Youth unemployment in South Africa can no longer be described as a ticking time bomb. The bomb has gone off and it has not spared the economy, our society, and the dreams of young people. The crisis is bleak with approximately 3.4 million (32.8%) out of 10,2 million young people aged 15-24 years who are not in employment, education or training (NEET), of any kind. As much as higher education institutions produce an increasing number of graduates each academic year, research paints a bleak picture of graduates armed with skills that are not always relevant to a dynamic labour market. This may further exacerbate the youth unemployment crisis.
Traditionally, society has relied heavily on the public service and big businesses to absorb graduates through learnerships and internships as a means to close skills gaps and offer pathways to employment. Whilst many big businesses have run meaningful graduate, internship, and learnership programs, they may fall short of the ideal with a high attrition rate of young people that are ultimately not gainfully employed. Graduates are increasingly finding themselves in dead-end internships and learnerships often described as revolving doors to nowhere.
Data from the International Labour Organisation (2019) confirms that SMMEs are responsible for up to 60% of the total jobs in South Africa. This points to an interesting trend that reveals that although young people generally aspire to work for big business and look for entry points through graduate programs and the like, they have a higher probability of obtaining a permanent employment opportunity within an SMME.
Observing these trends, Inscape seeks to design a conversational space where a collaborative approach to the skills and youth unemployment challenge in South Africa can be interrogated and engaged with. In this approach, we question if big business, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMMEs), and private and public institutions could work together within an eco-system of stakeholders to equip young people with both the skills and job opportunities for the new economy.
The purpose of this event is to:
- Fostering a common understanding of the careers of the future in the African context.
- What is feasible and available to study?
- What of accessibility - exclusion be it financial, language, technological (data or Wi-Fi etc)?
- Where is the demand for graduates/skilled youth, today and where will it be tomorrow?
- Explore the possibilities of a collaborative approach to solving the skills and employment crisis.
- Consider how SMMEs might partner with big business and education to increase their absorption rate of graduates and ultimately increase the number of real employment opportunities created for young people.
- Engage with how private and public institutions can create pathways for their graduates within this collaborative eco-system of stakeholders.
- This event will provide a space for discussion and to look for sustainable solutions, drawing in relevant representatives from small and medium enterprises, big businesses, higher education, industry, Inscape alumni, present staff and students.
The outcome of this event is expected to yield possible collaborative opportunities between big businesses, SMMEs and institutions like Inscape in solving the skills gap in the South African labour market.