Pub­lic ser­vice jobs for youth are not like food parcels

Sowetan - - Opinion - By Mava Scott Scott is a spokesper­son in the min­istry for pub­lic ser­vice and ad­min­is­tra­tion

If Prince Mashele’s dis­tor­tions and scare­mon­ger­ing about the re­cent gov­ern­ment an­nounce­ment on the re­lax­ation of ex­pe­ri­ence re­quire­ments for en­try-level jobs in the pub­lic ser­vice was not to sim­ply whip up emo­tions and arouse pub­lic sen­ti­ment, he would have taken time to in­ter­ro­gate the true na­ture of this in­ter­ven­tion, in­stead of play­ing po­lit­i­cal games.

For a long time, grad­u­ates and young peo­ple with po­ten­tial have been strug­gling to ac­cess and build ca­reers in the pub­lic ser­vice. The pub­lic ser­vice it­self has been strug­gling to fill junior po­si­tions in scarce oc­cu­pa­tions and crit­i­cal ar­eas of ser­vice de­liv­ery. So the in­ter­ven­tions to bridge the gap are crit­i­cal not for elec­tion­eer­ing as Mashele sug­gests but to de­velop and sus­tain a fresh co­hort of fu­ture pub­lic ser­vants.

A mere 26.5% youth rep­re­sen­ta­tion cor­rob­o­rates the ef­fort to change the com­plex­ion of the pub­lic ser­vice. Older and ex­pe­ri­enced pub­lic ser­vants are ready to exit the sys­tem and there are of­ten com­plaints from the likes of Mashele that the state is wast­ing money on hir­ing con­sul­tants in­stead of in­vest­ing in in­ter­nal skills de­vel­op­ment. It bog­gles the mind that when gov­ern­ment takes con­crete steps to build its own ca­pac­ity, it gets ac­cused of “pulling the wool” over the eyes of the youth.

The Na­tional De­vel­op­ment Plan (NDP) is very clear, the pub­lic ser­vice needs to place greater em­pha­sis on po­ten­tial. This means the re­cruit­ment strat­egy should not only fo­cus on skills that peo­ple have to­day, but those they could de­velop while work­ing. So the ini­tia­tive to re­move ex­pe­ri­ence for en­try-level jobs puts into prac­tice this vi­sion.

The in­sin­u­a­tion that the re­moval of the ex­pe­ri­ence re­quire­ment is sup­posed to swal­low all new grad­u­ates into the sys­tem is non­sen­si­cal in the ex­treme. How can one short­list all univer­sity grad­u­ates for jobs in gov­ern­ment? Which sys­tem in the pub­lic or even pri­vate sec­tor has ever guar­an­teed that all short­listed can­di­dates will get the job? This type of scare­mon­ger­ing is the one that “pulls the wool” over the eyes of those who stand to ben­e­fit from this ini­tia­tive.

The pub­lic ser­vice is ex­plor­ing all cre­ative av­enues of bring­ing youth into newly de­fined en­try-level jobs. To equate long-term sus­tain­able ini­tia­tives to the pro­vi­sion of food parcels and blan­kets is silly and de­mean­ing.

As early as July this year, the minister for pub­lic ser­vice and ad­min­is­tra­tion launched the grad­u­ate re­cruit­ment scheme to po­si­tion the pub­lic ser­vice as a ca­reer of choice to new grad­u­ates.

In­stead of cast­ing as­per­sions on these im­por­tant ini­tia­tives, pub­lic fig­ures like Mashele ought to be sup­port­ing them.

An­other im­por­tant fea­ture is the ring-fenc­ing of a 10% of each de­part­ments’ va­cancy rate for the en­vis­aged en­try of new grad­u­ates. The ring-fenc­ing and re­grad­ing of ex­ist­ing posts do not sug­gest gov­ern­ment will need new money as Mashele wrongly sug­gests. The pos­si­bil­ity of em­ployer-ini­ti­ated sev­er­ance pack­ages will be ex­plored to open up e much-needed space to ac­com­mo­date young peo­ple.

The scheme also does not seek to re­place or oblit­er­ate in­tern­ships, ar­ti­san pro­grammes and other youth de­vel­op­ment ini­tia­tives.

The minister has a re­spon­si­bil­ity to ad­dress the scourge of youth un­em­ploy­ment and thus con­trib­ute to the so­cioe­co­nomic de­vel­op­ment of the county as a whole.

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