Six out of every 10 young people in this country are unemployed. This crippling youth unemployment rate is the socio-economic crisis of our time. And we must fix it for the future of this country.
Young people between the ages of 15-24 remain the most vulnerable people in our labour market, with the latest unemployment figures (for the first quarter of 2023) released by StatsSA showing that the total number of unemployed youth (15-34 years) increased by 241 000 to 4,9 million.
This Youth Month, we must consider that an increasingly skills-intensive labour market is failing to create jobs for millions of unskilled young people in South Africa and that our deteriorating education system continues to churn out a workforce that is largely unskilled, resulting in the gross mismatch between labour supply and demand.
The biggest challenge facing school leavers is a lack of appropriate skills with which to enter the job market. The economy demands skilled and experienced work-seekers, which reduces the chances of unqualified or inexperienced young people finding jobs.
The world’s economies are changing so fast, moving from labour-intensive to technologically driven but we are currently teaching for a world that no longer exists.
We are already in the fifth industrial revolution and with the rapid emergence of Artificial Intelligence (AI) in our everyday lives, our schooling system is frozen in time with virtually no reference to the impact technology is having on our labour market.
Technology is at the core of how we teach at Centennial Schools. Whether it’s eSports, cryptocurrency, AI applications like ChatGPT, or content creation and design, we realise that for our students to be equipped for a life after school, they need the soft and hard skills these technologies teach them.
Our aim is to create the most digitally literate students in line with the requirements of the fourth industrial revolution (4IR). Our use of AI also places our students firmly in the fifth industrial revolution’s human–machine collaboration mindset. We do this in several ways, for example gamifying lessons, testing for critical analysis and integrating technology into each and every subject – even history.
We are doing this to equip our students with the skills they need in a changing workforce, to address the skills gap plaguing South Africa, and to make our students as employable as possible after school.
The World Economic Forum’s 2023 jobs report says the adoption of technology will remain a key driver in business transformation. More than 85% of organisations surveyed identify increased adoption of new and frontier technologies and broadening digital access as the trends most likely to drive transformation in their organisation.
Added to this is the fact that most of the companies count analytical and creative thinking as the most important skills for workers in 2023. Most technologies demand these skills, so why not let children get comfortable with them at school?
Secondly, we need to focus on entrepreneurship education. This will aid students from all socio-economic backgrounds to think outside the box and nurture unconventional talents and skills. It creates opportunities, ensures social justice, instils confidence, and stimulates the economy. It is one of the key reasons we’ve integrated it into our curriculum as a core subject. We’ve aligned our entrepreneurship course to global standards which allows our students to actively learn, engage and manage a business as they would in the real world.
We have limited tertiary opportunities available for young people, and those not going into tertiary education are not equipped. It is crucial to include entrepreneur training into our curriculum so that these young people leave school with work-ready skills.
More than half of all South African entrepreneurs are young people, and the more we nurture this opportunity and provide the correct tools while in school, the better they will become at starting businesses and unlocking the full economic potential of this country.
Our youth unemployment rate must propel all of us to look critically at how we equip the young people of South Africa with skills that will land them jobs and a steady income. Failure to do so is not an option.