The untapped potential that lies within South Africa’s unemployed youth is a national tragedy — and the number of young people who are neither learning nor engaged in income-generating activities is unacceptably high.
South Africa’s youth unemployment rate has averaged 52.0% from 2013 to 2018, and in the third quarter of 2018 had reached 52.8%, according to Trading Economics South Africa.
“It is a harsh reality that is impacting the country as a whole, and is a key focus of Tsogo Sun’s national corporate social investment (CSI) programme,” said Shanda Paine, Tsogo Sun Group’s CSI manager.
Tsogo Sun invests in various education and empowerment initiatives aimed at helping young South Africans to lift themselves out of poverty.
“The decision to invest — with funding and staff volunteerism — in career guidance and development in high schools was based on discussions and input from learners, parents, educators, and principals,” continued Paine.
It’s a result of years of involvement in various community-based programmes that work with young people in secondary schools and engage with them about their futures.
“[Young people] were equally concerned about how to achieve a brighter future," continued Paine. "It was also clear that a large number of these young learners would need to join the working world straight after school, but have no idea how to do this, or have an understanding of what it entails."
Tsogo Sun identified the need to create a pipeline of career development that starts in grade 9 (about age 15), when learners have to make their subject choices for grades 10 to 12.
The career development and guidance programme was piloted in 2016 in one school and is now impacting more than 5,500 learners in four high schools in Johannesburg, with plans to increase these numbers each year.
It starts in grade 9 with online assessments that provide the learners with a comprehensive portfolio on who they are with regards to their interests, skills, and aptitude, and gives them some insight into possible tertiary studies and what subjects they will require, enabling them to make well-advised subject choices for grade 10.
In grade 10, tertiary options are highlighted, particularly the option of Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges, which are becoming increasingly relevant for the skills required in the job market.
There are also workshops conducted to show the diversity of career options, what different jobs entail, skills, and other information to assist them in making career choices.
To help learners make informed career choices, employees from three leading casinos and hotels host learners in grades 11 and 12 in job-shadowing at their places of work across the spectrum of departments from finance, administration, marketing, maintenance, and food and beverage.
In addition, grade 11 learners attend workshops that introduce them to people skills for the workplace and money skills on how to manage their personal budgets.
To avoid the last-minute application to tertiary institutions, in grade 12, assistance is given in applying online to tertiary institutions ahead of time and ensuring that learners have all the necessary documentation required for these applications.
Work readiness workshops are also conducted for these learners who are going directly into the working world that provide guidance and tools on how to look and apply for a job and how to succeed once they have a job.
“Already we are seeing a positive response — and we believe that this three-pronged approach of concerted effort at home, school, and us as the supplier will ensure the programme pays the best dividends possible and offers the chance for a brighter future for many young people,” said Paine. “Each of us has the ability and the desire to make a meaningful difference.”
Collectively, these initiatives have already empowered more than 11,000 learners.