Career guidance is the key to economic development

Panyaza Lesufi

As youth unemployment and poverty becomes the most serious problems facing the country and, while, ironically, along with this unemployment, we are facing a growing shortage of appropriate skills, many high school seniors will soon be preparing for their final year of education before heading to university, Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges or the work force. 

Whatever the 2018 National Senior Certificate candidates' personal choices are post-high school, better career guidance could play a vital role during the next four months of this academic year. The shortage of scarce skills, an oversupply of low-demand skills, high tertiary dropout rates, and too many idle youth, are all symptomatic of poor career planning.

So in the last few months of 2018, what can our youth do to make the best of the next stage of their career path?

The delivery of career guidance has always been central to a person's career development.  

At the forefront of career guidance delivery are school guidance counsellors, Life Orientation educators, student support staff at universities and TVET colleges, student recruitment officers at universities, employment service practitioners at labour centres and career guidance practitioners at the various youth advisory centres. 

As the academic year draws to a close, students need to talk with their parents, guardians or mentors. They need to attend career path workshops and expos, apply for scholarships and seek internships or experiential work.


There is no doubt that career development starts at home. Young people need help to make the right choices from the many options open to them. The role of parents in influencing the career decision-making process of their children is of paramount importance.

I firmly believe that inspiration for future success starts in the home and we should encourage our young people to have infinite ambitions.

Because parents and influential mentors are likely to have rich knowledge and experience, they can play a big role in encouraging children to choose a career or subjects that they have understood over their life and know the prospects in depth. Parents and mentors can help steer a career discussion in the right direction.

Indeed, the parent’s role is to suggest – not impose.  Parents should avoid shooting down their ideas and unintentionally pressurising children to fulfil parental ambitions, without taking into consideration the child's unique strengths, ability and interests.

Lest we forget that parental prodding is only one of a wide spectrum of factors that shape career choice. Other forces at work include peer pressure, personal values like philanthropy or materialism, and business trends such as the wide availability of jobs.

Times have changed and thanks to the prominence of the internet, children these days are more informed about the ins and outs of the world – including new careers that parents may not have heard of or may not have considered viable career options. 

Structured guidance activities

Effective career development interventions must begin early in secondary grades and continue into adult years. Efforts to intervene in the life career process can accelerate or strengthen the acquisition of knowledge, attitudes and skills about self and the world of work.

Career counsellors are there for a reason, and they have many tools and resources at their fingertips to assist you and to point you in the right direction.

To provide students with basic economic skills, an understanding of themselves and educational and occupational opportunities available, the Gauteng Department of Education (GDE) has rolled out a Career Development Practitioners (CDP) Programme in no fee-paying schools across the Gauteng City Region to provide additional career guidance support and counselling to Grade 8 and 9 learners. 

Events such as career expos, industry focus weeks, subject choice fairs and similar events are utilised to provide opportunities for Grade 10 – 12 learners to get information on future careers and employment opportunities in different industries as well as bursaries and financial aid available within the relevant sectors.

Ultimately, the CDP Programme helps Gauteng students to keep their eyes open for opportunities in the world that will allow them to fulfil their goals and live up to their values, beliefs and interests to reach their full potential.

The school years from Grade R to Grade 12 are a three-legged pot with the parent, teacher or career guidance counsellor and learner respectively. It is important that these major stakeholders in a child's development co-operate to ensure that the education of the child happens seamlessly.

The GDE, CDP Programme has concluded that the criteria for a good career advisory programme should meet three aspirations, help learners achieve academically, prepare for a career and higher education, and develop good citizenship skills.

Without structured guidance activities, learners may drift through high school without learning about all the career opportunities available and without gaining the skills that can help them take advantage of those opportunities. They may also be in danger of failing to continue to post-secondary education or, even worse, of dropping out of high school.

To consider your career paths, you need to answer some of the following questions. What are your natural talents? What is your work style? Do you enjoy social interaction? How important to you is work-life balance? How much money do you want to make?

While dealing with the above, remember that we all have natural talents, which are key to choosing the right career. And each of us has a preferred work style such as preference for a structured or flexible environment.

Some people shy away from front line deliverables and would rather deliver value behind the scenes. Others have a strong preference for a work life balance and would prefer not to work on weekends.

All the above points to the conclusion that career guidance is about creating a better economy that would work for the working young people, therefore imparting the right skills to the youth, whether a good degree or the right apprenticeship, will propel young future leaders to the top.

Career guidance is also vital and important for the development of the country.  

- Lesufi is Gauteng MEC for Education. Follow him on Twitter @Lesufi and on Facebook.

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