There are no jobs, but there is work. What a strange statement to make.
South Africa’s youth is not unique when it comes to finding a job after graduating with a diploma or with a degree. Economies on every continent struggle with the “unemployed graduate” dilemma.
It is true that economic cycles and national policies determine the willingness of employers to recruit, but there are other perspectives to consider.
There is simply an oversupply of qualified people in certain sectors while other sectors have vacancies that have not been filled for years. The list of scarce skills that the state publishes from time to time, clearly shows a mismatch in what the economy needs, and what people are willing to qualify for.
Unless the youth reconsider their career aspirations and start focusing on what are actually scarce national skills, unemployment will remain.
The Growth Institute sees Grade 12 pupils from more than 500 schools in Gauteng every year, which means we engage with at least 15 000 matric pupils on an annual basis.
We are always fascinated by the career expectations that the youth have. Accounting, medical science, law and engineering are the careers that are topmost in the minds of many. Only about 5% of Grade 12s are willing to consider alternatives until they apply to tertiary institutions and are offered alternatives that may still not address the scarce skills crisis.
Interviews with life orientation/guidance teachers in schools show that less than 12% of teachers are aware of South Africa’s national scarce skills needs. Teachers should be aware of and ensure they are up to date when it comes to of scarce skills. However, demands on teachers are such that career guidance fall in the lowest of the teaching day’s priorities.
The majority of the youth are influenced by their parents and siblings in terms of career choices. The popular mantra is “You must have a degree, any degree, to get a job!”
Very few parents consider our scarce skills needs because technical and vocational careers are considered to be inferior.
The fact that a parent is a successful doctor does not mean that the child will be in the same mould. Parents cannot live their own career aspirations through their children.
Filling curriculum gaps
In the last 15 years the world has changed. Academic curricula cannot keep up with the demands of the contemporary workplace. This means that employers focus more on internal training than they ever did in the past. Industry recognises that academia cannot meet the demand of all the skills needed. Thus, those who are already employed are upskilled on internal programs, diminishing the need for new job entrants.
The experience game
Since industries form more or less homogenous clusters of common skills, it is more affordable to recruit experienced workers from other employers than it is to focus on new job entrants. Most industries claim that it takes two years to equip a new job entrant with additional skills before that person can start to add value. Give the perceived fast pace of change in the world of work, retooling newcomers is considered an unnecessary expense.
Labour policy dogmas
In some sectors there are vacancies that are reserved for specific demographics. For example, an employer wants a female nanotechnologist of a specific racial classification but finds that there are many other female nanotechnologists from another racial classification available. Since, the “right person” is not available, the vacancy remains open in perpetuity. Alternatively, the employer could have someone in the organisation that is interested in the opening but lacks the qualification to apply. In such a case, why not invest in that employee so that she can become qualified? It simply does not make sense to keep a vacancy open simply because of some monolithic policy.
The dawn of workeracy
Where do all of these challenges leave the youth? The answer could be found in the idea of workeracy Using a combination of interests, skills and academic qualifications to create one’s own work, will become more important that hoping to find a job.
The reality is that millennials have different product and service needs than previous generations. Who, then, are best suited to design and offer relevant products or services to millennials? Certainly not the Baby Boomers or even Generation X. Millennials understand millennials and they should therefor create their own work to produce unique services and products for millennials.
The youth will have to ask themselves:
• What skills do I have?
• What needs do I see in my community?
• How can I use my skills to fulfil specific needs in my community? and
• How can I use my own interests and passions to create products or services that could be useful to others?
Workeracy is not without challenges. Effort, trial and error is part of the journey towards a culture of workeracy. The main question to answer is whether the youth are willing to take the leap towards workeracy.
• Peter van Nieuwenhuizen is chief financial officer of Growth Institute, a private college offering a range of commercial, tourism and hotel management programmes