How the private sector can help to reduce youth unemployment

By: Lucinda Alfonica, Commercial Manager at Workforce Staffing

South Africa’s youth unemployment levels have reached a crisis point. The youth of today is the workforce of tomorrow, and they are the ones who should be earning and spending and keeping the economy circulating. However, we find ourselves in a situation where businesses only want to hire people with experience, and youth cannot gain experience as they cannot get jobs. So, what’s the solution? The labour market needs to be restructured to make it more youth friendly, and the private sector needs to step up to the plate by participating more fully in learnerships, apprenticeships and other youth experience programmes.

A vicious cycle

Job experience is often a critical requirement of any job specification, yet this is one area where youth are typically lacking. In a market where budgets are tight, employers are now, more than ever, looking for ‘perfect’ candidates to fill open roles. The reality though is that the perfect candidate does not exist, and if the youth are never given the opportunity to gain the skills they need, there will eventually be nobody to hire. There is currently a significant structural mismatch when it comes to hiring policies, which is only exacerbating an already problematic situation.

The private sector, in its own best interest, needs to become more heavily invested in providing job experience to unemployed youth

Taking the youth into consideration

Eventually, if the current cycle continues, there will not be any candidates for jobs who are both qualified and experienced. The private sector, in its own best interest, needs to become more heavily invested in providing job experience to unemployed youth, so that they will in future be able to contribute meaningfully toward economic growth and participation. When it comes to talent growth and planning, it is important to consider youth, because it offers the opportunity to develop potential employees into lasting positions within the company, while creating more workforce diversity to attract a broader customer base.

Realistic expectations

While it is understandable that with limited resources at hand, companies wish to hire the best possible candidates, yet there also needs to be a realistic expectation set, and the required skill and qualification level needs to match the salary on offer. Often, it will be more cost effective and beneficial in the long term to grow people from an entry-level position and develop the youth to help them move up in the organisation.

By the same token, the youth also need to get involved in finding internships, actively seeking employment and looking to gain skills and experience in areas that are in high demand, to make themselves more employable. This includes basic computer skills, which have become imperative for practically every job as we move into a more digital world. The reality though is that many skills necessary to thrive in a workplace can only be learned on the job, and temporary employment services (TES) can be hugely valuable here.

Matching people with opportunities

Social media and having an online presence can be excellent job-seeking tools, but there is still a digital divide in South Africa that puts this out of reach for many. TES providers offer a physical presence for such individuals to visit, bring their CV’s and register on the database. The TES provider will then match the job seeker with available positions and provide skills development and training where necessary.

TES providers service multiple industries and provide a large pool of opportunities, often with flexible employment options that enable staff to gain experience in a broad range of industries. A reputable TES can be a link between the private sector and the unemployed youth, bridging the gap and helping them to gain much-needed experience to make themselves more employable in the future.

Also read: How SA businesses can increase their sustainability by leveraging the gig economy

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