Young, jobless and desperate – How business can help bridge the growing unemployment divide

2012-06-09 12:54

If a young South African gets his or her first job, and keeps it for more than a year, he or she has an excellent chance of being employed for the rest of his or her life.

But if a young person fails to get – and keep – a job by the time he or she is three to four years out of school, he or she will probably fall into long-term unemployment.

The total unemployment rate for 15- to 24-year-olds, according to the Development Bank of Southern Africa’s 2011 research, is 59.6%.

So we have to urgently tackle youth unemployment but, to do that, we need companies to take on first-time employees in numbers.

Despite more entry-level job vacancies, employers are still reluctant to employ first-time jobseekers, and often have difficulty retaining and promoting them when they do.

They believe that a deficit in skills and work preparedness, combined with psychosocial challenges, are too time consuming and costly to manage.

Employers instead poach from an ever-decreasing pool of experienced employees, even at entry level.

On the other hand, millions of young jobseekers, particularly from disadvantaged backgrounds, have been let down by inadequate education, leaving them with skills gaps that create a barrier to formal employment.

Many of them have never been exposed to the workplace. Often no one in their family is working.

This affects their confidence and ability to look for work. Constant rejection leaves them discouraged and eventually disengaged.

If one can reduce the risks faced by employers, expand the available pool of work-ready talent and address the challenges faced by young jobseekers, we can create a sustained, virtuous cycle of youth employment and growth.

I am proud to be associated with a group of businesses, called Harambee, that has pioneered an initiative doing just that.

Harambee’s sourcing and rigorous assessment process matches young jobseekers to specific jobs and employers, and puts them through a bridging programme that equips them with functional, emotional and behavioural skills.

Entry-level jobs with corporate partners are guaranteed for those who successfully complete the rigorous Harambee programme.

Harambee was born out of a partnering of local big brands: Hollard, Clientele, Telesure, Direct Axis and Nando’s, but is now an independent entity working with a growing number of employers.

It has already placed over 500 candidates in formal employment.

It has been 10 months since the first graduates were placed and 92% of them have retained their jobs.

The Gauteng programme has been extended to Cape Town and the two regions now have 3 000 job placements secured across eight different employers including Discovery, Liberty and Merchants.

Having recently received a “matching grant” from the Jobs Fund, we are targeting 10 000 placements by 2014.

So we need several more large employers to join and commit to job placements.

The majority of our graduates come from child- or granny-headed households that, until now, have depended on government grants.

Harambee’s pre-employment bridging programme encompasses educational and psychological disciplines that truly change lives. That’s what we love about it.

But it’s not just about the feel-good factor; the Harambee process delivers entry-level workers that can actually work.

Harambee offers businesses efficient delivery of a business imperative: sourcing good people at a competitive rate.

Our research, on the five-year change in employment by sector and occupation, tells us that there are a number of industries that can benefit from the Harambee model.

These include ICT, mining, manufacturing, local government sectors, tourism, hospitality, financial services and retail. Roles such as administration, sales and service, and clerical work are all viable.

If we collaborate across business, and between business and government, we can create work opportunities for our youth, grow our economy and build a more inclusive society.

» Are you young and struggling to navigate the

job market? Or about to finish high school and not sure what route to

follow to eventually land your dream job? Send your career-related

questions to web@citypress and our panel of experts will tackle them

from Monday, June 18.

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