Ma­tric is just the beginning of ed­u­ca­tion

For young South Africans to get jobs, study­ing fur­ther in the right field is para­mount

Weekend Argus (Saturday Edition) - - NEWS - ME­LANIE PETERS

WITH close to a mil­lion jobs lost last year, em­ploy­ment prospects for the 335 000 suc­cess­ful matrics are bleak as the coun­try strug­gles to pull out of one of the worst re­ces­sions in decades, say unions, re­searchers and teach­ers.

The class of 2009 faces the daunt­ing chal­lenge of find­ing a job in com­pe­ti­tion with about three mil­lion peo­ple aged be­tween 18 and 25 who are un­em­ployed.

A fur­ther blow to those hop­ing for a gap year or work ex­pe­ri­ence in the UK is that a ma­jor shake-up in that coun­try’s im­mi­gra­tion laws means they can no longer get a two-year youth visa. But ex­perts say the fu­ture is not as daunt­ing as it might ap­pear, pro­vided they ob­tain skills and fur­ther their stud­ies at ter­tiary level.

An­dre Ven­ter, spokesman for the union the United As­so­ci­a­tion of South Africa, re­fer­ring to the union’s re­port, “Re­spond­ing to the ed­u­ca­tional needs of post-school youth”, which con­tained un­em­ploy­ment fig­ures for young peo­ple, said: “I can­not over-em­pha­sise the im­por­tance of ed­u­ca­tion. Em­ploy­ers are looking for skilled peo­ple, and a straight ma­tric qual­i­fi­ca­tion pro­vides school leavers with lim­ited skills, if any.”

The union’s 2009 Em­ploy­ment Re­port showed that un­em­ploy­ment among South Africans un­der 25 who were not study­ing was around 50 per­cent. About 25 per­cent of matrics were un­able to find jobs. In con­trast, less than 5 per­cent of peo­ple who had an hon­ours de­gree were job­less.

Econ­o­mist Mike Schüssler, who penned the re­port, said in the two decades he had been an econ­o­mist he had never be­fore seen un­em­ploy­ment lev­els like th­ese.

“For matrics who can af­ford it, there is only one so­lu­tion: fur­ther your stud­ies. The fact is that the higher one is ed­u­cated, the bet­ter the chances there are for em­ploy­ment. Peo­ple with uni­ver­sity de­grees or more have an un­em­ploy­ment rate of 5 per­cent or less in the past five years. Peo­ple with tech­ni­cal qual­i­fi­ca­tions such as ar­ti­sans, nurses and the like have an un­em­ploy­ment rate of around 12 per­cent, while peo­ple with a ma­tric have an av­er­age un­em­ploy­ment rate of about 25 per­cent.

“Peo­ple who have only Grade 11 or Grade 10 have an un­em­ploy­ment rate closer to 35 per­cent, or about seven times that of a per­son with a de­gree and three times higher than some­one with a tech­ni­cal back­ground.”

He said re­search showed that peo­ple with ma­tric earned be­tween 40 and 70 per­cent more than those who did not have the qual­i­fi­ca­tion. Those with a diploma or cer­tifi­cate earned be­tween 170 per­cent and 220 per­cent more, and those with de­grees be­tween 250 per­cent and 400 per­cent more than those who didn’t fin­ish ma­tric.

Schüssler said any form of spe­cial­i­sa­tion, from a hair- dresser to a med­i­cal doc­tor, in­creased chances of em­ploy­ment and earn­ing po­ten­tial.

Dirk Her­mann, deputy gen­eral sec­re­tary of Sol­i­dar­ity, said Grade 12 pupils should not re­gard the end of ma­tric as the end of their learn­ing path, but rather as the beginning.

“If a ma­tric­u­lant makes the fur­ther ef­fort qual­i­fy­ing in a scarce skill, he or she is al­most cer­tain of a job. The golden for­mula is there­fore not only to study fur­ther, but to study in the right field,” he said.

A re­port com­piled by the union also found that the school cur­ricu­lum did not pre­pare pupils for the work­ing en­vi­ron­ment. Many pupils chose “easy” school sub­jects that did not in­crease their em­ploy­a­bil­ity.

Her­mann said: “Ac­cord­ing to our re­search, em­ploy­ees with a qual­i­fi­ca­tion lower than ter­tiary level were the ones hit hard­est by the worst labour re­ces­sion in decades.”

Al­though about 770 000 jobs were lost be­tween the third quar­ter of 2008 and the third quar­ter of last year, em­ploy­ment fig­ures show that there was a net in­crease of 113 000 jobs for em­ploy­ees with a ter­tiary qual­i­fi­ca­tion. “It is only at this level of ed­u­ca­tion that an in­crease in job op­por­tu­ni­ties was recorded in the past year – a clear sign that a ter­tiary qual­i­fi­ca­tion of­fers a de­gree of job pro­tec­tion,” said Her­mann.

The study iden­ti­fied eight ca­reers in which there were se­ri­ous short­ages of work­ers, in­clud­ing ac­count­ing, in­forma- tion tech­nol­ogy, ed­u­ca­tion, so­cial work, nurs­ing, phar­macy, en­gi­neer­ing and var­i­ous tech­ni­cal ca­reers.

The Hu­man Sci­ence Re­search Coun­cil’s Miriam Alt­man, the ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Cen­tre for Poverty, Em­ploy­ment and Growth, pointed out that by global stan­dards, South African youth spent a rel­a­tively long time at school but had a poorer per­for­mance.

They left school without the ba­sic skills to help them nav­i­gate the labour mar­ket. Th­ese in­clude search, prob­lem solv­ing, read­ing com­pre­hen­sion, com­mu­ni­ca­tion, per­sonal pre­sen­ta­tion, team work, and ba­sic in­ter­net and com­puter skills.

“Get­ting a ‘first’ job is a chal­lenge for young peo­ple who don’t have that ex­pe­ri­ence. It is also about the way they present them­selves, their in­volve­ment in so­cial, sport or com­mu­nity ac­tiv­i­ties and their ‘work-readi­ness,’” said Alt­man.

South African Stu­dent Congress pres­i­dent Mbulelo Mand­lana has called for free higher ed­u­ca­tion. “It is the only ul­ti­mate so­lu­tion to the in­ca­pac­ity of poor fam­i­lies to ac­cess ed­u­ca­tion,” said Mand­lana.

PIC­TURE: IAN LANDSBERG

OVER ONE HUR­DLE: Elated Fair­bairn matrics Hein­rich Painczyk, Jared Lo­mas, Ryan Rob­son, Lisa van An­twer­pen, Ta­mala Nor­ris, Nicole Danielle Warr and Natasha Grove cel­e­brate their suc­cess af­ter re­ceiv­ing their ma­tric re­sults this week.

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