CHAL­LENGE OF YOUTH IN JOB MAR­KET

Time to give our youth op­por­tu­ni­ties to suc­ceed

The Star Early Edition - - BUSINESS REPORT - Panyaza Le­sufi Panyaza Le­sufi is Gaut­eng MEC for Ed­u­ca­tion.

WHEN the youth are not part of the labour mar­ket, the more dif­fi­cult and costly it is to join pro­duc­tive em­ploy­ment re­sult­ing in a num­ber of im­por­tant so­cial im­pli­ca­tions re­lated to ex­clu­sion, in­clud­ing sus­cep­ti­bil­ity to anti-so­cial be­hav­iour, ju­ve­nile delin­quency, and so­cial un­rest.

As young peo­ple face grow­ing chal­lenges in find­ing em­ploy­ment, they be­come des­per­ate to land any job. Con­se­quently, many ac­cept part-time or tem­po­rary work that does not match their ed­u­ca­tion or ex­pec­ta­tions.

Youth work em­pow­ers young peo­ple to par­tic­i­pate in com­mu­nity and so­ci­ety, and to have their voices heard in re­la­tion to the de­ci­sions that af­fect their lives. A job gives them the tools to act as ac­tive mem­bers of their com­mu­ni­ties, build up pos­i­tive re­la­tion­ships with adults who can be role mod­els and who can give young peo­ple a safe space, sup­port and guid­ance. Most im­por­tantly, youth work ser­vices pro­vide the crit­i­cal ed­u­ca­tional spa­ces to learn for life.

As we bid Youth Month good­bye, let us re­mem­ber that we are fac­ing the risk of los­ing a whole gen­er­a­tion to un­em­ploy­ment. The con­se­quences are de­spair, crime and drugs.

So how did we end up with this high youth un­em­ploy­ment – 40 per­cent – and un­der­em­ploy­ment?

Var­i­ous re­search think tanks, in­clud­ing The World Bank and African De­vel­op­ment Bank, be­lieve there have been var­i­ous is­sues con­cern­ing youth em­ploy­ment that have not been well ad­dressed, in­clud­ing:

Weak im­ple­men­ta­tion of com­mit­ments and plans.

Ef­forts that are frag­mented and unco-or­di­nated.

Scarcity of knowl­edge, in­for­ma­tion, and lessons learned.

Ab­sence of reg­u­lar, re­li­able, and har­monised labour mar­ket data on youth em­ploy­ment.

Poor par­tic­i­pa­tion lev­els of youths in em­ploy­ment poli­cies and pro­grams.

Lack of in­volve­ment of the pri­vate sec­tor.

In­sub­stan­tial fo­cus on the in­for­mal sec­tor. In­ad­e­quate de­mand-side re­sponses. The truth is, the cost to the econ­omy of leav­ing young peo­ple with no jobs is im­mense. While some will over­come the huge chal­lenges they face to go on and con­trib­ute to so­ci­ety, many more will end up de­pend­ing on so­cial grants or claim­ing un­em­ploy­ment ben­e­fit or sin­gle-par­ent sup­ports, and with the in­creased re­liance on public health ser­vices that are a fea­ture of low ed­u­ca­tional at­tain­ment. It all adds up to ever- in­creas­ing pres­sure on the public purse and that’s be­fore we con­sider the hu­man cost of let­ting young peo­ple fall through the cracks.

In­deed, suc­cess, sus­tain­abil­ity, and scale in reach­ing full youth em­ploy­ment will not be pos­si­ble with­out col­lab­o­ra­tion in­volv­ing govern­ment and public in­sti­tu­tions and pri­vate sec­tor at all lev­els.

Fron­tier ar­eas

So what are the fron­tier ar­eas to sup­port op­por­tu­ni­ties for young peo­ple to drive global pros­per­ity, foster global co-or­di­na­tion, learn by col­lect­ing and us­ing ev­i­denced-based knowl­edge, and lever­age by us­ing re­sources to scale-up proven so­lu­tions?

What we need is a co­her­ent strat­egy com­bin­ing sup­port­ive macroe­co­nomic poli­cies, strength­ened school-to-work tran­si­tions and well-de­signed sup­port to the un­em­ployed youth.

We must al­ter who our young peo­ple view as role mod­els and in­stil a sense of self-worth. Part of this change must come from within our com­mu­ni­ties. We can­not sit back and con­tinue to let the fu­tures of mil­lions of young men and women sim­ply slip through the cracks.

