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Reducing SA’s high unemployment rate

“South Africans from the most marginalised backgrounds rarely even get the chance to come into contact with potential employers."

SOUTH Africa has one of the highest rates of unemployment in the world. Half the adult population is unemployed or underemployed and every year, thousands of jobs go unfilled – employers say they cannot find enough candidates who are ‘ready to work’.

Candidates may not be ‘ready to work’ because they score poorly on standard numeracy and English tests, because they lack specific technical skills, or because they have never had an opportunity to hone the ‘soft skills’ of professional success. Yet, evidence indicates that if a young work seeker in South Africa gets and keeps a job for more than one year, they are highly likely to remain in sustained employment.

This according to Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator who to date have helped almost 30 000 young South Africans get work with close to 300 top South African employers. Harambee’s regional operations manager, Claudia O’Farrell said the organisation that has been in operation for five years has offices across the country and is aimed at helping young people who would in most instances are “locked out of the formal economy”.

Together with the private companies that include Nandos, Burger King, Nedbank, FNB, Discovery, Standard Bank and Pick n Pay,the youth employment accelerator says their funding comes from the employers and national treasury.

“South Africans from the most marginalised backgrounds rarely even get the chance to come into contact with potential employers. This is for multiple reasons: the social and geographic legacy of apartheid, the poor quality of their schooling, transport costs from townships to jobs can be prohibitively high, and they must overcome the prejudice that they lack the soft skills required for professional roles.”

O’Farrel said this makes them stand outside the networks of opportunity that others, with similar capabilities, rely on to land their first formal sector job, the necessary first step toward a lifetime of upward mobility.

“Those who are already employed are likely to remain so, while those who have been unemployed for more than a year are less likely to ever find a job. Prior work experience is the determining factor in how likely a person is to gain formal employment, locking out millions of youth caught in the vicious cycle of not having experience and not being able to access it,” she said.

Visit www.harambee.co.za.

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