On 15 July, the United Nations observes World Youth Skills Day. At the JumpStart Foundation, every day is committed to developing youth skills. This year we recognise and celebrate the remarkable young people who serve our youngest learners in under-resourced schools under the extremely difficult conditions they currently face. COVID-19 and tumultous times are a significant challenge.
Africa has the world’s youngest, fastest-growing population. By 2030 – nine years from now – 375 million young people will be in the continent’s job market. The untapped potential and talents of young people and the so-called “youth bulge” are reasons that Africa’s potential as an up and coming economic powerhouse is often touted. However, stumbling blocks remain, including the mismatch between the skills of young people entering the workforce and the skills needed by employers. This mismatch is a major threat to Africa’s growth ambitions, as young people are not being sufficiently equipped with even the most basic skills needed to secure entry level employment in today’s fast changing economy.
South African Youth
South Africa is no exception: youth aged 18-34 comprise one-third of the population and are disproportionately affected by the country’s triple crisis of unemployment, inequality and poverty. These problems have been significantly exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic, with a record breaking 60% of youth unemployed in 2020, according to the World Bank. This is estimated to be one of the highest youth unemployment levels (if not the single highest) in the world according to research by Global Economy. Many of these unemployed young people have simply disengaged from the mainstream economy, which is a threat to social cohesion and democracy.
A look at the ecosystem
Bending the curve of youth unemployment in South Africa could result in a demographic dividend if the right investments are made by the country. Youth employment is a particularly important measure of poverty reduction, and targeted investments in digital and other scarce skills have the ability to significantly boost livelihoods and economic growth. While South Africa’s public, private and civil society sectors have introduced youth employment programmes of various forms, this ecosystem is prone to fragmentation, and many programmes are not well geared to the real needs of youth who cannot gain work experience because they have to hustle for income, usually in the informal economy. Without work experience, they are locked out of entry level employment and their employability becomes less and less over time, a perfect catch 22.
Women and girls carry the can
In addition, the burden of unemployment disproportionately affects young women and girls who face gender barriers in accessing post-schooling training and education and work readiness programmes due to competing, unpaid care and domestic responsibilities.
Boosting youth skills to reduce youth unemployment
The aim of our Youth Employment Intervention is to help reduce youth unemployment by giving JumpStart tutors a certain level of income security, practical preparation for the world of work and relevant work experience. In so doing we team up with peer organisations in the youth employment sector, to avoid duplication of work and leverage resources, for example the national Youth Employment Service (YES) is able to off-set the costs of tutors’ stipends, making the programme significantly more affordable.
Help our interns transition to meaningful work
We constantly seek suitable companies who could benefit from capable entry level staff, who possess solid work experience. With elementary technical training, possessing good numeracy, literacy and teamwork skills well in place by the end of their internship, our candidates are ready to transition into meaningful employment.
We need to meet our obligations to our primary funders, our board, and Youth Employment Service. More importantly, though, we work with great young people who deserve a shot at living the full and hopeful lives that good work makes possible.
How would your Human Talent Department benefit from considering these trained and talented young people? For additional information, please email Leizel Francis.