Issued By : Pearson 

Youth unemployment in South Africa remains one of the biggest obstacles to economic success. According to the Stats SA 2022 Q1 report on unemployment, South Africa has a working-age population of 40 million, of which youth (15-34 years) accounts for 51,6%, yet the youth unemployment rate continues to stifle opportunity.

Although the graduate unemployment rate has declined year on year, the overall youth unemployment rate has had an upward trend. The Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) reported unemployment to be at 32,6% in Q1, whilst the youth unemployment rate stood at 46,3%. It is unfortunate that graduates accounted for 9,3% of that percentage, which implies that approximately 10% of the unemployed youth have qualifications.

According to Ruth Shogoe, Head of People at Pearson South Africa, employability has evolved over the years, and graduates need more than a basic qualification to land a job.

“Historically, one would merely need to obtain an acquired skill and an academic qualification to gain the advantage of job security. In this day employability means to have potential and attributes that are viewed as value adding (multipotentiality) and is dependent on how desirable an employee is in the workplace,” Shogoe says.

Speaking to whether South African graduates are considered employable, Shogoe says, “A lot of our graduates tend to wait for the perfect opportunity, and this is an unrealistic expectation. Employability and job security work hand-in-hand, and job security is about what you do with opportunity, not the opportunity itself.”

She notes that choosing a career path should be rooted in passion, not popularity. “Often, there is pressure to go with the popular and fancy career routes where quick financial gain is the end goal. As a student, before choosing a career, I would ask myself, what is the one thing I would passionately do for the rest of my life without getting paid to do it.”

Shogoe advises on the two pivotal ways graduates can portray themselves as valuable in the workforce to secure job opportunities. “Graduates can futureproof their career paths by going the extra mile to gain an added skill, work on voluntary projects, harness their soft skills, implement entrepreneurial initiatives and have a growth mindset. Graduates must adopt a mindset that does not despise humble beginnings as the journey to the ideal career gets easier once one is absorbed in the labour market,” she says.

Bonginkosi Mchunu, current key account manager at Pearson in KwaZulu-Natal, is a testament to how the seeds of humble beginnings can blossom when watered consistently. Mchunu started his career as part of Pearson’s graduate development programme. After that, he occupied different roles, such as Corporate Specialist and Product Manager Administrator – not all of which were his perfect choices.

For Mchunu, the graduate programme set him up for success. “It offered me an opportunity to work with all the departments in the organisation, which enabled me to better understand the business and the connectedness of things. I was able to work across departments, work with different people, establish relationships and leverage those relationships to get things done and deliver the best outcomes in my role. When I engage with customers now, it’s even more convenient for me to make them understand who we are and what we stand for because I have lived it all,” Mchunu says.

According to Shogoe, organisations should follow this example and create opportunities through internship and graduate programmes or even by creating other junior to mid-weight positions to help reduce youth unemployment and give graduates the experience their CVs so desperately needs. “Our young people are the future of our country. Not investing in young people is not investing in the future of this country,” she concludes.

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