Are tertiary institutions contributing to youth unemployment?

Writes Jake Willis, CEO and Founder of Lulaway

South Africa has a high rate of youth unemployment and an increasing rate of unemployed graduates. This makes one wonder whether studying further in higher education is even worth it because it seems that qualification does not guarantee job placement. It is heart-breaking that young people spend nearly half a decade studying at various institutions only to graduate and be unemployable. This disjuncture certainly makes one question the education system at the tertiary level. Could it be that tertiary institutions are unknowingly contributing to the high unemployment rate?

What is it that tertiary institutions are doing wrong and how can it be corrected? Is it not shocking that there are so many government initiatives whose sole purpose is to alleviate youth unemployment, yet the country’s unemployment rate is over 30%? More than anything, this proves my reservations that there is indeed a substantial misalignment in the education system’s matrix.

While we are aware that the government has put some initiatives in place that are primarily set up to close the gap of youth unemployment and in turn develop various skills amongst the youth, there is a lot that is still left to be desired. This is not to say that we are oblivious to some of the great initiatives that have emerged, however, the end results continue to fail the youth.

At the heart of the problem is the fact that tertiary institutions provide training without a clear path to employment.

I remember when I was trying to decide what to study at tertiary level, I had no idea what I wanted to do and simply looked at what content interested me. A few years later when I finished, I suddenly found out that the diploma I had was basically worthless in terms of getting a job.

I believe that I institutions should have employment partners where curriculums are worked out with the companies so that the companies can be assured that the graduates have the skills that are required by them. . Such partnerships would ensure that graduates from these institutions are well equipped and ready for the workplace, and would be employed by these partners after completing their studies.

They should also look into how career guidance objectives are set. For instance, when university career advisers meet with prospective students, they should help the students identify their strongest points and see which career options are likely to be more suitable for them. To be frank, even with numerous youth unemployment initiatives, we are nowhere near ending the unemployment scourge which has been even further fuelled by the Covid-19 pandemic.

These changes must give young people a great sense of direction with regards to their chosen fields of study, providing them with more factual knowledge about the available opportunities and the state of their prospective industries. The reintroduction of such initiatives will ensure that tertiary institutions offer expertise related to the current job market, giving graduates the upper hand as they will be well equipped and ready to enter and survive in the professional world.



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