Unlocking the Untapped Potential of South African Youth

South Africa’s unemployment rate is a huge cause of concern, with 43,4% percent* of young people struggling to secure jobs. However, as many employers struggle to fill their vacancies, it's clear that the problem in South Africa is one of structural unemployment.  In essence there is a growing mismatch between the jobs available and the skill levels of those seeking work. 

Fiona Tabraham, the Chief Executive of CAPACITI Digital Talent Accelerator, shares her thoughts on why hiring and investing in young people is crucial in today’s economic landscape.

Fiona passionately believes in the incredible aptitude of South African youth, describing them as vibrant, smart, resilient, creative, and hardworking. The misconception that they expect everything handed to them is far from the truth. Instead, they seek opportunities and are willing to work diligently for them. Their questions, curiosity and demands are not signs of entitlement, but a testament to their desire to contribute to their communities and society, find their role in the countries future and have a positive and sustainable career.

“I think we have a huge depth of talent in this country, and that talent is incredibly resilient. Many of our young people have been dealt some tough knocks in life, and yet they carry on going. They can think outside the box and come up with great ideas,” Fiona says.

As Fiona emphasises, bringing more young people into organisations can have transformative effects. Their innate ability to lift each other up and offer support is an asset that many employers tend to underestimate. In this age of disengagement, creating an environment that instils a spirit of collaboration and mutual support can help businesses thrive.

One of the primary issues identified in the South African workplace is the corporate world's reliance on a "one-size-fits-all" approach to hiring and development. This approach often includes targeting graduate, assessment centres, competency-based interviews, and psychometric tests developed in Europe. These methods do not consider the vastly different experiences of South African youth, making it challenging for them to navigate the corporate selection landscape and creating barriers to their entry to the workplace.

This is where CAPACITI bridges the gap with its unique approach. CAPACITI is a non-profit organisation dedicated to unlocking the potential of South African talent for the good of our digital economy. They go beyond a traditional digital skills training model by offering a holistic learning experience.  CAPACITI’S emphasis on building self-awareness, confidence, and effective communication skills, their focus on instilling fundamental workplace behaviours such as punctuality and effective communication and their application-based learning methodology ensures their graduates are equipped for the future world of work.

CAPACITI places a strong emphasis on cultivating curiosity, blended learning, problem-solving, and team collaboration – skills that are often missing in the traditional education system. By bridging the gap between the skills businesses need and what young people lack, CAPACITI ensures that South African youth are matched far more effectively to the skills gaps that are currently constraining organisations.

Fiona believes a significant shift in the corporate world's perspective is needed to harness the full potential of South African youth. Companies should start considering long-term pathways and career development plans. A rigid career ladder is no longer the model of success. Instead, we should focus on a career climbing frame that offers multiple points of entry, micro learning and varied career growth opportunities cross organisation.  Businesses should focus on nurturing talent that is agile, flexible, and resilient – attributes that South African youth inherently possess.

“Organisations needs to consider what their future customer base looks like, and how they invest in them for continued growth.  Africa has a significant number of young people, with the median age on the continent being 19.** If we don't engage them to be active citizens, the economy of our continent is going to suffer,” Fiona says. By working strategically with their partners, CAPACITI can develop strong, demand driven talent pipelines that equip organisations with what they need to thrive, whilst giving agency to our young talent and ultimately creating sustainable futures for all.

Investing in the youth of South Africa is not just a social responsibility; it's a strategic move for businesses. By doing so, companies can expect growth, the infusion of missing skills, and a more prosperous future. Fiona's message to corporate South Africa is clear: stop waiting for someone else to solve the problem. Recognise the extraordinary potential within our youth, make an investment in them, and reap the reward of a thriving, resilient and competitive workforce.

Find out more about CAPACITI here.

*According to Stats SA for Q3:2023

** U.N. World Population Prospects 2022

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