South Africa Needs to Create Job Opportunities for New Graduates

By Nicolette Chinomona    25-Jun-2013 13:13 UTC+02:00

As the nation celebrates youths this month, serious thought should be given to how exactly the nation is helping youths achieve their dreams. In recent years there’s been a strong push to motivate the youth to “do more” with their lives, to become an inspiration, to help build South Africa. And the youth responded, by thronging to educational institutions to become equipped with the skills to build the nation, they’ve been through three to four years of education, but is the nation ready to help them build it? How can the nation expect the youth to stand for it- when it doesn’t give them a platform to stand on?

Final examinations in most major Universities across the country will be winding down this month, for some it will be just another end to hectic caffeine driven cramming sessions and a chance to blow off some steam until the next semester begins. For others, it will be a final goodbye to the world of textbooks and lectures and plunge into the real world- the working world. But in this economy are employers willing to take a chance on graduates?

After years of studying and hopefully excelling in university, a lot of final year students leave with an expectant air, and why not? They’ve done their part, while some of their peers have been using their time for non-academic pursuit (legal and otherwise) this select few- and even in this day and age, it is a few select- have survived the institution.
Numerous others have dropped out, failed to continue due to financial constraints, others are reluctant to leave and seem to have perpetual continuity plans for varsity. Most of us were told when we initially went to university, that a degree would make the world our oyster, our opportunities would abound, we would be able to create our lives anyway we want to- but is that really the case? It seems not to be, and in fact it seems that a lot of graduates feel frustrated and depressed with the current state of affairs- it is just impossible to find a job!

We live in an information age- the internet makes it ridiculously easy to find job postings and connect with potential employers. Go to and type in “jobs South Africa” and you will be presented with a mind blowing selection of job sites-some of them touting that they have 10000 job postings. These days sending out CVs isn’t a pavement pounding exercise, from the comfort of their homes and at the click a button, graduates can apply for tens, if not hundreds of jobs a day. How could a graduate ever fail to get a job? Quite easily.

Firstly of all most of the job postings require a great deal of experience- not internship experience but, work experience- a few years worth, usually nothing below at least two years. Who can blame employers? The economy isn’t exactly soaring, and they don’t want to spend their salary Rands on an untested employee- who they’ll have to use Rands and time to groom to perfection.

Business is a race and no one wants a newbie in the boat. If you can row, you’re so much more welcome, if you can’t, your enthusiasm and energy isn’t really enough to get you in the door. At the end of the day, this is pity, not just for the thousands of graduates that are spending weeks, months and sometimes even a year-unemployed- it is also a loose for business in general.

New graduates bring with them into any organization new blood- new ideas, a fresh perspective that could make a company stand out amongst the throng of ever growing competition. Not to mention their boundless energy and zeal for learning more. They are pliable, teachable and they still believe in their industry- exactly what every business should want. But sadly doesn’t. And what is anyone doing about it?

There’s a push in some sectors to encourage entrepreneurship- funds are being set-up to help young people start businesses, in the hope that these business, will create employment and positively impact the economy- all this is fantastic- except if you don’t want to start a business.

Not everyone is cut-out for start-ups, and the survival statistics of start-ups are dismal! And that is amongst those individuals who actually wanted to get into business. While business schools contribute largely to the number of graduates pumped out each year, business is not the most dominant field. Most graduates will be aiming to find employment- to work not for themselves, but someone else. Additionally, the scale of any business development fund will also be quite limited. Not every young person’s business idea can get easy funding and when it does, the employment created by that new enterprise will probably not be graduate employment.

Those that are persistent and give-up on expecting Red Carpet Treatment will eventually squeeze in through some crack or the other to get their first taste of real work. Others who are not thick skinned enough to survive a squeeze through a crack (by no fault of their own) will find themselves doing work that is not related to their qualifications, simply to survive and this will sadly not bring them any closer to fulfilling their dreams.

These are dark days for graduates, unless the economy improves and employers create more jobs, we can expect to continue to see the youth of South Africa lose that triumphant post-graduation strut and adopt a slower, depressing, pavement shuffle. We can’t blame it all on the government- because it’s actually the biggest employer in the country and it’s doing what it can- albeit imperfectly. Businesses also need to take responsibility for this conundrum and do their part in creating employment for graduates, even if it is just part-time.

While employment trends suggest that “ready-to-work” employees are preferred to company grown talent, profitability and innovation trends will soon begin to reflect that companies without new blood will go stale and stale business on a national scale will affect South Africa’s competitiveness on the world stage.

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