Road Agency head office in the city centre. File picture: Simphiwe Mbokazi
While youth entrepreneurship initiatives may not be the only answer to solving a global youth unemployment problem, it certainly is proving to be an effective contribution in comparison to what big corporations are adding.

It can be argued then that maybe the role of big business is to support the inclusion of young entrepreneurs by developing their skills and abilities.

EY Global Job Creation and Youth Entrepreneurship Survey 2015, revealed that 47percent of entrepreneurs (and 77percent of world-leading entrepreneurs) plan to increase the size of their workforce, compared to 29percent of large corporations.

The conclusion of this finding is that “supporting entrepreneurs to grow their businesses will have an impact on employment rates.”

The survey also revealed that 65percent of the 2800 young people surveyed, wanted to run their own business at some point in their careers, with 27percent wanting to do so immediately and 38percent after learning from someone else first.

They also found that these ambitions were stronger in developing markets.

The reality, however, is that skills transfer and education still plays a vital role when it comes to sustaining a business, which may explain why many entrepreneurs who have been involved in formal employment in the past, often make better entrepreneurs versus those who do so straight after school and fail.

Bringing it closer to home, this year’s World Economic Forum (WEF) on Africa in Durban discussed the perpetuating cycle of poverty where more than 50percent of South Africa’s population is unemployed, 9.3million people did not have jobs in the first quarter of 2017 and about 58percent were young people between the ages of 15-34. The youths of South Africa as in the rest of Africa are under 30 years old and represent 60percent of the workforce.

Turning South Africa’s fast-growing young population into a dividend rather than a burden through future skills education and training is critical in realising this potential. This is likely to be amplified in the coming years due to the Fourth Industrial Revolution, which is characterised by fast-paced technological progress combined with other socio-economic and demographic changes.

The WEF Future of Jobs study 2017 highlights that skill demands will change significantly over the next five years, pointing the importance of aligning education with skills needed.

For example, social entrepreneurship in South Africa is powerful and is emerging as a blend of for and not-for-profit approaches, which balances the value and trust of social organisations with the efficiencies and profit motive of business.

Barloworld acknowledges the vital role the youth play in social innovation and is a sponsor of the Enactus Social Innovation Youth Awards 2017 (BSIYA), which takes place today. The BSIYA recognise these Enactus Youth Leaders for developing new and innovative ideas to address social problems. In supporting initiatives like these, we are able to play an important role in promoting entrepreneurship, encouraging young people to improve lives and strengthen communities, and - at the same time - develop responsible leadership.

Big business holds the key to ensuring the most effective way of supporting growth of an economy is through the development of young people’s abilities to secure employment through differentiated academic journeys that develop entrepreneurial skills. As a leading South African company, Barloworld is taking on the challenge to play our part to help build our nation. That means helping its citizens to obtain the skills they need to become active in the economy, particularly those who simply do not have the means or the support to achieve their dreams.

Embedding entrepreneurship at the heart of the education system is the key to unlocking an economic environment where the dreams of millions of young people who want to make an impact and start their own enterprises can be realised.

Similarly, through training and skills transfer, youth entrepreneurs can become responsible leaders who project concern for humanity and the earth in the context of accountable business practices.

Of Barloworld’s investment objectives, 57percent of funding is allocated to education and leadership/youth development, which is aligned to the UN Global Sustainable Development Goals and to South Africa’s National Imperatives. Annually, Barloworld invests approximately R84.2m in such initiatives.

A key initiative in the support of youth development that Barloworld is invested in is that of Enactus South Africa (formerly Sife - Students in Free Enterprise) which brings together student, academic and business leaders committed to using entrepreneurial action to improve the sustainability of broader society, improving the quality of life and the standard of living for people in need. Participating students form teams on their tertiary education campuses to create and implement community outreach projects, an experience which not only transforms lives but helps students develop the talent and perspective that are essential to leadership.

The Barloworld Trust was established to ensure investment in targeted interventions which address some of the foremost problems in South Africa society in a structured, systematic manner. The main focus is on improving learner outcomes and facilitating access to education in South Africa.

Other initiatives include:

* Teach South Africa which recruits, trains and supports top university graduates to teach mathematics, science, English or technology for a minimum of two years in some of South Africa’s most under-resourced schools.

* Topp, Barloworld’s Training Outside Public Practice programme is an alternative route for accounting students to qualify as chartered accountants. This practical programme builds the skills of future leaders and addresses the current shortage of skills in our country.

* Graduates of the Topp programme often take up permanent jobs in the company.

* Reap (Rural Education Access Programme), assists students from poor rural areas in South Africa to access tertiary education by providing information; provides students with a structured support and development programme on campus to facilitate success in their studies.

Empowering individuals, breaking cycles of poverty, addressing the country’s skills shortages and contributing to national competitiveness through entrepreneurship will ultimately result in economic growth and development.

It is essential to adopt an integrated approach to entrepreneurship and leadership development while making the prerequisite investment in early childhood development to career.

This is especially important in underprivileged communities as it will enable capacity building as well as the right strategic partnerships in civil society.

Through the delivery of these synergies and their innovations, we will equip our youth with the right skills they require to not only start their businesses but sustain them in a manner that encourages job creation and makes positive social and economic contributions.

Sibani Mngomezulu is Executive: Corporate Affairs at Barloworld, the JSE-listed distributor of leading global brands and provider of integrated rental, fleet management, product support and logistics solutions.