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World Youth Skills Day: Rewriting The Narrative, Passing On New Digital Skills, And Industry Training

  • 5 min read

By 2035, the working-age population of Africa is projected to increase by approximately 70 percent. However, matching skills to available employment is an important issue, and it is becoming increasingly apparent that the country’s skills shortage must be addressed.  

In this article, industry experts share their perspectives on what is required to equip young people with the proper skills. 

1. Rewrite the narrative

“Empowering young people with the right digital skills, together with an agile approach to learning, is central to solving unemployment problems on the one hand, and eliminating the need, on the other hand, for companies to import the digital skills they need in their organisations,” says Ursula Fear, Senior Talent Manager at Salesforce. 

Fear believes that we need to ensure that the youth are equipped with the right skills needed to thrive in the new, digitally transformed world of work, which requires a holistic, integrated approach that is focused on fit-to-purpose skills and whole-person development. ”It also requires the collective effort of stakeholders across industries because business should be a platform for change,” says Fear. 

“At Salesforce, we recently announced our partnership with The Collective X, a private sector-led initiative aimed at addressing the massive gap between the oversupply of digital jobs and the undersupply of people with the skills to fill them in South Africa.” 

2. Provide a curriculum that aligns with industry standards 

Earlier this year, Tourism Minister Patricia de Lille stated that approximately 5.7 million visitors travelled to South Africa in 2022, which is up by 150% from the previous year. Pre-pandemic the industry directly and indirectly employed nearly 1.5 million people, which has decreased to around 990,000 since. The upliftment of South African tourism signals an opportune time to explore how the industry can empower youth and educators for growth within this booming sector. 

“Our vibrant youth is overflowing with creativity and potential. In order to best equip the youth with the practical skills and knowledge that will set them up for successful careers, industry stakeholders could collaborate with teachers and trainers. Our youth should have access to curriculums that align with industry standards and developments, such as training on modern technologies and platforms. Both educators and young professionals alike need to make the most of industry conventions and panel discussions where they can network with industry leaders. These leaders should remain open to providing useful insights to the leaders of tomorrow,” says Anton Gillis, CEO at Kruger Gate Hotel. 

3. Bolster education through funding 

Organisations that are not directly involved in education as part of their products or offerings should invest in improving the quality of education for youth by supporting educators who upskill them. Funding projects that directly educate the youth is one of the ways in which this can be done. 

An example of this is social impact NPO Relate Bracelets, who support the youth empowerment non-profit organisation Amy Foundation, which reskills and upskills youth in finding alternative ways to make a living. 

“Organisations outside of the education space can support those who teach the youth in various ways. For example, we enable those who teach directly by sourcing funds for them to be impactful with their expertise,” says Brand Ambassador at Relate Bracelets, Dalit Shekel. Through the sale of themed bracelets, Relate Bracelets has, to date, raised over R1.99 million to support the Amy Foundation.

4. Learn new technology 

The expansion of coding into the curriculum for Foundation Phase learners is good news for education and will hopefully create opportunities for school leavers to develop the skills they will need for the jobs of the future. 

“However, a knowledge of coding on its own is simply not enough to guarantee employment,” says Andrew Bourne, Regional Director of Zoho Africa. “The youth also need to be skilled in how to use the technology that businesses use, and mentors need to nurture the confidence these young people will need to be able to apply these skills,“ he adds.

According to Gartner, 70% of new applications developed in the next three years will use low-code platforms, up from 25% in 2020. People with little to no coding experience, for example, can use low-code platforms. 

5. Provide industry training 

Tourism in South Africa is year-round, so employment levels are generally consistent. However, quieter periods allow employers to use the time for additional skill training. Young entrants into the sector can identify their chosen career path — from room services to head housekeeper, kitchen assistant to sous chef, reservationist to front office manager — and then strive to stand out and make sure hard work and ambition are rewarded.  

“Tourism is an exciting sector in which to forge a career,” says Genevie Langner, Marketing Manager at Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront. “No two days are the same. In marketing, I am using my creative skills to promote not only the Radisson Blu Hotel Waterfront but the entire country. And working with so many different people—the entire team in the hotel, guests, and other stakeholders—is so stimulating. As a young woman, I would make the same career choice again every time, and strongly recommend the industry to other women and young people.”

With a vast range of skills required within the broader tourism sector, there is a great opportunity for youth, especially young women, to forge careers in the industry.