As South Africa battles the highest unemployment rate globally, reaching 32.9% in the first quarter of 2023, the country is at a critical juncture in addressing its employment and skills challenges. The youth are the hardest hit with a staggering 62.1% unemployment rate in the same period.
Adding to the complexity of the crisis, the nation faces an unusual paradox – soaring unemployment rates coexisting with a persistent skills shortage. This conundrum demands immediate attention and multifaceted solutions.
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“There are chronic unemployment concerns, but some industries face severe scarcity of qualified candidates,” said Rajan Naidoo, managing director of EduPower Skills Academy.
According to Naidoo, the gap between job market demands and the skills held by potential employees continues to grow each year. Key contributing factors include the inability of the education system to rapidly adapt to the increasing demand for specific competencies, particularly in industries like information technology, engineering, healthcare, and finance.
However, amidst the challenge, there is hope. Learnerships – a blend of structured learning and workplace experience – are considered a key solution. Naidoo believes these programmes can bridge the gap between education and employment, transforming the South African workforce landscape.
He outlined three key advantages of learnerships:
- Bridging theory and practice: Learnerships offer a combination of theoretical knowledge and practical training, equipping candidates with the necessary skills and competencies to excel in their chosen fields.
- Industry-relevant training: Designed in collaboration with industry partners, learnerships align with job market needs. The result is job-ready candidates equipped with the required hands-on skills.
- Promoting employment opportunities: Companies often absorb learnership graduates into permanent positions, leveraging the skills they acquired during the program. This approach not only reduces the unemployment rate but also addresses skills shortages.
“Learnerships have the potential to be transformative if we can rally the government, businesses, and educational institutions to further expand these programmes,” Naidoo asserted. He believes that with more individuals equipped with industry-specific skills and practical experience, economic empowerment will follow.
With the right monitoring and checks in place, learnerships hold significant promise to combat the rampant joblessness among young South Africans. Naidoo concludes, “Through collaborative efforts, South Africa can harness the potential of its youth, create growth opportunities, and pave the way for a more resilient and thriving workforce.”