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On­line and so­cial me­dia are now so im­por­tant for com­pa­nies that they are will­ing to pay young peo­ple to help them bridge their dig­i­tal divides

CityPress - - News - BINWE ADE­BAYO news@city­ – S’thembile Cele

Ris­ing un­em­ploy­ment and bet­ter ac­cess to the in­ter­net have com­pletely changed the lo­cal job mar­ket. De­spite the Youth Devel­op­ment In­dex urg­ing big busi­ness to sup­port youth em­ploy­ment, the youth job mar­ket is in­creas­ingly filled with in­di­vid­u­als in­tent on paving their own way. As a re­sult, pre­vi­ously un­ex­plored jobs are be­com­ing more com­mon as young peo­ple carve out new spa­ces in es­tab­lished, tra­di­tional com­pa­nies or by strik­ing out on their own.

This cre­ative, youth-driven mar­ket is fo­cused on grow­ing new and es­tab­lished brands, de­vel­op­ing in­ter­net-friendly prod­ucts and ser­vices and us­ing so­cial me­dia to mar­ket th­ese ini­tia­tives. And be­cause many uni­ver­si­ties haven’t quite made the shift into this “dig­i­tal age”, much of the em­ploy­ment in th­ese in­dus­tries comes from what the in­di­vid­ual can do, rather than what they stud­ied.

Ac­cord­ing to a 2008 re­port by the depart­ment of labour, there were close to 4 000 peo­ple em­ployed in the field of cre­ative pro­duc­tion – en­com­pass­ing ad­ver­tis­ing, de­sign and film mak­ing. This is con­sid­ered to be just the tip of the ice­berg when one con­sid­ers the ex­pan­sion of in­ter­net-based busi­nesses since then.

For ex­am­ple, co-founder of The Bread, Anthea Pou­los, stud­ied so­ci­ol­ogy and pol­i­tics – and while pre­vi­ously this may have meant a ca­reer in gov­ern­ment or academia, she works with brands like Ray-Ban, Levi’s and the Fos­chini Group to make them ap­pear more ap­peal­ing to younger peo­ple who are more in­ter­ested in Twit­ter and se­cret-lo­ca­tion par­ties than in TV and news­pa­pers.

“The term ‘youth cul­ture an­a­lyst’ is one I came up with. But es­sen­tially, it’s about us­ing what I know about the youth and their habits to help busi­nesses re­spond to them more ap­pro­pri­ately,” says Pou­los.

Mar­ket­ing agency Brand­edYouth re­cently con­ducted re­search into youth trends in an at­tempt to fig­ure out when the shift took place. Their re­port ar­gues that the idea of a per­sonal brand is cen­tral to South African and in­ter­na­tional young peo­ple, who use their work and life­style choices to re­flect their be­liefs and in­ter­ests. In­stead of study­ing some­thing like ac­count­ing, which is per­ceived as run of the mill and in­flex­i­ble, the youth is turn­ing to tech-based ca­reers as an ex­ten­sion of its per­sonal in­ter­ests.

This is re­flected in the fact that while the ma­jor­ity of stu­dents are still be­ing ed­u­cated at uni­ver­si­ties, ever more are opt­ing for ad­ver­tis­ing and mar­ket­ing schools such as Vega, AAA and Red & Yel­low to get a spe­cialised set of skills to pur­sue th­ese emerg­ing jobs.

One job that has be­come in­cred­i­bly popular is that of so­cial­me­dia manager. Th­ese days, ev­ery­one from Superga to Stan­dard Bank em­ploys a so­cial-me­dia manager.

Aside from the fact that this gives staff the op­por­tu­nity to use Face­book, Twit­ter and other plat­forms for work pur­poses, th­ese man­agers com­mand pretty high salaries for build­ing a “pres­ence” for busi­nesses on­line – es­pe­cially when work­ing for older, more tra­di­tional com­pa­nies that have never en­gaged with th­ese plat­forms be­fore.

In light of th­ese changes, new workspaces, labour or­gan­i­sa­tions and clubs have emerged to sup­port ini­tia­tives that do not neatly fall within the cor­po­rate space.

Busi­ness workspaces, or in­cu­ba­tors, are be­com­ing in­creas­ingly popular. Joz­iHub in Mil­park is one such in­cu­ba­tor, which houses any­one from app de­vel­op­ers to dig­i­tal artists and graphic de­sign­ers, who work in­di­vid­u­ally and with each other, but with­out any over­ar­ch­ing busi­ness struc­ture.

Sim­i­larly, be­cause many of th­ese jobs don’t have the pro­tec­tion of a cor­po­rate struc­ture, new or­gan­i­sa­tions have sprung up to pro­tect and in­form work­ers in such in­dus­tries. The Cre­ative Cir­cle, for ex­am­ple, which holds monthly awards, is a not-for­profit or­gan­i­sa­tion “ded­i­cated to pro­mot­ing cre­ativ­ity as a busi­ness re­source”. Such or­gan­i­sa­tions re­flect the in­creas­ing at­ten­tion be­ing given to “al­ter­na­tive” em­ploy­ment.

The tide is turn­ing. Even where there aren’t en­tirely new jobs, there is an evo­lu­tion in terms of what is ex­pected from old jobs. News­pa­per re­porters are ex­pected to have on­line skills, pho­to­graphic shops must print dig­i­tal pho­tos and travel agen­cies must com­pete with easy-to-use air­line web­sites.

But big cor­po­rates still have a mo­nop­oly over fi­nan­cial suc­cess. Many so-called cre­atives com­plain that in­vestors and em­ploy­ers are wary of tech-heavy, so­cial skills, which are hard to im­me­di­ately quan­tify in terms of a bot­tom line.

“There’s some se­ri­ous pres­sure out there. On one hand, the older brands have a for­mula that works, so it’s hard to be­lieve they need a brand an­a­lyst, and on the other, when they do work with us, it’s on a tight bud­get – but we still have to prove our­selves,” says Pou­los.





PIC­TURE PER­FECT Khen­sani Ngob­eni and Amanda Sibiya

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