Economists and recruitment experts continually lament the country’s low levels of critical skills, a situation that contributes to the devastating unemployment figures.
According to StatsSA, more than 7.9 million people of working age were actively looking for work at the end of 2021, up from 7.6 million in the year’s previous quarter.
So how does one begin to tackle this monumental crisis?
One of the solutions, says Rudi Mdima, HyperionDev’s business development and relationships manager, involves the private sector. This sector could play a bigger part in creating space for the youth to enter various industries through learnerships.
While the country’s unemployment levels were exacerbated by the Covid-19 pandemic and the Great Resignation – an ongoing economic trend in which employees are resigning from their jobs – young people could enter the job market through learnerships. This, he says, would provide them invaluable opportunities to secure future employment.
“Learnerships are a win-win for everyone involved, with the biggest wins including being able to help the government tackle the unemployment crisis currently facing our country, and improving South Africans’ livelihoods.”
The launch of the eThekwini Furniture Cluster’s (EFC) Workplace Readiness Programme for Unemployed Youth, is one example of an initiative trying to tackle this in KwaZulu-Natal. After successful completion of this 12-month programme, nine participants will potentially have jobs lined up.
Skills co-ordinator for the EFC, Tamlyn Kisten, explains that the programme has been created to bridge the gaps between market demand and the existing skills in the furniture manufacturing industry.
“Working together, we aim to give deserving unemployed young people the sector-specific skills that will help them secure their first employment opportunity and build a meaningful, sustainable career.”
Commercial manager at Workforce Staffing, Lucinda Alfonica adds, however, that “in a market where budgets are tight, employers are now, more than ever, looking for ‘perfect’ candidates to fill open roles”.
“The reality, though, is that the perfect candidate does not exist, and if the youth are never given the opportunity to gain the skills they need, there will eventually be nobody to hire.”
Alfonica urges the private sector to become heavily invested in providing job experience to unemployed youth so that they will, in future, be able to contribute meaningfully towards economic growth.