Job seekers entering the labour market must do so with a practical approach, says Andre Venter, spokesperson of the trade union UASA.
In a nutshell UASA is advising new job seekers, both matriculants and higher education graduates, to tone down their expectations. This comes amid persisting high unemployment rate in the country and low economic growth meaning the ability of the economy to absorb new job seekers is extremely limited.
“Be practical about it,” said Venter. Even if you have to work for a pittance and live with your parents, get that initial work experience. It will open doors for you in the long run,” said Venter.
In a statement released recently UASA said School leavers and graduates will soon compete with millions of South African youngsters between the ages of 18 and 25 to find jobs or either with thousands of hopefuls who want to make it into the lecture halls of universities.
While graduates have a fairly good chance, only about 25% of matrics will land a job.
Venter said “Don’t allow perceptions and attitudes about the job market to blind you to existing job opportunities. Take responsibility for your own future and develop a willingness to do your part in the world. Your first responsibility is to take pride in yourself and to believe that you have something to offer to society and yourself, even while you are looking for a job.”
“The reality is that employers are looking for skilled people, and a straight matric qualification provides school leavers with limited skills, if any. Matric is simply not enough to qualify our young people for the labour market; employers view them as unskilled.
Added Venter “Unfortunately, matric only gives you a broad theoretical background, and does not prepare our children to perform specific tasks in a workplace. Someone who left school with a grade 10 qualification and, for instance, adds three years of practical training as a plumber, a mechanic or a hairdresser seems to have a far better chance of finding a job today. Although they may not have a matric certificate, their acquired skills are often much sought after by employers.”
The UASA statement added that school leavers that focus only on going to university might miss the mark. Compared to international benchmarks, the ratio of people who go to university and those who opt for Further Education and Training (FET) or artisanship in South Africa is completely distorted.
School leavers should consider alternatives which could potentially yield better results in terms of jobs and income. Pupils are often unaware of these options because of inadequate career guidance, said Venter.
The latter results in pupils arriving at university unprepared, lacking social support, and often making wrong subject choices with roughly 40% of students dropping out of university in their first year.
UASA added that South Africa should employ people in “training” jobs at lower salaries for a period of time to enable them to gear up their employability. The union also believes a starting wage subsidy may help lower the effective salaries of unskilled and semi-skilled people and could make a difference in the rate of unemployment.
The problem seems to be that the cost of producing goods and services in South Africa has risen too quickly. Wages of unskilled employees have rocketed about twice as quickly as in the rich world, after inflation, while management and employees with specialised skills are often underpaid. This, more than anything else, may explain why people cannot find work as the cost of employment of certain labour has become too expensive. Employers need to produce goods at a profit and when labour becomes too expensive; they resort to mechanisation.