A lot has been written about the plight of our unemployed youth. It is a matter of ongoing discussion that they lack the necessary skills to enter the world of work as well as the dearth of opportunities open to them. Endless commentaries and interest groups engage the public about the catch 22 situation they find themselves stuck in – no skills to find work and no work to gain any skills. We know the statistics so well there is no need to repeat them in this article. We also know about the Cosatu’s stance with regards to the youth job grant, etc.
Without taking anything away from the seriousness of our children’s indefinite delayed entry to participate meaningfully in the economy, very little if anything has been written about entrepreneurs who having left the comforts of their monthly salaries years before going out and starting their own companies who now find themselves back at the door of corporate South Africa and the public sector and the challenges they face in securing employment. If there are any statistics available on this group of individuals, it would be interesting to share them with the readers.
The challenges are numerous. First of all potential employers view these highly skilled and enterprising individuals as flight risk. It is as if they will take the first flight out of the companies that have decided to give them a lifeline for some fanciful and uncertain life they are running away from. Secondly, they are virtually overqualified for most available positions and have to settle for smaller roles, a far cry from ‘running the whole show’ - operations, distribution, marketing, administration, etc.
These people have personal insights into every aspect of the business. They understand more than career employees the financial value of each and every working hour, the cost of telephone calls, stationery, the meaning of strategy and the importance of execution of all plans and the effects on companies’ bottom lines.
Another great challenge they face is recruitment agents who seem not to know what to do with them. Most of these agents seem to have a narrow view and understanding of clients’ needs and candidate’s competencies. I know an accountant friend whose business closed down and has been looking for work for two years without any luck. She is a divorced mother of two beautiful and intelligent children and has by now probably depleted her entire life’s savings to keep her children in school, fed and clothed while vigorously looking for a job.
To add to her woes, she has now even become listed with ITC. Countless agents have informed her they cannot put her resume forward to their clients due to this ‘poor’ credit record. The rational is that no employer will consider hiring an accountant that cannot keep their own personal books. Where does reality and theory meet? Reality is that there was a global recession; billions of Rands were wiped off exchanges throughout the world. Big and small companies went out of business, whole nations’ economies suffered too! Did anyone plan for a recession!
As far as salaries are concerned it is not clear how they should be remunerated. Their skills levels are above average and they left their corporate careers when they were at its height. They are now asked to produce salary advice slips most of which are a few years old. They are thus forced to lower their salary expectations to current industry rates and yet they still don’t get employed.
How then are they expected to react to news that municipalities are sitting on over 30 000 open vacancies? One wonders how many open vacancies exist in state-owned entities and all government departments. Surely their excuse cannot be ‘no budgets’ like one would get from private companies as there are no shareholders rubbing their hands expecting fat dividends. With service delivery being at its lowest what is are they waiting for?
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