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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len stevens said:

Way to go, Sylvia and Kagisho ... a Standing Ovation for you. This is the kind of "Practical Help" I've been talking about, and offering! In addition to the Govt. funding you hope to get ... I believe Commerce and Industry should "come to the party" with funding, too. If they can put up money for "Sport" to get their names in front of the public ... how much more good it will do them, publicity-wise, when they show their PATRIOTIC, financial support, for the biggest challenges we face -- being Unemployed Youth, and Poverty!!  "ALL HANDS TO THE PUMPS!! ... SAVE THE SHIP!!"

sylvia hammond said:

Kagisho Malatji and I have been having an offline discussion about this topic and what we can do.  I have posted this message from her with her permission.  We have talked about a new group entitled Empowering Youth in Africa.  We will invite members of the existing groups to join the new group.  We welcome all ideas on how we can take this forward practically and constructively.

Kagisho Malatji

"I have been mentoring (voluntarily) Aspirant Youth Entrepreneurs (through NYDA). The biggest gap is this - the youth have no knowledge of where to look for resources and they do not have guidance in goal setting.

We as human resources practitioners (training, coaching, mentoring), need to be involved in our communities and share information (first of all) with youth. What we may deem common knowledge is NOT common at all. Here's an example: Recently, I consulted with 2 guys who have been battling to register a company...upon asking them if they consulted the local SEDA office to assist them, they had no knowledge of the existence of SEDA. Ironically, we were sitting just a few steps from the SEDA offices, when I told them what they do and where they were situated, they could n't believe it. There are many examples I can sight to indicate that we need to share information with the youth. Most of them, needless to say, have no access to the internet.


Various SETA's run learnerships, however, the majority of the youth are not aware of these. There again, we need to disseminate information through civil structures in various communities. I have just received an e-mail of bursaries being awarded by WR SETA. We need to arm ourselves with available opportunities to unemployed youth so as to advise them accordingly.

We need to lobby various organisations including SETA's into establishing centres where various skills can be learned - in the past, we had various organisations where apprentices were developed. We need to get back to that and make learning more accessible.  

Let me put a spanner in the works - we need to advocate against government grants - in the short-term grants seem like a good thing to do, in the long-term however, a dependency syndrome is inculcated. We need to educate youth that everything in life is earned.  

As HR professionals, let us identify a few young people, that we ourselves can take under our own arm and develop. Well said, it is hard to do. Let's find a way to overcome obstacles to reach out to unemployed youth. Let's teach them basic skills - how to draw up a CV, how to present yourself to prospective employers, grooming skills, time management skills, accountabilty, work ethic, etc.

I propose - we form a forum of professionals who want to lobby for centres of learning where various skills can be taught. SETA's are sitting on loads of moola - lets access the moola and skill the unemployed youth. If we comfortably discuss this and we do nothing, we are leaving the situation to come back and bite us. Someone spoke about a window of opportunity we have to add value to unemployed youth and that if we don't, we are lifting a lid on a pot that has been simmering for long and which might just turn to boiling point and explode. He was talking about how youth is turning into CRIME in huge numbers!"


Shaun Lindbergh said:

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. 

Hello Shaun Lindbergh! -- I have read your "Solution to Unemployment" here, several times, trying my best to understand it from a "practical feasibility" point of view -- but each time I do so, I have this repetitive, overriding vision swimming into my consciousness of the small groups of desperate men huddled near the traffic lights along Rosmead Avenue here in Cape Town, hoping against hope that a truck will pull up, and invite their labour for the day, in exchange for a little money they can take home to their families that evening. 

Have you thought of addressing them, and explaining your philosophical approach to their wretched circumstances, which you outline on these pages? -- about how the "digital-age" is upon them, and that they better "get with it"? -- that their need for "employment" from others, is out of date, and unrealistic?

 I'm just a simple soul, Shaun, with this basic instinct I have, which is to Identify the Real CAUSE of a Problem -- NOT the EFFECTS -- and then, to take Practical ACTION Steps to fix it ... Permanently ... thus Removing the Effects!! 

But I'm always open to being educated, Shaun -- so if you'll think about what I've said here, and come back to me on it, and "put me right" on what I'm missing -- I'll be obliged to you, for the lesson. Respectfully, Len Stevens. 


I think a major problem is (and this has surface in some of the discussions) the youth’s perception about work and their own expectations, among these to start an entry level job at R12,000.00 per month company car or car allowance, medical aid and pension fund contributions excluded.  Agreed school subjects like Life Orientation could contribute to be part of the solution, but isn’t LO replacing the former History? With a curriculum focus on Apartheid, how to continuously live in the pat, entitlement and strategic management in adopting an approach of blaming instead of taking responsibility.   As this is characteristics still predominantly displayed.

