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Barriers to Youth Employment: Pursuing a Career vs. Finding a Job

Is the prevailing ‘job mentality’ hindering our youth and their quest for rewarding work?

In recent months, much has been written about the staggeringly high unemployment levels in South Africa. While many solutions have been proffered, from policy changes to training hubs, recent research conducted by Barloworld Logistics has unveiled key insights around how young people view work – which naturally impacts their expectations and the way in which they pursue employment.

“Closer observation of the research raised the question as to whether our high unemployment creates a negative ‘job’ mentality,” says Shirley Duma, HR Director at Barloworld Logistics.

Arguably, the act of seeking a ‘job’ is about the immediate need for an income -irrespective of the work or task involved in a society where unemployment is high. On the other hand, a ‘work mentality’ is associated more with secure employment that creates value, adds rewards to performance and establishes an opportunity for sustained income and a career assisted by the ability to gain greater skills.

“The prevailing ‘job’ mentality in SA today is possibly a barrier to increasing employment opportunities and economic improvement - both in the commercial as well as industrial sectors,” adds Duma. These perceptions (job vs. work) become increasingly critical when the employee is not performing work of particular personal interest and which does not fall into the category of being a vocation. The ‘job’ is regarded as a means of earning whatever income one can secure for the least effort - with little interest in the work itself.  This kind of attitude is perhaps influenced and perpetuated primarily by the lack of job opportunities for a large number of relatively unskilled people.

“But even when ‘jobs’ are secured, the opportunity for enhancement is often not available, seen or taken by employees,” says Duma. “To break this apparent limitation to employability and personal development, society needs to introduce and exhibit more relevant standards that are responsive to a changing and growing economy in which education, training and skills become of paramount importance.”

As witnessed in countries such as Singapore, to have a strong vision of an educated and prosperous society rewarded by their skills and ability requires committed leadership with a national goal. This vision and strategy is necessary to achieve a change in the fortunes of the unemployed and the development of the country itself.

Policy Overhaul?
Notably, the World Economic Forum (WEF) has been urging not only governments, but also the private sector and tertiary educators to make key policy changes and adjustments in order to tackle spiraling youth unemployment.
The WEF has stated that an area that requires disruption is the ‘education and labour policy’, with the organisation underscoring the need for an overhaul of existing approaches and policies to ‘make them more reactive and relevant to the ever-changing market realities.’

“Employers need to collaborate with schools and universities on the development of curricula and a shared practical knowledge of the workplace,” concludes Duma. “The education system urgently needs to change to promote a focus on lifelong learning and the pursuit of meaningful careers. In this way, our students can strengthen their emotional intelligence and begin to view work as an inherently exciting and rewarding part of their life journey.”

To download the full report, click here: