Cape Times


Time to give our youth opportunit­ies to succeed

- 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

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

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.

 ?? 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.
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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