Un­less we can change these neg­a­tive mind-sets and give our young peo­ple vi­able al­ter­na­tives, we’ll con­tinue to see in­creases in un­em­ploy­ment, ar­rests and dropouts among our youth.

We need ef­fec­tive skills de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes, in or­der to fill the skills gap, op­por­tu­ni­ties for young men and women; en­trepreneur­ship and self-em­ploy­ment and qual­ity jobs.

Given a choice, al­most all chil­dren will choose pos­i­tive, con­struc­tive ac­tiv­i­ties over neg­a­tive ones. The catch? Not ev­ery child has the same in­ter­ests. One may want to be a film star, an­other an artist, and still an­other a pi­lot and many more. Cap­ti­vat­ing some­one’s in­ter­est is not al­ways easy.

For ex­am­ple, the Gaut­eng Prov­ince and pri­vate sec­tor part­ners re­cently launched the Tshepo One Mil­lion pro­gramme to pro­vide un­em­ployed youth op­por­tu­ni­ties through skills train­ing, job place­ment and en­trepreneur­ship de­vel­op­ment.

The ma­jor in­ter­na­tional and lo­cal com­pa­nies that have com­mit­ted to work with the pro­vin­cial govern­ment to pro­vide one mil­lion young peo­ple with train­ing op­por­tu­ni­ties in dig­i­tal skills; in­tern­ships, learn­er­ships, en­ter­prise and sup­plier de­vel­op­ment and jobs; skills and op­por­tu­ni­ties in in­for­ma­tion com­mu­ni­ca­tion tech­nol­ogy; value chain, es­pe­cially data an­a­lyt­ics; town­ship panel beat­ing shops serv­ing driv­able re­pairs; pro­vid­ing links to town­ship mar­ketplace plat­form; as­set fi­nance as sup­port to town­ship mar­ketplace plat­forms; on­line train­ing pro­grammes and writ­ing skills and com­puter-aided re­search.

Some em­ploy­ers of­ten com­plain that too many prospec­tive em­ploy­ees to­day are not em­ploy­able.

Now em­ploy­ers have an op­por­tu­nity to hand pick stu­dent tal­ent and, po­ten­tially later, they can hire some­one they and their staff al­ready know and have groomed.

Wealth cre­ation

I have al­ways be­lieved that en­trepreneur­ship is the key to both per­sonal and na­tional progress. But de­spite many suc­cess sto­ries, our so­ci­ety is still de­signed to train our young peo­ple to work as em­ploy­ees. We need to push for a rad­i­cal change in the way our peo­ple, es­pe­cially the youth, view wealth cre­ation and progress.

Our young men and women must re­mem­ber that en­trepreneur­ship is not about work­ing for a big cor­po­ra­tion, dress­ing in a suit and tie or some hip cor­po­rate at­tire, sit­ting be­hind a desk, buy­ing the lat­est smart­phones when you get your bonus. That is not suc­cess.

Rather it is when you build some­thing from the ground up with your blood, sweat and tears. When you can set up some­thing that can pro­vide you profit, give other peo­ple jobs and help in build­ing our na­tion. That is suc­cess.

In­deed, youth un­em­ploy­ment is not only a se­ri­ous prob­lem, but a se­cu­rity and moral cri­sis as well. As such, no ex­penses should be spared to deal with this cri­sis. Tem­po­rary so­lu­tions will only de­lay the day of reck­on­ing.

In­deed, each of us can and does play an im­por­tant role in the healthy de­vel­op­ment of our chil­dren. Per­haps the most sat­is­fy­ing as­pect is that all chil­dren can suc­ceed.

No mat­ter how chal­leng­ing this call is, let us re­mem­ber that each young men or women’s chances of suc­cess can be im­proved if we pro­vide more op­por­tu­ni­ties to in­crease the num­ber and depth of op­por­tu­ni­ties in his or her life.

Let us give our young peo­ple op­por­tu­ni­ties to suc­ceed.

We need ef­fec­tive skills de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes to fill the skills gap, op­por­tu­ni­ties for young men and women; en­trepreneur­ship and self-em­ploy­ment.

PHOTO: MATTHEWS BALOYI

As South Africa bids Youth Month good­bye, let us re­mem­ber that we are fac­ing the risk of los­ing a whole gen­er­a­tion to un­em­ploy­ment. We need ef­fec­tive skills de­vel­op­ment pro­grammes, says the writer.

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