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By Tshehla Cornelius Koteli

Digital Business Writer


SA business leaders call for more digital skills programmes to boost youth employment

Business leaders say they want to see more programmes and leaders being able to upskill the youth in an effort to create employment.


Different leaders in the business world have expressed their views on how digital skills are essential for job creation in a continuously evolving landscape. These sentiments were shared at the Trialogue Business in Society Conference 2024.

According to Statistics South Africa (StatsSA), the national unemployment rate currently stands at 32.9% and youth unemployment at 45.5%.

“South Africa, like many countries globally, grapples with the challenge of youth unemployment. This is supported by statistics indicating a 45,5% unemployment rate among young individuals (aged 15-34 years),” notes Stats SA in the latest unemployment figures released in May this year.

Various business-minded people were under one roof, sharing how South African youth can be shaped to be ready for the evolving workplace.

A need for business collaboration to grow skills

Corporate social responsibility executive at Telkom, Judy Vilakazi says it remains a concern that South Africans aged 15 to 34 are the most vulnerable in the labour markets. “Disruptive shifts that include globalisation, demographic changes and the advent of artificial intelligence are transforming our socioeconomic system and impacting jobs,” she says.

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She believes digital skills are essential for job creation in an evolved landscape, and she has called for businesses in the country to assist in growing the skill. She says she would like to see businesses that want to address unemployment challenges by upskilling youth with crucial digital skills join hands for a collaboration.

“Digital skills will ensure our youth have the knowledge to thrive in this new era. We are building a future-ready generation prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. Unlocking the potential of our youth can create a brighter future for them.”

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A need for mass employment programmes

Senior finance specialist at The Jobs Fund, Nazeem Hendricks stressed that more mass employment programmes are needed. What has been offered is programmes which will help with overcoming the demand side constraints. They have had various projects with different stakeholders, which helped to create 220,000 jobs, 75,000 SMEs and emerging farmers.

Founder and head of the TsAfrika Foundation, Cynthia Motau, spoke about scaling up. she says they want to see more programmes and leaders being able to upskill the youth in an effort to create employment. “These learnership should run for two years to fully upskill youth and ensure their qualifications are fit for purpose,” says Motau.

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Successes in growing digital skills in youth

One of the businesses that has been playing a role in shaping the future of the youth is the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, which allows young people to discover their capabilities beyond the classroom, including problem-solving, critical thinking, and interpersonal skills.

CEO at Harambee, Kasthuri Soni says she is most proud of the SA Youth Network, a platform that links active job seekers to job opportunities.

“The SA Youth Network is a game-changer that serves nearly four million young people who get free access to aggregated earning and learning opportunities and work-seeker support,” says Soni.

Yellowwoods Holdings executive director, Nicola Galombik highlighted that around 20% of young people using the SA Youth Network meet or exceed expectations in terms of cognitive capability, but this had limited correlation with their qualifications. The National Pathways Management Network helps to bridge this gap.

“Young people should be directed towards ‘sunrise sectors’ of the economy experiencing huge growth, such as global business services, the green economy, and the digital sector while addressing the digital skills gap,” says Galombik.

The Trialogue Business in Society Conference took place in May this year in Sandton, Johannesburg.

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