Between a rock and a hard place

Between a rock and a hard place
Judith K is an 18 year old single mother of 4 who dropped out of school in Grade 10. She makes what small income she can by hairdressing in her backyard.

Solving the problem of a lack of skills and work experience for young job seekers

Afrika Tikkun is focusing its energy and attention on ending youth employment by targeting its efforts towards two major obstacles for young entry-level job seekers – work readiness and work experience.

South Africa’s biggest challenge at the moment is arguably youth unemployment. According to Statistics SA’s most recent labour survey (Q2), 9.3 million South Africans do not have work and want to find work. 3.3 million of those are young people aged 15-24, who are not working or enrolled in any place of study. That is a youth unemployment rate of 56%.

An inadequately educated workforce is the 3rd most critical factor cited by the Global Competitiveness Report that makes doing business difficult in South Africa[1]. The global economy is rapidly advancing into the fourth industrial revolution – radically redefining the kinds of skills that are and will be required of the forthcoming generations of entrants to the job market.

[1] The first to speak to inefficient bureaucracy and restrictive labour relations.

60% of unemployed young people have never worked before; reflecting how hard it is for first-time job-seekers to find employment despite actively searching through and answering job advertisements. These young people are chronically unemployed and often come from families who are generationally unemployed. This means that many of those who persevered and passed their matric, have been raised in environments where the culture and behaviours associated with work have never been passed on. Whether they are fresh out of school, university or college, young people from disadvantaged backgrounds are challenged by their lack of work experience as well as by lack of experience of the world of work. Not only do they lack the skills to give them a competitive advantage, but they are unprepared for the behavioural demands of work.

What are the behavioural requirements of the modern workplace? They are the attitude, behavioural and communication skills that we start to first learn at home, watching our parents work set hours. They are also the discipline, emotional maturity and team spirit learned through sports and competitive opportunities at school. Lack of work experience and experience of the working world is a particularly steep challenge for young people who grow up exposed to poverty and chronic or generational unemployment. They must also overcome the hurdles of not being exposed to the social capital or networks of the privilege of the middle classes.

These young men are all high school drop-outs who admit to making their money through petty theft and crime.

That is why the Skills Development Programme that Afrika Tikkun trains young people from Johannesburg and Cape Town townships in, includes both an introduction to the world of work and personal mastery components. Personal Mastery is aimed at empowering the confidence and emotional resilience of young people as they seek to work productively and sustainably in a highly competitive, slow growth economy.

A second tier approach to the challenge of ending youth unemployment involves supporting young people to get the valuable work experience that business wants from its workforce. It’s something that any job seeker and employer will tell you – education doesn’t prepare individuals for the level and types of expertise that the workplace requires of its prospective employees. A CV with no work experience is dismal indeed. The work experience programme looks for opportunities to place its Youth Skills Development graduates into workplaces without requiring the business to take on any of the risks or costs of employment. Afrika Tikkun contracts and employs the graduate and seconds them into the workplace.

Lucky Maduwa

Lucky Maduwa is a Training Facilitator at Ram Couriers. He was a matriculant living in rural Limpopo and then Alexandra township, Johannesburg. He and his siblings faced daily hunger, the threat of homelessness and chronic unemployment for years before he came to Afrika Tikkun. After skills development training, he began to work as an intern at the Afrika Tikkun Centre in Alexandra. The internship gave him the on-the-job work experience he needed to become orientated to the world of work. After a few years, his hard work and dedicated, can-do attitude won the attention of his current employer who offered him a permanent position. Through constantly challenging himself to improve his qualifications and earn more, he is in a position to own a car, support his child and be building a house for his mother.

He is however, one of only two people among the 20-odd young people who did the internship with him that are still working. It’s a snapshot of how difficult it is for young people; the support they need as well as the inner strength required to persevere in the face of this national crisis. One thing for sure, the high rate of youth unemployment is “a ticking time bomb” in the words of ANC’s Policy Head, Jeff Radebe words “which if not addressed could trigger social unrest” (ANC policy July 2017).

If there are any businesses that need ready-to-work entry-level employees but can’t afford the costs they are invited to contact Afrika Tikkun at 011 325 5914 or [email protected] .