Motivating our youth could help the unemployment rate

Desiré Pauw, Executive: Human Capital, Momentum Investments

This year’s theme for Youth Month and Youth Day is about promoting sustainable livelihoods and resilience of young people for a better tomorrow. There are quite a few challenges that the South African economy is faced with when it comes to youth unemployment.

In the most recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) it was mentioned that in the first quarter of 2022 the official unemployment rate was 34,5% in South Africa. 42.1% of this number is made up of youth aged between 25 to 34 years. Year-on-year the unemployment rate amongst graduates aged 25 to 34 years increased with 6.9% in Q1:2022. A key insight that caught my attention in the QLFS was the fact that one of the key factors of our youth being inactive is due to discouragement. The future of our country, our youth, our future employees, entrepreneurs, and leaders are no longer motivated to look for jobs. 

This got me thinking of the important role each of us, who are privileged enough to work, has in building on the existing skills and knowledge of our youth. The unfortunate reality is that not all graduates will step into the doors of established corporates or businesses and more than ever, we need entrepreneurs who can solve problems within our beautiful country through innovative solutions. As a mom of two young daughters, I want to challenge all working South Africans and even those that have retired to take a stand against youth unemployment. Let each of us take someone under our wing so that we can build a better tomorrow for our youth and also for our children. We have an opportunity to play an active role in giving hope to disheartened and discouraged youngsters who once had a dream to do something big with their lives. You will remember the days when you wanted to change the world. Nothing stops us from giving our time to raise a generation that is future fit for both corporate and entrepreneurial ventures.

I believe every person was made with a purpose. I am a fan of focusing on strengths rather than weaknesses. By changing your approach and focusing on what you are good at naturally, has had a big impact on my life personally as an individual, mom and how I lead my team. By learning how to manage and optimise my strengths and the strengths of those around me, I have delivered some of my best work. Your greatest strengths or talents are the ways in which you think, feel and behave most naturally. In the past, we were always told to work on our weaknesses but nowadays you need to understand your weaknesses and then focus on developing your strengths. We can play a mentorship role by helping our youth identify their strengths and helping them understand, develop and optimise what they can bring to the table so that they can achieve success. Knowing and understanding your natural talents is what makes you unique. It is your currency. 

Getting mentored is no longer a top-down approach but rather a collaborative exchange where both a mentor and mentee can learn and grow. You are never too young or old (for that matter) to learn from others. Given how the world has changed we can learn a lot from the youth! As a registered Industrial Psychologist, I have the privilege of supervising industrial psychology interns. It takes a lot of time, but I can honestly say that it is such a mutually beneficial and rewarding process. I have learnt something from every single intern I have supervised. I have experienced first-hand, if you ask the right questions, how interns can come up with solutions that are far better than what you would have ever been able to deliver without their new, fresh thinking and of course tech abilities. A group of youngsters in my team completely transformed the way we did onboarding before Covid-19 to integrate hybrid onboarding processes and platforms. All they needed was an opportunity to showcase their skills.  

Every person in this country has a role to play. I want to challenge every South African and especially those employed to take hands and take your place as mentors to our youth. We may not be able to offer every person a job, but we can each play our part in contributing towards youth development and giving them just a glimpse of hope. This month should be a month to trigger action, one graduate at a time.

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