Skills Development: Great tips on why youth employment is important

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Skills Development: Great tips on why youth employment is important

Youth Employment through Skills Development Succession Planning. 


Why is youth employment important?

Our youth still find it difficult to secure jobs in South Africa, and it seems the unemployment rate under the youth is increasing every year.

Why is it difficult for the youth to find a job? The vital question we should be asking is, “What strides have we made in ensuring our youth have better opportunities for employment in South Africa?”


According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS)  of the first quarter of 2021, young people are still struggling to enter the South African workforce. The official unemployment rate was 32,6%. This rate was 46,3% among young people aged 15 – 34 years, implying that almost one in every two young people in the labour force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2021. About a quarter (24,4%) of the youth have jobs, and 45,3% participate in the labour market. Within the youth, those aged 15–24 years are more vulnerable in the labour market with an unemployment rate of over 63%, an absorption rate of about 7,6% and a labour force participation rate of 20,6%.

skills development

Some of these young people have become discouraged from participating in the labour market. They are also not building their skills through education and training – they are not in employment, education or training (NEET).

Of the 10,2 million persons aged 15–24 years, 32,4% (approximately 3,3 million) were not in employment, education or training – implying that close to one in three young South Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 years were disengaged with the labour market in the first quarter of 2021. The NEET rate, seen in conjunction with unemployment rates over 60%, suggests that the youth face extreme difficulties engaging with the labour market in South Africa.


skills development

What is the South African definition of youth?

Definitions of youth vary considerably amongst countries. In South Africa, youth consist of those aged 15 to 34 years. Children aged 15 to 18 years, who are supposed to be in school, are included in the working-age population and a concern. The compulsory school attendance age informs the South African Schools Act number 84 of 1996 states that: “Subject to this Act and any applicable provincial law, every parent must cause every learner for whom he or she is responsible for attending a school from the first school day of the year in which such learner reaches the age of seven years until the last school day of the year in which such learner reaches the age of fifteen years or the ninth grade, whichever occurs first.”


Education and prior work experience play an important role in the labour market. Employers often prefer to employ those with previous work experience and a higher level of education. Unfortunately for the youth, lack of work experience is a stumbling block that makes it hard to secure employment. Low and semi-skilled youth employment is concentrated in the Trade industry, while high-skilled youth employment is in the Community and social services and finance and other business services industries. In most cases, these young people have unspecified contracts, or the arrangements are of limited duration, and consequently do not have access to employee benefits such as medical aid, pension fund, paid sick leave, and permanent employment.

Transformation Through Training

The companies that will win time and time again view money spent on training as a critical investment in their most valuable resource and not merely a necessary cost of doing business.

The below Pyramid represents a medium to long term training and development philosophy that delivers against short-term development and transformation goals.

By following this philosophy, you will simultaneously build the foundation for effective succession planning at an organisation level, ensuring management integration and a focused career path strategy and development plan for execution at an individual level.

Fundamentals of a practical skills development system 

This section of the report addresses the questions, ‘What should a successful skills system be doing? What functions must it do well? What key competencies does it need? How can skills development in South Africa play a role in youth employment?

There is a level of clarity as to what a skills system should consist of whilst examining international experience and the positives and strengths within the South African skills system. The below critical fundamentals are compulsory to be in place irrespective of the skills development system implemented. These are necessary for the proper functioning of the system overall. In other words, regardless of the structure, the system must do certain things well.


Identification of sector skills needs

Effective skills planning and development are dependent, amongst other things: on collecting accurate supply and demand data; conducting thorough and reliable research; effective data collection, management, and analysis; labour market forecasting; reliable scarce and critical skills identification; and a central institutional mechanism that coordinates these processes and provides a national view of the skills needs of the country.


Strategic skills planning

The skills development system requires developing and implementing proper strategic planning processes that clearly illustrate its strategic direction.

Learning interventions: development & implementation

The development of learning programmes is based on assessing basic skills needs, exceptionally scarce and critical skills need. There is a need to clarify terminology concerning these terms as they have different meanings. Some stakeholders use ‘critical’ skills to describe what other stakeholders call ‘scarce skills’. Learning interventions and programmes funded should address these needs to have the most significant impact. Programmes mustn’t address only current needs, but future skills need.

Training providers should not be allowed to drive the skills development plan. Training decisions are made on actual need. Currently, SETAs are the interface between the employer and the provider. Such an interface is important no matter how the skills development system is organised. It enables a better fit between the types of learning programmes provided and the economy’s skills needs. More significant impact is also dependent on the utilisation of appropriate implementation levers that are best placed to meet the strategic objectives of the skills system.


An inclusive system

Employers must build the system based on inclusion, and skills development can help to fight inequality.

The system cannot cater to large companies only or those located in large urban centres. It must be accessible both geographically and reach out to those who find it challenging to conduct business online. It does not necessarily mean opening offices in all parts of the country. Still, it means allocating significant resources to put in place local access, whether in offices or partnership arrangements with existing local structures. Whatever system is adopted, the issue of coordination within the system and with partner organisations and structures will be necessary.

Provider profile

There needs to be a balance of high-quality public and private providers. Where skills systems are successful, the public vocational system plays a significant role. The skills system must develop partnerships with local and regional providers in the post-schooling education and training environment, particularly public FET colleges and public universities. Emphasis should be placed on building capacity in rural areas to ensure sustainable provision in these areas. This may require direct intervention on the supply side in rural areas.


Policy alignment

Policy alignment within the national skills development system is crucial, as is alignment between policy, strategy, and implementation plans. The international literature points to clarify what is expected from the system both on the demand and supply sides. For example, having a very detailed and structured National Qualifications Framework and structures but a free-market approach to demand does not work. Equally, having very well-coordinated and articulated demand but no accurate coordination of supply also results in weaknesses. The policy must address the need for improved service delivery.


Monitoring and evaluation

M&E is about monitoring the performance of the skills system to implement its strategic intent. M&E is also about evaluating the impact of the system for skills development in the economy. The focus of M&E should not simply be on implementing large numbers of learning programmes and achieving large numbers of enrolments and qualifications but on implementing quality learning programmes that achieve predetermined outcomes and have an impact. Evaluations need to be conducted to assess the impact of learning programmes. Such evaluations must be used to inform better planning and implementation within the system. M&E should ultimately be used as a tool for improving service delivery.

When skills development succession planning is integrated with your company’s mission and vision, there will be short term and long-term benefits for the entity, its stakeholders, and its employees. Succession planning automatically creates a structure for training and further development. Succession planning can also cultivate a new generation of leaders, thereby providing an exit strategy for business owners who want to sell their stake.


Judy Vercueil

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