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Friday, January 21, 2022

Youth unemployment keeps rising because industry, tertiary institutions and government work separately

Thabo Mohlala

Lack of collaboration between industry and tertiary institutions, as well as, the failure of the government to incentivise business to offer apprenticeships to graduates, are some of the main reasons the country is failing to make a dent in youth unemployment.

With the country joblessness rate continuing to climb, the future looks bleak for most young South Africans. In the first quarter of 2017, according to Statistics South Africa, the unemployment rate hit 27.7 % mark with over 3.3 million young people constituting the bulk of this figure. Even worse is the fact that the vast majority of them have university degrees.

It is not uncommon to see young graduates using major road intersections as strategic sites to market themselves carrying big banners emblazoned with words shouting: “I have a degree in engineering, please give me a job or “hire me, I am qualified”, among others. Early this year frustrated unemployed graduates, resplendent in their graduate regalia, staged peaceful protests at nine points around the Eastern Cape.

Recently, Lilian Bususu, National Graduate Manager at the Independent Institute of Education, reflected on the reasons behind the stubbornly high statistics behind the graduates’ state of joblessness and also explored possible solutions. She was a guest on Talk Radio 702’s The Eusebius McKaiser Show.

Bususu said the problem of growing unemployment is not unique to South Africa but a global phenomenon. She said while some employers are looking to hire young people they also look at the quality of the qualifications of who they employ. She reckoned that the situation may worsen if the country’s economy continues to contract as it will limit the capacity of the market to grow and create new job opportunities.

However, she said, the primary reason industry is incapable to absorb sufficient numbers of graduates is the mismatch between their qualifications and what the market requires. Bususu said this is exacerbated by poor coordination between industry, institutions of higher learning and the government.

“There is pushback from industry which blames tertiary institutions for not producing graduates with requisite skills-set. But the institutions also feel the blame is misplaced as the industry should also step up to the plate and engage the institutions in terms of how they should structure their curricula,” said Bususu.

She said it is wrong of industry to sit back and expect universities to produce certain types of skills while they do not engage or give feedback to tertiary institutions regarding what skills they require.

Bususu said when the two critical sectors work in silos it is the youth or graduates who suffer as they anticipate to get employed. But she also highlighted the need for graduates to package themselves so they appeal to potential employers.

“Some of them feel entitled to a job simply on the basis that they have a degree,” said Bususu, adding that often graduates get so idealistic and when they cannot get employed, they feel dejected. She said each graduate should strive to beat off the stiff competition from their counterparts.

She said although some companies offer internships to graduates most of them do not have a retention strategy and in the end, graduates are left out in the cold.

“My experience is that some of the companies just want to tick BEE boxes without making serious attempts to absorb or help the kids to find decent jobs,” said Bususu.

She said some of these companies are just not prepared to invest their time and resources to develop youths. They would rather focus on developing their own internal talent and expertise. Bususu advised graduates not to underestimate the significance of acquiring soft skills such as how to do desktop research, put together an appealing CV, prepare for a job interview and handle it. She said these are essential in improving their opportunities to be considered.

Industry, tertiary institutions and the government to work together and develop strategies that could help reduce the sky-rocketing youth unemployment particularly among graduates, said Bususu.

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