Lameez Omarjee and Tehillah Niselow
Experience as a requirement for job applicants is one of the biggest challenges for youth seeking to enter the labour market, according to the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA).
The two-day Presidential Jobs Summit which kicks off on Thursday in Midrand, Gauteng will see different stakeholders come together to find solutions for SA’s growing unemployment, the current rate is at 27.2%.
According to Statistics South Africa’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the second quarter of 2018, youth unemployment was 38.8% compared to the 17.9% rate for adults.
NYDA has put forward its proposed solutions for youth unemployment. NYDA spokesperson Lerato Gambu pointed out that “experience” of as much as five or 10 years is a hindrance for youth seeking to enter the labour market.
However, Gambu said that these internships should result in the youth being employable once the internship is over, as opposed to them becoming unemployed once again and “languishing in poverty”.
“We welcomed the YES initiative. In as much as we agree with it, it should be turned into an employment agent,” he said.
There are hopes that the YES initiative will be expanded after its pilot.
Isobel Frye, director at the Studies in Poverty and Inequality Institute and member of the financial sector campaigns coalition, said members of the Nedlac community constituency have recommended a National Youth Service which envisions a year-long placement programme to assess young people’s skills and give them experience in the world of work. This was not a military service campaign necessarily.
Frye said the community sector, which represents jobless people at Nedlac, is deeply concerned by the youth unemployment trends and suggested that de-skilling is taking place if one considers how many young people are not in work or education or training.
Among proposals from NYDA include having private sector companies actively seek to employ youth and ring fence advertised jobs for those aged between 18 and 34, according to Gambu. There should also be greater mentorship in the workplace, to prevent dropouts and to increase retention.
The agency also called for the experience gained in internship programmes to be recognised. Further, the Expanded Public Works Programme – which provides temporary work for the unemployed – should be converted to permanent employment.
NYDA also proposes that informal skills, other than matric or tertiary qualifications, be recognised by the job market. Gambu explained that a lot of youth work with their hands – skills which do not necessarily require formal qualifications.
Lower data costs, meanwhile, would ensure broadband access for job seekers. NYDA also wants transport costs to be subsidised and funding through the form of grants and not loans, to be provided for youth embarking on small enterprises.
Gambu explained that government revive local industry to create more jobs, instead the most recent statistics show that the greatest amount of job shedding took place in the manufacturing sector in the last quarter.
The agency is hopeful that the summit will yield “tangible results” that will benefit young people, according to executive chairperson Sifiso Mtsweni.