According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), almost a quarter of a million young people lost their jobs in the first three months of 2023 and currently around 60% of young people (between the ages of 15 and 25) are unemployed in the country.
Experts say that the reason for the country’s high unemployment is the 'mismatch' between the skills that employers want and the skills that young people have.
Both government and the private sector have stressed that the economy desperately needs technical and vocational skills.
President Cyril Ramaphosa stressed:
The skills that our country needs, the jobs that can grow our economy, and importantly, the avenues for entrepreneurship that are so sorely needed, can best be achieved by increasing learner access to technical and vocational subjects.
As a result, the Higher Education department have been encouraging school leavers to pursue technical and vocational skills and trades.
However, despite calls for an increase in uptake of technical skills, a study on the country’s unemployment crisis has found that young people with soft skills are more likely to find employment.
Some of these soft skills include problem-solving, networking, communication, and leadership.
Economist Alexis Habiyaremye from the University of Johannesburg says the study found that both technical and soft skills were crucial in assisting young people in finding employment.
Soft skills were as important in helping young people get stable jobs as were technical skills.
Habiyaremye says that soft skills should form a significant part of any youth employment process. He adds that young people should focus on developing and improving these skills not only just technical skills.
In light of the country shortage in skilled artisans, the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) embarked on a massive programme to train and employ more artisans in the country. Their goal is to produce 30,000 artisans in South Africa per annum by 2030.
In addition, the department plans to continue the partnership with industries to develop skills needed in the different economic sectors.
They explain, “TVET colleges would be useless without the support of those industries. Those were the practical skills that we needed,”
Furthermore, the department also wants to increase the number of students enrolled in skills development programmes.
One of these initiatives, include increasing enrolment of students at Community Education and Training (CET) institutions from 439 659 in 2023/24 to 559 884 in 2024/25.