Young people don’t need jobs, they need careers

In most societies, adulthood signifies having a well-paid job and financial security. File Picture: Ziphozonke Lushaba/Independent Newspapers.

In most societies, adulthood signifies having a well-paid job and financial security. File Picture: Ziphozonke Lushaba/Independent Newspapers.

Published Jun 30, 2024


By Nita Morgan

This Youth Month we remember the sacrifices made by thousands of young people in the fight against apartheid.

In particular, we pay tribute to those who participated in the Soweto student uprising of June 16, 1976 which played such a huge role in the unravelling of that unjust system.

Our democracy is now 30-years old and is starting to show signs of maturity.

We have had peaceful elections and parties have formed coalitions to govern the country. It really feels as if we have reached our 30th birthday as a nation.

But what does this mean for the youth of our country, those who are 30 or younger, who have only known democracy? Have they tasted the freedom that previous generations fought for?

In many countries, reaching your 30th birthday means bidding farewell to one’s youth and stepping into true adulthood.

And in most societies, adulthood signifies having a well-paid job and financial security.

However, in South Africa there are millions of people turning 30 who are not gainfully employed, with joblessness even higher among the youth in their early 20s. The quarterly labour force survey released in May revealed that the unemployment rate for 25 to 34-year olds is 52.3%; and a staggering 74.8% among 15 to 24-year olds.

There are many reasons why 30 years into our constitutional democracy, our youth are carrying the brunt of the burden of unemployment in the country. The majority of young people lack the education and skills required by employers, while slow economic growth has seen sectors that have traditionally employed the youth, such as retail and hospitality are shedding jobs.

The theme of this Youth Month is “actively advancing socio-economic gains of our democracy”. Over the next three decades, my hope is that our political coming-of-age will be accompanied by an economic one, and I am determined to play my part in this.

The sector I work in, the Business Process Outsourcing or Customer Experience (CX) industry is growing rapidly. It currently employs over 100 000 people and contributes R35 billion to the national economy annually. Having been identified as a key economic contributor by the national government, the sector is targeting 500 000 jobs by 2030.

I began working in a contact centre immediately after leaving high school, with no real career prospects or idea of what I wanted to do in life. Twenty years later, after taking advantage of the many opportunities made available to me, I am now the country manager of the South African hub of one of the largest global CX providers in the world, Foundever.

Having personally experienced what the sector can offer young people straight out of high school, I am committed to becoming the employer of choice for people wanting to build a career in the industry. Since opening our doors at the V&A Waterfront in June 2023, we have already employed over 800 mainly young people and aim to hire 3 500 employees by 2026.

We are also committed to inclusivity and diversity, with 66% of our current employees being female. In an industry that is largely dominated by males in leadership positions, I am proud that women occupy a number of senior management roles, including our financial director and head of human resources.

Happy employees are friendlier and more productive, which directly relates to the experience they provide our customers. Offering access to a number of amenities including transport, a cafeteria, a gym and access to medical assistance go a long way towards showing employees that they are valued. We are extremely proud that our current employee attrition rate is below 3.8%, which is far below the local CX industry average attrition rate of around 26%.

As a young person who has built a career up from the very first rungs of the ladder, I am passionate about helping others do the same. It is fundamental that we prioritise opportunities for career growth and development, so our contact centre colleagues can learn new skills, take on more responsibilities and move into more senior roles that pay higher salaries. We are aiming for 70% of all promotions to be from within our organisation, so we achieve our goal of not just creating jobs but launching careers with a clear path for advancement. This includes offering tailored development programmes for the many career options available to our employees.

Thirty years ago, our country was starting to emerge from global isolation. Now, we have opportunities that extend far beyond our borders. Our company, for example is part of a global brand, which employs over 170 000 people in offices across 45 countries. Our employees have access to highly skilled multinational teams and career prospects in countries as far afield as Japan, Bulgaria and Australia.

We are doing our bit to provide career pathways to as many young people as possible, so they are able to escape the unemployment trap that so many of our youth are stuck in. Making South Africa a CX hub is not just a commercial endeavour, it is a socio-economic one. We need more young people who by the time they turn 30 are self-sufficient adults able to give back to their communities.

Morgan is country manager for Foundever South Africa.