Industrial psychologist Phiona Martin provides advice on how companies can play their part in reducing youth unemployment.
The recently released unemployment statistics for the second quarter of 2018 revealed a youth unemployment rate of 38.8 percent (this was compared to 17.9 percent for adults). The topic of youth unemployment has been a perpetual pain point for the country and, although various initiatives have been implemented in an attempt to effectuate results in this area, progress remains sluggish. Some notable government initiatives to combat this disheartening statistic include the recently launched Youth Employment Service (YES) described as “one of the first social compacts between government, business and labour created to give one million youth one million opportunities to succeed while securing South Africa’s economic prosperity.” There are also learnerships which are managed by Sector Education and Training Authorities (SETAs). These were introduced by the government to help young people improve their employability by giving them work experience and qualifications. To be eligible for these learnerships, individuals have to be between 16 and 35 years old, unemployed and have completed high school, tertiary or learning at other institutions.
These listed initiatives are all great but, as in most managed programmes, there is a limited number of people that can be accepted into them. This is why employers should be aiding the government in fighting youth unemployment. There are some low-to-no-cost initiatives that do not require complex programme management or significant budget allocations, which can contribute to making young people more employable, in particular, those who may not be able to get into the more formal initiatives.
These suggestions are a quick-start way for companies to get engaged in a bigger societal problem the country faces:
- Host industry mentoring circles. There is often an information and perception gap experienced by graduates and young people in relation to the world of work and the realities of entering their desired professions. Companies can use mentoring circles, which can take place once a month or any other feasible frequency, to share knowledge about the industry/profession, answer questions related to gaining entry and succeeding in the field as well as give job seekers tips on how to competitively position themselves to become marketable in that profession.
- Have a formal “job shadow” day. This can cater to students or graduates to get exposure to the world of work and see what a “day in the life” of their desired profession looks like.
- Computer and internet access. For one weekend a month, companies can allow a set number of job seekers to use the internet and computers at their facilities. This enables those in the job market to apply for jobs, print CVs and other application materials. Job hunting has costs involved and access to the internet and funds for other job search activities like printing documents are not easily available to all individuals, particularly those from low socio-economic backgrounds.
- Host CV writing workshops. Get your HR department or any willing staff members to provide some workshops and personal CV reviews to ensure job seekers are positioning themselves well through their application documents. This insider perspective from people who make actual hiring decisions will be of much value.
- Have a mock interview day. Company employees can avail themselves to do practice interviews with job seekers to help them polish their interview skills and give them feedback on their performance, as that rarely happens during actual recruitment processes.
- Develop some volunteer assignments. Many despondent job seekers are willing to volunteer their time to build some much-needed skills on their CVs. Try to develop some projects within the company or overflow work that can be given to volunteers. By all means, try and cover transport and basic costs on these volunteer projects.
- Participate in career events. Allow and encourage your staff to be involved in providing career advice at events for young people. They can contribute by sharing their own career journeys with the aim of helping young people be exposed to various careers.
Employers can play a role in the employability of young people through various, fairly low-cost, activities. The challenge of solving youth unemployment is a mammoth task and, in addition to some of the macro initiatives that are underway, employers can make some quick gains on the ground without launching large, complex programmes.