THE GAP BETWEEN MATRIC AND EMPLOYMENT Many young South Africans pass matric, but discover that getting on to the Ladder of formal employment is a challenge. Neil Robinson offers some hope.

Many young people pass matric, but are often not able to get into their chosen courses at tertiary institutions because their grades let them down. I call them the lost ones - the ones who pass matric, but find themselves hitting a brick wall when it comes to what to do next. The SA Democratic Teachers' Union (Sadtu) issued a statement earlier this year on last year's matric results, stating that the education system in 2014 managed to produce less than 20% potential university entrants. They said that low-quality passes were restricting further development.

What happens next for those with a low matric pass? And what then happens to those who can't afford tertiary education, regardless of grades? How do these young people get on to the ladder of formal employment?

They don't have any hope and they don't know where to start.

So there are multiple facets to this dilemma. Some can't afford to pay high tuition fees, some need to enter employment straight away to support families, and some scrape out of high school with what is technically a pass but not enough to get into tertiary institutions. None of this accounts for dropouts who are not included in the statistics and are simply lost in the system. What happens to them? Those who do get into tertiary education are then faced with the task of finding a space to fit into their chosen careers. People who pass, but fall into the hole between informal employment and "what do I do with my life?"

The employment landscape in South Africa is to create more opportunities for them in the interim. Corporates need to create earning opportunities for young people, and also provide upskilling and training to help them progress.

I believe that enterprise development is the key to filling the post-matric void, and this role lies in the corporate sector. Creating employment, helping people grow, offering them a fair living wage, while feeding the enormous skills shortages that are such a challenge to the employment market, are roles the corporate sector has both the duty and the resources to fulfil. Enterprise is the solution.

Corporates need to take the mantle as they have the know-how to teach young people how to become entrepreneurs. There is a gap in terms of formal courses and training that businesses can help to fill. More businesses should come up with a plan to jump-start young people stuck in the hole between matric and a fair way to earn a living, whether through employment or entrepreneurship.

I challenge corporates to form youth development initiatives, which ensure employment and upskilling opportunities for ambitious, goal-driven youth who want to improve their lives and move ahead in their careers.

My wish is to see South African companies committing to making an impact on the lives of young people. By doing so, I think we will see more and more young South Africans uplifted and empowered to achieve their goals. But as it stands, there is a gaping hole in the current system and too many people are losing hope because they don't know where to start. But it's not about a free ride. Companies need to put together a screening process to determine how to take on the right people for what they need. The process will have a lot to do with what the company is offering and its skills needs. As a guideline, it should focus on the objectives, work ethic and commitment of the person or people filling the role.

A one-size-fits-all screening process won't cut it. If companies do not effectively screen applicants, the process of integrating young people into the world of work will not benefit the prospective employee or the company extending the opportunities.

There is a lot to be done. However, more than two decades after democracy, the excuses about how hard it is to do are starting to wear thin. We need a skilled and experienced workforce. Our youth need hope. Corporates can make the twain meet. Robinson is the CEO of Relate Bracelets, a 100% not-for-profit social enterprise that supports a number of South African causes, and provides training and employment opportunities for young South Africans.


This article was first published in City Press click here for pdf.