We all know that there are millions of unemployed youth in South Africa.  But SA is not unique.  A recent global review identifies that youth unemployment is far higher than the overall population unemployment in many countries.

This is a global problem., but that doesn't mean that we should relax.  We still need to solve our unemployment problem. 

What can skills-universe members contribute to solving our youth unemployment problem?

In your experience - as human resource practitioners, business owners, and training service providers - how would you advise youth? 

What do they need to do - or do differently - to increase their chances of employment?     

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The Skills shortage and unemployment rate in South Africa is of great concern to many including the government. However if government wants to boost the economy, it needs to focus on the standard of education and job creation. This is a massive undertaking that will take years to achieve. 

So where does this leave our lyout and our school leavers? Still unemployed unfortunately.  

There are several things young people could do to improve their prospects of getting employed and furthering their education. 


An internship is a work arrangement where an inexperienced but educated and usually qualified person joins a company to be mentored and trained by other staff members. The objective would be to learn as much about the specific industry as possible and to learn about specific jobs and opportunities within the specific industry.

Some internships offer a monthly income or subsistence allowance while you are being mentored and trained – This is at the discretion of the company. So if you are offered such an opportunity and decide to accept the position then don’t complain later about the stipend or allowance paid. 

If the person undergoing the internship shows enthusiasm, behaves in a business manner, and indicates they have potential they could be offered permanent employment. The most important thing is that you would have gained invaluable exposure and invaluable exposure to the industry.


An apprenticeship is similar to an internship in that it offers on-the-job training and work experience. Apprenticeships were very common 15 or so years ago and were phased out after independence.

Apprenticeships are once again becoming popular and are appropriate for specific trades such as mechanical, electrical, plumbing and so on. They offer practical, hands-on exposure to such specific trades.

Many apprentices eventually become full time employees of the company where they trained or go on to start their own business. There are various programs in place to encourage apprenticeships in various skills which are seen to be critical and scarce in terms of the government initiatives. These apprenticeships are offered by many of the SETAS and are aimed at people from previously disadvantaged backgrounds.

Learn new skills

While still studying or if a young person has no job yet they should try to get involved in a new hobby or skill in order to become more marketable. This also has a big advantage as it shows initiative and willingness to assist themselves. Employers and personnel practitioners will be impressed by the initiative shown.

They should find out what some of the skills they should have in order to be effective in the business world and if they can they should take on some part time studies.

Our youth must now realise they need to take responsibility for their personal development and not sit back and wait for others to do something for them. We are only entitled to get out in accordance with what we put in.

To all unemployed Youth in South Africa you mustn't look yourself down but walk tall. Make sure you keep yourself busy with your qualifications by getting involve in community projects like volunteering to those that are still at school and mix yourself with business owners by engaging more into entrepreneurship like business seminars and feed yourself with knowledge of what is happening around in the world of entrepreneur opportunities.

No matter what people are saying about you been educated and not having a job just remember that is not your fault but the system. Find the right people to be associated with. Network, Network, Network....

Bring Career Guidance back to schools.

The Youth should be trained how to be social students, if there could be a way to link their school/college activities with community development practical activities. Youth can be thought how to sell stuff, develop innovative ideas and Government  should partner with local Entrepreneurs and subsidize them with funds to design business incubators for those young brilliant minds who have a potential to create self employment.

Networking, Networking. Talk to everybody in your circles that you are looking for a job. Network with what you are good at, your skills and knowledge. Add some training and internships if possible. Volunteer - this always looks good on your Cv. Have a professional and personal CV and Cover letter. Looking for a job is full time job.

Participating on community project or being self employment to reduce youth employment

The whole debate around unemployment and jobs is barking up the wrong tree; mass employment is an industrial age phenomenon and that age is rapidly drawing to a close as the digital age emerges. Mass employment as we have known it will be a tiny spike on the timeline of human history in the same way that human history is a mere speck on earth's timeline. 

The first thing I tell any person who thinks they are unemployed is that they are not. We may live in a job-scarce world but we are surrounded by an abundance of viable opportunities for income security ... far more than there are people willing to take them up. 

Our focus should be on promoting income security. 

Here are two snippets from my letter to the Sunday Times in response to Bobby Godsell's article on "50 Million Wealth Creators" (

I assert two things in my challenge about unemployment (although you will need to see the full letter to understand the rationale).

  • Unemployment is a state of mind, not a factual reality.
  • Personal unemployment can be instantly eradicated with a slight shift in thinking.

It is merely the way we think about work, employment and income security that makes unemployment a central challenge as asserted by many.


Here is how you can enter the new digital age and end unemployment in your life in less than 30 seconds (in ascending order of difficulty and complexity).

