Lebo Nke, Harambee executive for advocacy and partnerships (Pic: Harambee website)

JOHANNESBURG - South African youth need to possess certain skills and characteristics above and beyond academic qualifications to penetrate the entry-level job market, this is the view of Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator. 

Lebo Nke, Harambee executive for advocacy and partnerships, in an interview with African News Agency (ANA) on Thursday said degrees were not the most important criteria when it comes to hiring, but said that employers must also look at behaviour, attitudes and learning capabilities of candidates. 

"Most employers are saying young people are not ready for work. And when you start to understand what 'ready for work' means, they don't mean technical skills. They mean behavioural things like discipline, attitude, energy, curiosity, a sense of realism, and punctuality," Nke said.

"These are the things we address in our work-readiness programme. Some of these young people you find that they have been rejected a lot and their confidence has taken a knock. We also see a lot of young people who get into any opportunity even when they are not interested in, and we at Harambee we try to match their interests and skills with, and this is why we see a gap between graduates and employment. Qualifications do not mean you are ready for work."

Harambee is a not-for-profit social enterprise tackling youth unemployment by giving them work-seeker support while partnering with more than 500 employers to curb the runaway unemployment rate among young people. 

South Africa's unemployment rate increased to 27.6 percent in the first quarter of 2019, with and 6.2 million unemployed people between the ages of 15 and 64 years. 

The employers that have partnered with Harambee to provide opportunities range from government institutions, social investors, researchers, industry associations, banks, insurance and tech companies.

The organisation in downtown Joburg is brimming with young people who are at various levels of training while others are lining up to be interviewed as an insurance company was there in search for human resources practitioners.  

Nke said that they have seen many challenges that young people experience when trying to enter the job market over the eight years of their existence. 

She said Harambee assists young people with soft skills such as preparing for interviews or fine-tuning their CVs, up to practical skills such as sales and services skills. 

"We have identified so many other barriers that are not just about skills because even skilled young people still struggle to find their way into opportunities. Some of the research we have done shows that the cost of even work seeking is about R993 a month," Nke said.

"We also have to look at what does self-employment and self-generating income opportunities look like, and also working in small-medium enterprises. This way we can also encourage young people to take up entrepreneurship and create jobs for themselves."

- African News Agency (ANA)