Nonzukiso Siyotula

Whose responsibility is it to develop our youth into capable, responsible and motivated members of the adult workforce? Parents look to the schools to do the job. Schools believe it is the business community’s job. Business owners seem to want anyone, even the government, to undertake the task. The government, in turn, suggests that parents do a better job.
There should not be a continuous forward and backward cycle because the truth is, it is everyone’s job!

So, as another Youth Month came to an end yesterday, our biggest challenge remains the fact that there are way too many young people out there who are disconnected from school, family and society. They don’t understand the need to learn or what it will take to be a productive member of society. At the same time, we have difficulty understanding them and what we could do to make them change.


Parents have the power and the first responsibility to prepare their children to become fully-fledged members of society and for working life. For the youth, having the courage to follow one’s heart’s true path doesn’t happen overnight. It is fostered and encouraged by parents who believe in their children, who convince them that they can do anything they set their minds to. In essence, as a parent, you can give your children the power to follow their heart by starting now.

There is no denying parents and guardians play a vital role in helping the youth decide future careers. In fact, research from the Ernst Young Foundation and the Chartered Management Institute (CMI) found that 73% of young pupils say they receive career advice from parents.

Of course, it is always helpful for parents to share their own work history and lessons learned from those experiences. Good and bad. This helps the youth prioritise activities and set goals, and reinforces the value of planning and preparation, making school more relevant to life goals.


Education and skills training are key determinants of success in the labour market. But unfortunately, surveys of learning outcomes and skills show that a large number of youth have low levels of achievement in basic literacy and numeracy. According to a recent International Labour Organization (ILO) publication, 73.4million young people were estimated to be unemployed in the last year.

The ILO says one reason for youth unemployment is structural unemployment, a mismatch between the skills that workers in the economy can offer and the skills demanded of workers by employers. It is, therefore, the responsibility of the teachers and parents to give the right direction to the youth.

Indeed, schools can incorporate more real world exercises and resources into respective subjects to nurture youth, so that they are best equipped to face challenges in life. For example, introducing business development and entrepreneurship study in the school syllabus can change the attitude of a child to that of an innovator or a first-mover.


No youth will just be picked up by business, like ripe fruit, the minute they graduate and turn 18. Rather, as any good gardener knows, like a tree, the youth must be mindfully tended from a sapling.

Therefore, business internships provide youth critical experiential learning opportunities through which they develop career skills most in demand by today’s employers, including communication, adaptability, problem-solving and team work.

As we all know, an internship is a cross between volunteer work and apprenticeships. Like the former, it is usually unpaid and the commitment is short term. Like the latter, it provides a structured work experience centred on goals for skills development. For me, the key to successful internship programmes is understanding what internship providers expect in terms of both hard and soft skills and ensuring that the youth have a thorough understanding of both.


The government at all levels can direct more funding into job skills training, through schools and community agencies such as the Sector Education and Training Authorities (Setas). South Africa’s 21 Setas try to improve work placement for youth and middle managers through learnerships, internships and apprenticeships to create the potential for creating opportunities for jobs and other forms of sustainable livelihoods.

Empowering young people through skills development

As we say goodbye to another Youth Month, let us remember that empowering young people through skills development strengthens their capacity to help address the many challenges facing society, including poverty, injustice and violent conflict.

There is no better investment than helping a young person to develop their talent abilities.\To allow our young people to realise their potential, it is vital that we celebrate our emerging youth talent and provide opportunities for it to flourish.

* Siyotula is acting chief executive officer of the Wholesale and Retail Sector Education and Training Authority (W&RSeta) which runs the Retail Management Development Programme for managers in the sector.

The Sunday Independent