  • Reclaim personal responsibility for your life. There are no knights in shining armour waiting in the wings, no employer about to give you a job for life. You are on your own.
  • Incorporate You Inc. (a la Tom Peters) right now; at least do it in your thinking, the legal stuff can follow later if required. The assets held by You Inc. include
    • Your health.
    • Your usable education; about 10% of what you learned at school, 90% if you observed life.
    • Your most important assets are your trusted relationships.
    • Your monetary savings and investments are the least important (not unimportant though).
  • Discover  You Inc.‘s purpose in this world. Why are you here? What value can you contribute to the world?
  • Go to work for You Inc. right now, it is a permission-free appointment and the shop doors are right in front of you and you have the keys. And then be prepared to do whatever it takes to ensure that You Inc. thrives in the new digital economy. And one important thing you need to know, You Inc. does not have employment contracts with 45-hour work weeks and 8 to 5 office hours. The deal is simple, an age-old truth;

You reap what you sow. For those who sow diligently and persistently the harvest is usually abundant.

Motivate Cape Town is an initiative to inspire people to hope and to reclaim power in their lives. On Saturday we launch Challenge 2012, an experiment in crowdsourcing positive solutions for effective change by empowering communities to turn their innovative ideas into sustainable projects. The potential is massive. I have just come from a meeting where one team are going to crowdsource "Free Wi-Fi for Cape Town" starting in the townships, the impact could put the digital age into the hands of anyone with a Wi-Fi enabled phone. 

If you live in Cape Town come an join the adventure. Joburg and Durban are next. 

Unemployed youth should empower themselves by networking, interacting with people that can innovate and build them. In addition I think they should start small businesses, such as car washes to raise funds for pocket money. It might seem like a waste of time at the time but life is all about give and take...the busier one is the more chances of opportunities coming.

My advise is youth must not let unemployment become a disease or let it take over their mind...they must strive to be bigger than the unemployment.

My advise is youth must not let unemployment become a disease or let it take over their mind...they must strive to be bigger than the unemployment.

Very well said, Palesa! That is worth tweeting :) Check @MagicLifestyle

Read Nick Clegg's speech during the 5th National Apprenticeship Week in the UK...the Deputy Prime Minister is making Apprenticeships something everyone will want to have...and he has some of the biggest industries signing up to takin on apprentices.

Click on the link below to find out how apprenticeships are taking off in the UK...some of the biggest companies are signing apprentices up.  It's a great time to be a training provider, lots of competition now as training provision is open to most enterprises who can show they can get young people into apprenticeships and keep them in employment and complete the programme.


Hi Madam Sylvia,

Compliments for the season!

Your conversation on 'how to advise unemployed youth in SA' is a progressive thought provoking question which has been preoccupying so-called SETA's for many years with no tangible breakthrough.This question will never be answered unless we are 'real',practical of the question of crushing the system of capitalism-a system which 'progress against the brutal or harsh realities of determining how many workers should be employed and how much they should earn.The neo-liberal system of prioritizing more and more profits at the expense of squeezing labourers to sweat for nothing is a problem......

The private sector has the capacity to create millions of quality jobs,if not trillions[a worker has not even counted wages up to that level]....The right to work,the right to decent working conditions is a pipe-dream unless companies must practically or ideologically buy-in in humanizing mankind through job creation.....

The Greece marches against job cuts must descend in South Africa for demanding job creation....

Career guidance and/or SETA's are some of the vehicles or platforms to be utilized to motivate youth,perhaps,to take alternative career pathing because many studied food service on the basis that some wanted,for example to study at UJ or WITS by hook or crook...and many realize that it meant that they must seek work at restuarants-worst employers or abusers of labour rights.

Me think,the current FET's must unlock solutions to skilling the youth for self-employing jobs which many South Africans despies,such as carpentry,painters,boilers,mechanic etc....every youth want to drive a ferrari on first salary and it is not ayoba.Many working or doing white collar jobs ended in jail for fraud,dribbling systems...pitied!

The debate is genuine Madam Sylvia.........

By: Mampane Norman

Former POPCRU National Spokesperson


As master's students we had a discussion around what makes one more employable?  It is clear that a certificate (degree or diploma) does not ensure you to get a job.  You need more than that.  But what is the more?  Skills?  If the answer is skills, one needs to define skills.  Then another question, how you are going to assess skills?

Another challenge is that many workplaces, if not most, expect one to have previous experience.  In a way this is unfair, because you need employment to be able to get experience.  I always advise my students to try and get a job as quickly as possible, even if the salary is not 'good'.  This is how you will start building up experience. 

As a part of the training that we offer we include many hours of in-service training which can be seen as experience.  Our students do in-service training at different ECD sites and by doing this, these sites have approached them to apply for a vacancy at the site.

Volunteer in your free time (not always possible with all types of employment), because the workplace staff will get to know you and see what you are capable of doing.

When you apply for a job, you must think of what will make your application stand out amongst other people's.

Sylvia, you asked for advise, but I came up with more questions!




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