As many of the pupils who wrote their matric last year jostle for space across the country’s institutions of higher learning, there should be a concerted effort to ensure that they pursue careers that fill the void of critical and depleting skills that enhance their employability and are critical to the country’s development trajectory.
The fact that there are so many graduates who can’t find employed in the country is testimony to the issue of lack of proper guidance in terms of career choices. The merely fact that they possess degrees and diplomas doesn’t mean that they are employable. This simply means that the acquisition of qualification needs to be accompanied by dedication to serious assessment of the sort of skills that the economy requires.
Quarterly, when employment statistics are released, we are more than likely to see an increase in youth unemployment. Granted, there are those that have not gone beyond matric but are looking for work, but there is still a significant number of those with qualifications that can’t find employment. To a large extent the sobering reality is that these qualifications they have are not relevant in the economy.
Although strides are being made to close the void in fields like engineering, a lot more still needs to be done. The shortage of these skills in our economy cries out for more of our students to start pursuing careers that address the poverty of skills that exist in the engineering sector.
This is even more important given that the South African economy is the second biggest on the continent. Thus, we can’t afford to rely on importing skills from elsewhere for our economic stability and ensuring that we are on the upward economic mobility. In this regard, our prospective students must be alive to the fact that they need to take up careers that drive the development of the country and thus create the much-needed jobs.
It is interesting to note that South Africa, as a country that ranks among the driest in the world, does not have a decent number of young people who choose to pursue careers in the water sector. Nowadays, there is much talk about the Fourth Revolution and the truth is that as a country we can never participate meaningfully in this revolution without having the necessary skills in the water sector.
To ensure we march alongside with other countries towards the Fourth Revolution, the Department of Water and Sanitation is working to guide young people towards careers in the water sector through its programmes. The department is drawing the youth into the water sector through its progarmmes, including Baswa Le Meetsi, the Aqua Enduro and the South African Youth Water Prize (SAYWP) Competition.
Last year in the SAYWP, schools from the nine provinces competed for the prize which put them in line to represent the country in the annual Junior Water Prize Competition in Sweden, Stockholm. A grade 9 learner, Kwazi Zwezwe, from Ixopo High School, won the competition, paving a way for him to represent the country in Stockholm last year. The programme opened a whole new world in terms of careers in the water sector for the pupils. It gave them priceless information to make informed career choices and about what is happening internationally in the water sector.
Thus, of the 172 043 pupils who achieved bachelor passes and 141 700 that qualify to enroll for diplomas, a great number of them should follow careers in the water sector. There is a huge challenge of skills shortage in this sector and our desire is to see it grow in leaps and bounds like any other in the country. We should therefore take this as our collective responsibility that young people who enter the post school system are directed towards careers that ensure they are presented with employment opportunities while they contribute to the economy of the country
Hosia Sithole is a communicator at the Department of Water and Sanitation (Gauteng Region).