Into the work queue

EMPLOYMENT PROSPECTS: SA’s young people face the grim reality of a saturated job market. PICTURE: GETTY IMAGES

THE matric numbers are out for the class of 2017 and about 500000 formers pupils have joined the workforce to the concern of employment experts who say the market is already saturated – a grim and growing reality for South Africa’s youth as every year passes.

Matriculants have the option to further their studies or join the labour force.

Research from 2016 shows that 442672 candidates passed matric – with only 36.7% qualifying for university entrance and a further 40.6% permitted to study at diploma level. This means many thousands of school-leavers do not qualify for a formal tertiary education.

A report by the Centre for Development and Enterprise (CDE), of the Department of Higher Education and Training, says following the national development plan, it has proposed a dramatic expansion of the higher education system to accommodate many more young people.

The reality is that SA’s resource-constrained universities and TVET colleges are already unable to cope with the number of students they have. President Jacob Zuma’s pronouncements on free tertiary education will further add to the pressure.

“Clear evidence of this is that many institutions’ throughput rates are extremely low. One estimate suggests that only 25% of those eligible to complete a course in any given year actually do so, with some courses having much lower throughput rates even than this,” the report said.

CDE’S Antony Altbeker and Ann Bernstein said for young people to move smoothly from school into work, there must be some correspondence between the number of entry-level jobs being created every year and the number of young people exiting the education system.

In practice, South Africa produces far more young work-seekers each year than there are entry-level jobs for them.

“In seeking to reduce youth unemployment, the two most important goals must be to ensure much faster economic growth to increase total demand for labour and to implement labour market reforms in order to increase the labour intensity of growth.

“Without substantial improvements, there is little chance of significant employment growth,” the researchers said.

Registrations at universities show that management, law, and business came out as top picks for 2018’s first years.

These qualifications are rapidly growing in popularity among matrics entering higher education next year.

Peter Kriel, general manager at The Independent Institute of Education, said: “With higher education registrations coming in thick and fast, clear trends are starting to emerge on which fields are finding favour, and how these future students intend to empower themselves to face the challenges of the South African economy.”

The head of the Association of Certified Chartered Accountants, Nadine Kater, said young people should be aware that while it is important to choose a career based on one’s interest and aptitude, it’s equally important to ensure you’re employable after graduating.

“Students must choose skills that are in demand,” she said, as South Africa has unacceptably high levels of unemployed graduates – approximately 580000 in number.