Youth need to be freed from jobs Catch-22

Business Day - - IN-DEPTH - Hang Ho Ho is head of Europe, Mid­dle East and Africa for the JPMor­gan Chase Foun­da­tion.

SA’s youth are dis­il­lu­sioned, dis­cour­aged and job­less. If some­thing dras­tic is not done to tackle the chal­lenge of youth un­em­ploy­ment, the is­sue is set to im­plode in the near fu­ture.

There are peo­ple work­ing to fix the prob­lem and many help­ful in­ter­ven­tions are un­der way, in­clud­ing those that take care of work readi­ness. With 27.7% un­em­ploy­ment in the sec­ond quar­ter of 2017, SA’s un­em­ploy­ment rates is one of the high­est in the world. In 2015, un­em­ploy­ment among peo­ple aged 15 to 29 was about 36% and was more than 50% among those aged 22 to 24.

Youth un­em­ploy­ment af­fects SA’s growth po­ten­tial and drives poverty, in­equal­ity, crime and other so­ci­etal is­sues. Workingage youth rep­re­sent 31% of the work­ing age pop­u­la­tion.

There are sev­eral fac­tors con­tribut­ing to youth un­em­ploy­ment. Low lev­els of ed­u­ca­tion re­main a prob­lem. The Sta­tis­tics SA 2015 Labour Force sur­vey re­ports that those with ed­u­ca­tional lev­els be­low ma­tric in SA are close to three times more likely to be dis­cour­aged job seek­ers than those with ter­tiary qual­i­fi­ca­tions.

There is also lit­tle op­por­tu­nity for youth to ac­cess prac­ti­cal skills train­ing. Ac­cess to work­place-based learn­ing is lim­ited to for­mal ap­pren­tice­ships and learn­er­ships. But these can only ab­sorb lim­ited num­bers. The pol­icy en­vi­ron­ment is also chal­leng­ing for em­ploy­ers. While proac­tive em­ploy­ers are look­ing at in­no­va­tive ways to link up with col­leges, with the in­volve­ment of the sec­tor ed­u­ca­tion and train­ing au­thor­i­ties, more ef­fec­tive and cred­i­ble mod­els are needed as well as com­mit­ment to scale. Ma­jor skills mis­matches ex­ist be­tween the work­force and the com­pe­ten­cies re­quired by em­ploy­ers. In 2016, African Eco­nomic Out­look re­ported a 54% mis­match be­tween the skills of job seek­ers and em­ploy­ers’ re­quire­ments in 36 African labour mar­kets.

The prob­lem is ex­ac­er­bated for poor com­mu­ni­ties with lim­ited re­sources. It’s that old Catch-22: young peo­ple can’t get jobs with­out work ex­pe­ri­ence, but the only way to get ex­pe­ri­ence is by find­ing a job.

That’s the bro­ken link that needs to be fixed.

There is a need to ac­cel­er­ate, en­able and fa­cil­i­tate young peo­ple’s tran­si­tions into eco­nomic ac­tiv­ity, par­tic­u­larly those who are vul­ner­a­ble to poverty and long-term un­em­ploy­ment.

In Gaut­eng, where un­em­ploy­ment was 26.8% in 2015, that means ar­eas like greater Orange Farm, Alexan­dra, greater Soweto, Ivory Park and Diep­sloot, ac­cord­ing to the 2016 In­te­grated De­vel­op­ment Plan, are vi­tal ar­eas to fo­cus on.

We need to iden­tify and scale so­lu­tions that can over­come the bar­ri­ers in­hibit­ing job-seek­ers from suc­cess­fully tran­si­tion­ing into pro­duc­tive jobs. At the same time, we need to tackle cost is­sues and en­sure that the qual­ity of out­comes is not com­pro­mised. We must also co-or­di­nate ef­forts and in­vest­ments bet­ter across sec­tors and ge­ogra­phies to speed up and im­prove our re­sults.

By col­lab­o­rat­ing, we can mul­ti­ply the ef­fect. For ex­am­ple, New Skills For Youth is a $75m, five-year global JPMor­gan ini­tia­tive with the aim of en­abling young peo­ple to ob­tain the ed­u­ca­tion and cre­den­tials they need to be em­ploy­able and to suc­ceed in well-pay­ing jobs.

The pro­gramme is a col­lab­o­ra­tion be­tween JPMor­gan, Jet Ed­u­ca­tion Ser­vices and the Catholic In­sti­tute of Ed­u­ca­tion, along with 12 af­fil­i­ated skill­strain­ing cen­tres and the MSC Ar­ti­san Academy.

Through this part­ner­ship, new train­ing pro­grammes in re­new­able en­ergy, bak­ing, mer­chan­dis­ing and com­put­ing will be pi­loted in Orange Farm and other pri­or­ity ar­eas in part­ner­ship with the City of Jo­han­nes­burg, Discovery Hold­ings and the De­part­ment of Higher Ed­u­ca­tion and Train­ing.

The pro­gramme will ben­e­fit 1,000 young peo­ple and the project in Orange Farm will be SA’s first global in­no­va­tion site for sim­u­lated work­place-based learn­ing. As part of the ini­tia­tive, Jet will en­gage with the youth to iden­tify how to grow eco­nomic op­por­tu­ni­ties in their ar­eas.

This is an ex­am­ple of how seem­ingly dis­parate groups can bridge the gaps be­tween a young per­son’s school­ing and en­ter­ing into em­ploy­ment.

/Elaine Banis­ter

Prepar­ing for the fu­ture: A JPMor­gan pro­gramme is en­abling young South Africans to get cre­den­tials they need to be­come em­ploy­able.

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