Youth employment could be down to match-making - study

One of the biggest challenges for youth employment is the mismatch of skills job seekers have and the requirements employers want, a study has found.

The Sikhaya Youth Assets Study, released on Wednesday by researchers of the Centre for Social Development in Africa at the University of Johannesburg, found that participants of youth employment programmes have a better chance at securing work and earning more.

The Researchers interviewed 1 996 young people (those aged between 18 to 35) four times over a period of three years to come to the findings of the study.

South Africa's unemployment rate is at a 15-year high rate of 27.6%. The youth account for more than half (52%) of the total unemployment figure.

Youth employment programmes have proven to be useful in addressing the issue. But more importantly, youth employment programmes which have a "matching" offering are most useful for participants, the study found.

"Matching is a process of bringing young people directly into contact with employers who are looking for the skills they have and orientating training to employer demands," the report read. The probability of those securing jobs increased by 28 percentage points as a result of matching, compared to employment programmes without matching.

"Furthermore, matching also emerges as the feature that best explains higher earnings amongst those who are employed," the report read.

"Matching also increases the number of job applications made, and the probability of still being engaged in work-seeking activity," the report indicated. Matching helps reducing average time of being unemployed.

Apart from matching, the next most important factor in improving employability is increasing human capability skills. These are skills which are transferable across work contexts. "Where young people are not exposed to the matching feature of a programme, human capability skills exposure become the most important predictor of employment, and are particularly efficacious for young people who have not completed matric or been exposed to any post-secondary education and training," the report read.

Exposure to human capability skills training also helps reduce the amount of time of being unemployed and is associated with unemployed participants who are persistent in searching for work.

On the flipside, programmes with work experience, those which provide stipends, formal accreditation and the length of the programme do not play a significant role in explaining employment outcomes, according to the report.

The study indicated that there is limited evidence to show that interventions of financial capability – such as training in financial literacy or giving participants an opportunity to open a savings account – would have a significant impact on employment outcomes.

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