Understandably   as a result of the social dispensation of the nation at large not everyone has access to computers to learn computer skills at home or within a social environment, combined with limited space in formal classroom settings. Perhaps SETA’s could get involved here in arranging community classes in teaching basic computer skills at educational institutions that have the facilities on an after-hours (Saturdays/evenings) basis. This could also be extended to developing practical skills, such as perhaps clothing making, which will give them something to do while enabling them to earn an income in perhaps the informal sector.



I am a career advisor at Career Planet, [] managing the ASK US option.

Thanks to input from Skills Universe members! Marlene Clarke - interesting article!

Career Planet uses online (website) and mobile (cellphones) to help connect youth to real and reliable information, opportunities and resources. We can't keep up with a deluge of career questions but we are trying, with a group of volunteers (with our guidance and resource material) to answer questions across the spectrum and across the country. Although the information maze seems impenetrable, we get daily (often touching) thanks for making the opaque, visible. We offer hope, support for dreams, realistic plans and often a Plan B. We have seen how one person can help one person at a time, by using their experience, skill and knowledge and ubuntu. That is all it takes. Do one thing with your knowledge and care!

Advice to unemployed youth. Apparently only 65% of Learners who need Learnerships have a chance of getting them so we instruct our youngsters how to job-hunt as well as learnership-hunt. That means advice about Letters of Motivation, CVs, registering with the Labour Centre, bugging their educational institution for names fo companies in the area, networking (totally agree with Ulrike Schottler), and volunteering (Johannes Mongatane is spot on). But we find that most of our career seekers do not know how to do internet research so we instruct them step by step, including finding a few current opportunities to show them that it works. 

But enquiries about Entrepreneurship are not common and I would be interested in knowing more about that. Can one suggest that if there is no interest? 

  • Grab at anything that comes your way
  • Be willing to start at the bottom, here you develop a good foundation
  • Remain true
  • Keep your integrity, it's what sets you apart in the storms
  • Have goals set in what you currently busy with
  • Go to work to work, friendships are second as they don't pay your salary
  • Be willing to go beyond your job description/kpa's/kra's
  • Be punctual - it says a lot about you
  • Don't burn your bridges - you are most likely to meet the same people you start with, ten years down the road
  • Know your job well before someone else reminds you, with extra work
  • Life is about quality
  • Excuses are excuses and stories are stories but results are reality
  • Love life
  • Know the strategy of your company/organisation and align your work accordingly
  • Debt is optional
  • Be willing to give back to the community - help those less fortunate than you with your time and then if necessary money, that's true giving back

I think it is vital for youth to be exposed to different careers before they leave school.

They need to focus on the Scarce and Critical skill shortages in SA.

Implementing programs where youth are exposed to the job market over school holidays as well as outcomes training, would ensure sustainability of a skilled workforce in the future.


Scientia Est Potentia 


I feel that part of the problem lies also with the current educational system as our educational institutions do not provide students with the skills required by the industries, before they leave school. These skills may include communication skills, customer service training, interviewing tips, compiling your resume, conducting yourself professionally and some others, in order to prepare them to be ready to perform in today’s work place.

The unfortunate situation were today’s youth find themselves in can have various negative effects especially in the long term, such as mental and physical health problems, elevated levels of anxiety and stress, low self-esteem, dependence, pessimism, despondency etc. It’s also possible that unemployment can even lead to an increase in criminal activity (due to boredom or survival condition) and can cause a high risk of poverty. The reason I mention this is to stress how important it is for the country to invest in our youth and urgently address the current state of affairs so as to avoid the long term effects it could have on South Africa.

Despite all the doomsday talk, I also believe that there is hope and where there’s a will there’s a way.

Continue education and training: Experience is invaluable so it’s very important to be on the lookout for graduate programmes, internships, volunteering and apprenticeships, and even though they might not pay much, experience on its own is a great learning opportunity. The youth could also benefit from being open minded about continual learning; perhaps consider a more short courses that will equip them further in their field of interest.

Networking: As many people have already highlighted, I would like to reiterate its importance. By networking you get to market yourself out there and although it’s difficult the reward thereof can be priceless. I found a job through a long network of people and although it was not relevant to my field of interest, I learned valuable skills of the world of work that I benefit from today.

Keep your head up and stay in the race: Something is better than nothing albeit in some cases, relatively low-level jobs, and at least it will teach you some things about the world of work that you have not known, while you continue your search. This will ensure that you do not become stagnant but that you continue improving your abilities and your skills. Sometimes it’s about getting your foot in the door which will allow you the chance to prove yourself. It’s vital that you remember to be open, whether it’s full time, part time or contract, at least you will have some sense of autonomy.

Attitude, motivation and determination: I believe it’s imperative to stay motivated and optimistic! Harriet Tubman said: “Every great dream begins with a dreamer. Always remember, you have within you the strength, the patience, and the passion to reach for the stars to change the world.” Be positive and remember, if you don't like something, change it. If you can't change it, change your attitude.


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