Skills development entrepreneur helps close SA's youth skills gap
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CAPE TOWN – Skills shortages remain a key barrier for youth development in South Africa, with over 80 percent of South Africa’s chief executives concerned about the lack of skills required for their organisation’s growth.
This is despite many efforts that have gone into improving the status quo including increased investments into tertiary education, to the learnerships.
With critical skill shortages in sectors like information and technology, engineering, finance and health, it’s evident that there are some existing opportunities available for young South Africans with the right training to seize.
This is why Arnold February, Regional Investment Manager at Business Partners – one of Africa’s leading financier for formal small and medium owner-managed businesses, and 2019 Gold winner: SME Bank of the Year (Africa) – believes that entrepreneurial activity around skills development will play a vital role in addressing the country’s high youth unemployment rate.
“Innovative by nature, business owners and entrepreneurs are perfectly positioned to see – and act on – inventive solutions to address the need for skills development, in areas where existing public efforts and initiatives may have fallen short,” says February, pointing to a BUSINESS/PARTNERS client as a successful example of this in action. “Hertzy Kabeya, founder and managing director of The Student Hub, has created a thriving business around plugging the gap where youth education is concerned.”
Founded in 2015 in response to the poor tertiary student pass rate, The Student Hub’s initial business goal was to offer academic support through a learning platform, as an extension to Kabeya’s existing business selling affordable textbooks.
“We soon realised that there were a lot more systemic challenges that required a holistic solution, so in 2017 we introduced ERAOnline, through which we now partner with educational institutions. This end-to-end platform aims to solve issues of access, affordability and quality of education, in turn providing economic opportunities to students after they have completed their course, specifically related to their skillset.”
Last year The Student Hub upskilled just over 2 000 students in the Technical and Vocational space, and is currently on track to upskilling over 10 000 young people in 2020. “We achieved this with the help of BUSINESS/PARTNERS, who provided business finance at a critical time to help us overcome certain implementation challenges.”
Kabeya himself holds a qualification in Business Admin and Management, which he wasted no time putting into action in his own business journey. He founded his first business in 2011, ‘Budget Books’, which later merged with ‘Pimp My Book’ to expand operations to four provinces and become the leading second-hand academic textbooks retailer in the country. “However, as the landscape started to change, with big players like Takealot.com entering the market and cutting book prices, we were forced to innovate, which is how we got to where my business is today.
“I think entrepreneurs are important to open up untapped opportunities in various sectors of our economy - such as the waste economy, the ocean economy, and the digital economy,” Kabeya notes, adding that skills development plays a crucial role in fuelling the workforce required for such sectors to thrive.
When it comes to making the most of entrepreneurial opportunities, Kabeya advises young people to not wait around for resources and to value the people around them, as they can bring contacts, knowledge and investment. “As soon as you’ve identified a product or service that you believe can improve lives and businesses, don’t waste time in creating a proof-of-concept or a minimum viable product.”
He points to the various pain points that Covid-19 has created, and how solving these could be considered opportunities for South Africa’s budding young entrepreneurs. “We will probably see a few industries fundamentally change post Covid-19 and young entrepreneurs can be at the forefront of such changes, to potentially become important players in those industries as we make the shift to our ‘new normal’,” Kabeya says.