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Solving Youth Unemployment Begins With Employability

An employable graduate is not only one that has the technical knowledge and a relevant qualification – it is the one who stands out from the crowd.

South Africa has a youth problem. The problem is our youth are not finding jobs. The youth unemployment rate is sitting at a dismal 46%. President Cyril Ramaphosa recently penned an open letter that said that creating more opportunities for young people, and supporting young people to access these opportunities, is the government’s foremost priority.

Are there so few jobs out there for our youth Or is it that our youth are not equipped for the jobs that are out there?

One of the main challenges youth face, be they with a matric or an undergraduate degree, is the issue of employability.

According to Head of Employability at the world’s learning company, Pearson South Africa, Thando Thomas, many job seekers are finding themselves over-qualified, underskilled, or both. “They may have the talent, but do they possess the ability to sell themselves? And even then, as the world evolves so fast, many of them no longer have the relevant skillsets for advertised roles and are unable to compellingly communicate the skills they do have. Thus making them unfortunately unemployable.”

The reality is that demographers have predicted that the first person who will live to be 150 has already been born. This means that children entering school today face the possibility of being the first generation of workers with 100-year careers. The increasing pace of technological change, coupled with this predicted increase in longevity, means that the skills and knowledge learned in childhood, or a degree earned in your twenties, won’t be enough for success in the long term.

“Many people who are still in their twenties are left behind as their respective fields have moved on without them. Without getting the requisite experience by finding employment, many graduates will be left behind,” says Thomas.

Pearson has identified four areas that make up employability, based on formal and informal research with employers, educators, and learners. Individuals need to develop skills in each area, but the stage they are at in their life – whether that’s starting, developing, or changing career – will impact which areas to focus on most.

Core academic competencies

A solid foundation of literacy, numeracy, and digital fluency is essential. Regardless of the field we select or the education we pursue, there are few opportunities open to us without these competencies. The roots of these core skills are found in K-12 education, however, global assessment results suggest significant numbers of adults, even in developed countries, lack basic literacy and numeracy skills required to fully participate in society.

Occupational competencies

Occupational competencies have become equally as important as traditional core academic skills. These are skills related to a specific job, like nursing skills if you want to be a nurse, or coding if you want to be a programmer. In some countries, literacy in English is crucial for certain occupations. In others, there is reason to believe that English language skills enhance a person’s potential to gain employment as well as their earning power.

Personal & social capabilities

This is how we refer to what can be known as ‘soft skills’, ‘21st-century skills’ or ‘transferable skills’. These are capabilities that we start learning at a young age and continue upskilling throughout our careers, and each should be specifically taught, practiced, and assessed to have the greatest impact on learners. The personal and social capabilities are:

·       Critical thinking and creativity

·       Communication

·       Collaboration

·       Self-management

·       Social responsibility

·       Leadership

Career knowledge & transition skills

These are the skills learners need to transition and transfer what they do in school, higher education and the experience they have at work to their futures. For example, how to showcase certifications, credentials and accomplishments in the best way, how to brand yourself, and how to develop a presence on social media.

Thomas says it is imperative that South African education institutions start applying a greater focus on developing the employability of graduates and even matriculants. “If we ever hope to solve the youth unemployment crisis, how about we make our youth more employable.”

Learn more about how Pearson unpacks employability and how it fits into the modern working world.