By Mamiki Matlawa, managing director of Qunu Workforce

According to Stats SA, there is a staggering unemployment rate of 63.2% among the youth, accounting for individuals between the ages of 15 and 24.

As the emerging workforce, this age bracket of individuals finds themselves in the difficult position of struggling to secure employment due to the economic downturn and their lack of experience.

Now that the new academic year will soon be upon us, the fate of the matriculant’s is even more distressing as not everyone has the means to explore tertiary education options. This has clearly highlighted an urgent need for South Africa to establish a workforce that can gain skills and training without the prerequisite of a degree.

Temporary employment service (TES) providers can have a significant impact here, already positioned to provide vital training and skills development to the youth, along with learnership placements.

Emerging workforce struggles

A staggering two million jobs were lost in 2020 after the nationwide economic shutdown, which paints a further bleak picture moving forward. It can be incredibly tough seeking employment with only a basic education and no tertiary qualifications or skills training. While many did not achieve the marks necessary to even qualify for tertiary education placement, many others lack the funding and means to attend university.

A two-fold solution

Times have changed. Job seekers can no longer pick up a newspaper to find local vacancies and expect to be employed. Today, the youth have to get creative in their approach to the job market. With so many individuals actively seeking employment, it is important to do everything in their power to stand out from the rest. From the TES provider perspective, we need to shift our focus from qualifications to start looking at the individual – skills that can be taught, passion to work and enthusiasm to learn is what makes a person stand out from the crowd with good potential to hire.

As our country seeks to begin economic recovery in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, it is critical for our youth to take any opportunity to gain valuable work experience along with participating in multi-skilled training and refinement programmes.

As a starting point, TES is an ideal solution that can reduce the youth unemployment rate through placements, learnerships and skills programmes in the business and technical sectors. Other industries that are likely to benefit from TES by placing younger people in entry-level jobs include retail and e-commerce, engineering, construction, contact centres, telecoms, warehousing, and logistics.

Mutually beneficial arrangement

Temporary employment solutions are not just for job seekers, as these services can be of great benefit to businesses and sectors currently faced with financial constraints. Many companies are currently hesitant to hire new people on a permanent basis because there’s still so much uncertainty in the future.

We are unsure if work is going to be steady, we’re unsure as to whether there will be another wave of Covid-19 infections and lockdowns. TES providers can bring job seekers and companies together in a manner that is mutually beneficial, providing industries with flexible contract workers that can be upscaled or downscaled as operations demand, while affording the workers the opportunity to gain experience and learn new skills while earning an income.

Seeing the bigger picture

Given that universities are not churning out graduates that are ready for the job market, we have to be realistic about the situation. Skills gained through experience are far more urgent than formal qualifications under the current and medium-term environment.

The private sector and TES providers need to work together in creating a skilled workforce moving forward. That gap between skills and opportunity needs to be tightened to balance the need of enhanced youth skills sets while combating the issues of unemployment.

Companies approaching TES providers for assistance in meeting their labour requirements should be open to on-the-job training, or skills development programmes so that young job seekers can continue to up-skill themselves.

Experience earned in entry-level jobs can later be used to unlock better employment opportunities down the line, so it is important for youngsters to bear in mind that an entry-level job is better than no job. It is also just as important for businesses to realise that it is not only about profitability and survival – they have a critical role to play in addressing the current challenges of unemployment to further our goals of economic recovery.

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