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Fallen fees won’t fix unemployment

Fallen fees won’t fix unemployment

South Africa’s future leaders (students) recently participated in #FeesMustFall protests across the country. While President Jacob Zuma announced that there would be no hikes in tertiary education fees for 2016, this alone is unlikely to have an impact on South Africa’s unemployment and skills-shortage difficulties.

This is according to Kay Vittee, CEO of Quest Staffing Solutions - South Africa’s leader in customised staffing solutions within the white-collar recruitment industry.

Vittee says, “There is a concerning mismatch between the skills tertiary institutions are providing our youth and the skills required by the labour market. This is emphasised in an Economist article which highlights that in 2012 there were 800 000 vacancies in the South African labour market and 600 000 unemployed university graduates. One can assume that these numbers have grown over the last three years.”

Furthermore, according to a recent research report - Domestic to Global Leadership: Positioning South African companies for global competitiveness - published by JT Executive Coaching & Advisory Services, Lodestar Marketing Research and Quest Staffing Solutions, almost 20% of South African business decision-makers think their companies will switch to recruiting talent from other African countries or from other continents,” she adds.

Last year, Minister of Higher Education and Training, Blade Nzimande released a National Scarce Skills List. This list stated that the occupations in highest demand includes engineers; programme or project managers; financial managers; nursing professionals; plumbers; primary school maths teachers and forestry technicians.

Vittee shares, “Although the government updates the National Scarce Skills List bi-annually, this is an imprecise idea of the extent of skills shortages, not only in particular occupations, but in the economy as a whole.”

“Business needs to make skills they require clear and work with institutions of higher learning to ensure that the education they provide is aligned with this. Businesses also need to open their doors for young people to gain experience,” she says.

Vittee explains that learnerships are one way of achieving this. “Not only do learnerships enable young people to get first-hand knowledge of the skills that businesses require, they are also given experience which is tremendously valuable when seeking employment.” 

Studies have revealed that graduates in technical fields such as engineering and information technology (IT) have less problems finding employment than those from the social sciences or humanities. However, these latter fields have much higher enrolment and graduation numbers and consequently much higher unemployment numbers.

Vittee urges those finishing Matric and looking to enrol for further education to end this cycle and chose a career path that is in line with South Africa’s market needs.

“Government, higher education, business and students all need to work together to tackle the country’s skills and unemployment crisis, in turn, ensuring a better future for all,” concludes Vittee.