File picture: Independent Media

Johannesburg - A South African background screening company on Monday urged high school graduates who fail to get places to study at tertiary institutions against faking their certificates to give themselves an edge in the tight job market.

The education department last week announced a 75.1 percent pass rate in last year's school-ending matric examinations, but only a fraction of learners have qualified for first-year places in South African universities.

Background screening company Managed Integrity Evaluation (MIE) said last week's results showed that only 144 167 matriculants passed well enough to enroll for a bachelor's degree, out of 651 707 matriculants who wrote their final exams in 2017.

"The remaining students ... face trying to secure a place at a tertiary institution on the merit of their results, or competing with vast numbers of recent graduates and other young job seekers already in the market,"  MIE CEO Ina van der Merwe said.

Some matriculants might be tempted to manipulate their results to give themselves a better chance of getting a job, given an high unemployment rate of 38.6 percent for youth between the ages of 15 and 24 years, she said.

“These statistics are certainly startling - and, understandably, this is a very stressful time for students who undertook their senior year in 2017," said Van der Merwe.

"While some students may be tempted to ‘embellish’ their matric results in a misguided attempt to give themselves a competitive edge and advance their chances in the job market, doing so actually poses more risks to themselves, their credibility and potential future employability."

MIE data from the company’s vetting services conducted in the first ten months of 2017 revealed that demand for qualification or educational background checks were the second most frequently requested by employers, after those for criminal records.

The research also showed there had been an increase in the number of matric certificates being misrepresented by job applicants.

"Committing qualification fraud could be more damaging to a candidate’s future employability than not having a matric certificate at all,” Van der Merwe said.

African News Agency/ANA