There’s good business sense in hiring South Africa’s skilled young graduates, and 2018 Entrepreneur of the Year’s Job Creator of the Year®, Phillipa Geard, founder of RecruitAGraduate.co.za and RecruitMyMom.co.za, asks South African businesses to see the sense in hiring young graduates.
Saying that the future lies in the hands of our youth has become clichéd, but it should not mask the fact that it remains true. If you invest in the youth’s education and nurture their growth, the country will grow. Agreed? In South Africa’s case, owing to its intricate past and present situation, the unemployment rate among youth continues to be alarmingly high. In fact, new stats show that the average age at which graduates eventually find gainful employment is as late as 30.
By all accounts, South Africa, as a democracy, is seen as a success story. A country that has risen from its dark past when it was synonymous with legally enforced segregation and division among its people. Now, 25 years post-democracy, South Africa is ‘moderately free’ in terms of its economic activity, according to the 2018 Index of Economic Freedom. This is as a result of advancements in South Africa’s property rights, judicial effectiveness, fiscal health, business freedom, labour freedom and investment freedom scores.
I should mention that the Index cautions that economic freedom is about much more than a business environment where business flourishes and that it has a far-reaching impact on other aspects such as human development.
Votes equal hope
When I started my two online recruitment ventures, it was with the distinct aim of helping two demographics of our nation – our women and our youth – and to positively impact their development. But it was with sadness that I learnt that according to a South African Citizens Survey ahead of the election, 31% of youth or 1.7-million eligible young South Africans had no intention of casting their vote on 8 May – and it can’t be pinned on perceived millennial disengagement, but rather because of a deeper level of hopelessness. They felt that their vote would not matter and would not bring change for the better.
Pre-voter polling data indicated that of those who said that they wouldn’t vote, 63% were unemployed and 64% believed the economy wouldn’t improve over the next year. If that’s not painting a clear enough picture, the youth were not afraid to voice their concerns on social media just hours before the 2019 elections with the nationally trending hashtag on Twitter #IWantToVoteBut.
As a parent, I empower my children to believe that they can make a difference. But my need to empower more youth in South Africa escalated a year ago when I listened to President Cyril Ramaphosa speak at the Youth Day celebrations in Soweto. His words echoed in my head: “As we seek to build a new, inclusive South Africa, we look to the energy and creativity of youth.” This is inspiring, right?
But then he also said: “Youth continue to bear the brunt of unemployment, poverty and inequality. We understand the frustration of young people who cannot find jobs, who do not have the skills and experience employers are looking for and are unable to find the support they need to start their own businesses. Our shared responsibility, as government, business, labour and civil society, is to develop pathways for young people into work.”
Pathways for jobs
I have been moved to my core by the plight of the youth and the crisis level of unemployment rates that smother our nation.
Being a working mother, I started the proven and reputable RecruitMyMom.co.za seven years ago to develop pathways for skilled mothers who wanted the flexibility to contribute their unique skills to the economy, but also required the space to contribute meaningfully to their families.
Seven years on, I am moved yet again to develop a pathway for skilled graduates to find meaningful employment via another one-of-its-kind online recruitment platform – RecruitAGraduate.co.za – this time to help small businesses pinpoint young graduate talent they need to grow their businesses and in turn the economy.
Again, I was compelled to act for much the same reasons – because I am a mother of two children whose future is threatened by the national crisis of youth unemployment. My heart has been drawn into being part of the solution our president spoke about nearly a year ago.
The stats should be a familiar song by now. The Economist’s Pocket World in Figures claims South Africa has the highest rate of youth unemployment in the world at 54.70% in the fourth quarter of 2018 and worsened from last quarter’s 52.70%. By all standards, this is a shocking reality for our children. And even bleaker is the less than hopeful economic growth that is predicted at 1.3% by the World Bank.
Doing good business
When I think of my own journey as a business owner, I can honestly say that part of my motivation was to make a difference. When I read the result of the SME Landscape Report 2018/19, it gave me reason to be optimistic. Reason to believe that I am among the 74% of South African entrepreneurs who, according to the report, indicated in an open-ended question that they launched their businesses to have a positive impact in society.
In the period post-elections, I daresay there’s good business sense in hiring South Africa’s bright young graduates. Isn’t this drive to be a good citizen an amazing quality that needs to be nurtured and celebrated in trailblazing the South African economy into never-before-seen heights? Couldn’t this a-ha moment in the aftermath of the 2019 Elections inspire hope for our country’s future? I believe it will be a turning point.
Not only does the mere act of job creation by our nation’s entrepreneurs result in more opportunities for our youth, but would-be employers are also benefiting from a long list of skills young graduates pump into the workplace. Generational qualities such as social media savvy, critical thinking, entrepreneurial spirit, diversity, global awareness of issues, ease of adaptability and their intrinsic belief that career and personal fulfilment go beyond financial gain, can only enrich a business.
My hope with RecruitAGraduate is to mobilise businesses into the realisation that when they create meaningful positions for deserving graduates with ample opportunity for on-the-job-learning, skills development and further career training that they not only help give a bright mind a leg up the career ladder, but that they are in fact investing hope in our country. Let graduate jobs be our currency. And let the dividends from our labour be the knowledge that these bright young minds will no longer fear that their votes do not count and their futures do not matter.
I dare businesses, large and small, to create employment for graduates and inspire the future.