Delivering Accessible Learning Environments and Job Opportunities for School Leavers
In the lead-up to the Matric class of 2023’s final exams, anxiety looms. While some will pursue tertiary education, the majority face the highly competitive job market and the harsh prospect of unemployment. Rajan Naidoo, Managing Director of EduPower Skills Academy, says that in this crucible of chances and challenges, the concept of learnerships emerges as a beacon of hope—a bridge between education and employment – and a lifeline to a brighter future for the nation’s youth.
“As things stand, school leavers have little hope of finding work. They lack essential skills, have no access to training opportunities and limited access to finance for entrepreneurship – in a stagnant job market,” he notes.
With hundreds of thousands of matriculants entering the job market, youth unemployment will rise even further – adding to the fact that in Q2 of 2023, young people aged 15-24 and 25-34 face unemployment rates of 60.7% and 39.8% respectively. Naidoo says this situation has been escalating over many years and has become a national crisis.
Labour supply and demand
He emphasises the widening disparity between labour supply and demand, exacerbated by the market’s need for skilled workers which leaves millions of unskilled school leavers behind. “Our education system does not adequately prepare learners for the workforce,” he says, “and we urgently need to prioritise and focus on skills development.”
Naidoo acknowledges skills development as being a long-recognised government priority and he commends the actions already taken which have resulted in a value chain in which:
Government offers incentives and grants that encourage corporates to actively support learnership programmes and create job opportunities.
Training providers such as EduPower, focus on comprehensive learnership programmes that include job-readiness skills, training and entrepreneurship.
And finally, the youth benefit through their commitment to the learnership process.
“These multi-tiered partnerships have made significant strides in supporting skills development and job placement initiatives for young people, but it is not enough,” he asserts. “Youth unemployment is a ticking time bomb that will not self-correct. A massive effort is required to create the sweeping transformation that’s needed and whilst there are pockets of excellence, business as a whole needs to step up to the plate and actively embrace and pursue the opportunities presented by this crisis to get our youth working.”
Closing the skills gap
Naidoo says that government incentives have created a powerful motivation for business involvement in accessible learning environments for matriculants. However, they must be strategically leveraged by business to obtain their intended results – closing the skills gap – and now, mitigating the crisis we face due to youth unemployment.
“Learnerships have proved to be the most successful way to bridge the gap between education and employment when executed effectively. By combining theoretical classroom learning with practical on-the-job training, they offer a structured pathway for school leavers to gain a comprehensive skill set that is immediately applicable in the workplace and the experience necessary for meaningful employment,” he adds.
Naidoo calls for additional strategies to encourage more businesses to fund learnerships, emphasising the need for a paradigm shift in approach. “We must deliver learnerships that promise companies a greater return on their training investment. Businesses should partner with reputable training providers to tailor learnerships to their specific needs that will deliver the required skills. This will assist in future-proofing their operations and contribute to reducing the magnitude of the economic and social risks we are currently facing.”
“The positive impact of learnerships benefits learners and sponsoring companies alike, potentially transforming South Africa’s future,” he concludes. “Through learnerships, we can expand our young people’s prospects in the labour market, providing income security and instilling hope and dignity. A skilled and employed youth population drives economic prosperity, offering a more promising future for our nation.”