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The state of the youth in South Africa and how organisations can support them

young African man sitting on the floor with a sign next to him I need a job

Youth unemployment in South Africa and costly skills shortages

Every Youth Month, South Africans get a chance to reflect on the victories of, and challenges faced by the youth over the past year. This reflection affords them the opportunity to interrogate possible ways of overcoming the challenges, as well as maintaining the positives.

This year, the youth are grappling with a record-breaking bad economy, rocketing cost of living, and high youth unemployment, as well as lifestyle challenges that include load shedding and safety concerns. But not everything is doom and gloom! There are many organisations making efforts to support them, improve their lives and how they interact with the world around them.

We asked several experts about the plight of local youth in 2023 and how they can be supported, and this is what they say:

Upskilling and reskilling (Relate Bracelets) – youth unemployment in South Africa

It’s well known that South Africa has significant and costly skills shortages across a number of sectors, even though 46,5 percent of the youth were unemployed in Q1 of 2023, according to Statistics SA. The lack of available skills in fields including financial services, technology, media, telecommunications, healthcare, and manufacturing has massive consequences for the country, including stunting overall economic growth.

Non-profit enterprise Relate Bracelets, which has raised over R72 million over the past 10 years for various charitable causes, directly supports youth empowerment and upskilling initiates both internally and externally through philanthropic partnerships. The social impact NGO uses beaded bracelets to help charities raise money and to create jobs for people in underprivileged communities.

Dalit Shekel, Brand Consultant for Relate Bracelets says, “Degrees don’t guarantee jobs. A far better approach may be to focus on upskilling and reskilling. This is a process that can be used to identify talents to support and improve, or to offer the youth chances to make a living through skills acquisitions that don’t always fall under the formal tertiary education ambit. For example, our bracelets are made by beaders from communities such as Ikamva Labantu, as well as refugees and township youth. We employ people with a natural skill to craft beadwork and engage them in the fashion ecosystem, giving them opportunities to earn a living and create beautiful environmentally friendly pieces.”

Optimism in a discouraging environment – youth unemployment in South Africa

Many South Africans feel hopeless at the moment as they have lost their sense of a brighter tomorrow. The country’s youth however are more optimistic; they feel that they can and should grab their own futures and that’s something that we should support, according to the CEO of Sea Monster Entertainment, Glenn Gillis.

He says, “To do so, we as the creative industry should stop being so patronising. We have game jams, hackathons and incubators, but sometimes these activities can do more harm than good. There is absolutely a need for initiatives that introduce new people to the industry and give opportunities to young people, particularly those from disadvantaged backgrounds, but there’s a great deal more that we should also do to set them up in the long term. To this end, there is an urgent need to support small and medium-sized companies in the industry, in order to create a place for young people to go and actually build careers after they’ve dipped their toes into the industry. In many ways, this speaks to growing the so-called ‘missing middle’ which is critical if we want to build scalable and sustainable industries.”

Future-proofing youth unemployment in South Africa

The United Nations notes that one of the key barriers to children’s digital literacy is the lack of teachers’ and trainers’ expertise, a shortfall when it comes to ICT infrastructure and poor connectivity. Zoho remains keen on fostering a deep-tech ecosystem, therefore works with micro, small and medium enterprises to create digital literacy and provide skill development.

“We need to future-proof children so that they are equipped to apply for jobs that require digital and development skills,” says Andrew Bourne, Regional Manager, Africa | Zoho Corporation. “And we can help do this by ensuring that educators have the skills to encourage children to become more digitally literate.”

The most in demand expertise and one of the most challenging to get on the South African market actually remains inside the software development field. Software development was recently named by the Department of Home Affairs as one of South Africa’s scarce skills, with a 22% growth in this industry expected before 2030. “With low-code platforms, citizen developers can create complex and powerful business applications without requiring costly and lengthy training.”

Most low-code application development can be managed with users who only have moderate technical knowledge.

Making a career out of a job

The tourism sector has the capacity to absorb a large number of employees, some positions with low barriers to entry, making it an ideal choice for school leavers and first jobbers. Starting off as a waiter, bar person, in housekeeping, at the front desk or anywhere else within an operation, offers young people the opportunity to learn ‘on the job’ and to progress through the ranks to a managerial position.

“I started as a hotel receptionist after getting my diploma in tourism, then moved into reservations. In 2015 I joined Radisson Hotels as a reservations agent. In 2021, the position of Marketing Manager in Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront came up and I applied for and got the job,” says Genevie Langner, Marketing Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront, who represents an example of women in tourism who have grabbed every opportunity as it came along.

“Not that it isn’t hard work, because it is,” she says, “but the travel industry can definitely take you places. As a woman, the soft skills you need including good communications, diplomacy, customer service and problem solving are something we are generally good at, so a career in tourism is a good match for women’s natural skill sets.”

The hard skills that are learned in these service positions also translate between companies in the sector, from hospitality in hotels, airlines, cruise ships to super yachts – the opportunities are endless.


If you are eager to find a career in software development, why not fast-track your career with our coding courses at our Cape Town branch in South Africa. Apply here »

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