The Great Disconnect of Youth Unemployment

Unemployed grads mass

March 01,2017.Hundreds of Eastern Cape unemployed graduates marched to the Premier’s office to demand jobs yesterday:SIBONGILE NGALWA © DAILY DISPATCH

South Africa’s unemployed youth face many challenges.  Some of these challenges have nothing to do with the weak state of the economy, but it has everything to do with the attitude of employers and recruiting companies towards entry-level work placements.

Despite all the hype associated with the State’s Youth Employment Scheme (YES), the reality is that employers are not willing to participate and to allow the creation of entry level positions.

In a recent field study undertaken by Growth Institute, less than 2% of recruitment companies in Johannesburg that we interviewed, indicated that their clients are willing to consider placing YES candidates in the workplace.  The rest indicated that their clients require a minimum of three to five years’ experience, and that they are not interested in entry-level candidates.

In addition, a field survey under sixty companies that advertised openings, showed that there was less than 40% awareness of the tax incentives and B-BBEE incentives associated with the YES program.  Next, 50% of those who were aware the YES program’s benefits indicated that they are willing to support the YES program but that they are not interested in B-BBEE points because their turnover does not require them to comply with the B-BBEE legislation.

It seems that the youth is caught between an economy that is unable to spark up and employers who are unwilling to give them a chance unless the youth can show experience when applying for any advertised entry level position.

Executives and HR personnel seem to forget that they may have started their careers in some entry level position and that they were, indeed, lucky not to be trapped in a set of invented constraints that make work creation impossible.

We can go on and blame the sorry state of the economy on State Capture, Draconian labour legislation, the weak Rand, Trumpist tantrums, Brexit, Brexin, and many other factors.  But as long as the current attitudes towards YES prevail, the economy will not be able to move away from the unemployment singularities that threaten it for so long.

Employers say they do not have time to teach new entrants how to do a job. They say it is the job of tertiary institutions to make the youth work ready.  The fact is that the tertiary education system (TVET, FET, colleges and universities) not only provide the theoretical components of a qualification.  In some cases, there is a legislative requirement that a student must do a certain number of practical hours before a qualification can be conferred upon him/her.

Such practical hours can only be accumulated in the workplace, which means that entry-level positions have to be part and parcel of producing a youth that is educated and qualified.

We are quick to complain about skills shortages and how the standard of education is going to the dogs.  The fact is that those who point such fingers hardly ever deal with unemployed graduates or with near graduates.  They are unable to uncover many that have very high potential if only employers stop paying lip service to the YES program and start doing something about creating the levels of employment that they claim to do on their B-BBEE certificates.

Companies who simply tick a number of boxes in exchange for points do not realise the significant effects of having a B-BBEE certificate withdrawn by verifiers.  All contracts entered into from the date such certificate was issued, are under threat of becoming voidable.

A recent example of large B-BBEE verifiers that were forced to withdraw certificates and to re-accredit[1] cannot be taken lightly.

Employers must realise that winds of change are blowing.  Slowly, but surely, there is a migration away from ignoring legislative frameworks (such as we experienced under Zumaism) towards serious, well-intentioned governance.

For how long can employers afford to pay lip service to the YES program, and for how long will artificial experience entry barriers place a burden on South Africa’s economic re-awakening?



Notes to editors:

Growth Institute is a Private College focusing on: Management Education, Skills Development and Enterprise Development, most of The Growth Institute’s Clients are companies who wish to optimise: BBBEE Spending, Skills Development and Tax Rebates. The company is also aimed at school leavers who did not succeed to enroll as full time students at “traditional institutions as well as client employees, who wish to obtain a qualification or who want to improve their current qualifications. Clients and students can choose to enroll for one of three Commercial, Technical and Hospitality Management Studies programs.


Issued by Growth Institute

For further information, contact:


Peter van Nieuwenhuizen

Tel: 011 534 8449 or 072 089 4290

Jacques de Villiers

Tel: 011 534 8449 or 083 282 0704

Lynn Duke

Tel: 011 534 8465 or 082 330 6295



Youth Unemployment: A Few Gorillas in the Room

Gorilla in a room

Wednesday, 30 October 2019: 10h51.


As the whole South African nation hold their breaths in anticipation of the Finance Minister’s mid-term budget speech, it is appropriate to acknowledge a few big gorillas in a very small room called Youth Unemployment.

It will come as no surprise that the Minister will lament the sorry state of unemployment in the country.

  • Rising unemployment of young graduates[1] could be high on the agenda, too.
  • Billions have been spent on curbing youth unemployment[2], and we can expect that more money will be thrown at the issue
  • Trade unions will insist that automation should be replaced with manual labour[3] but, at the same time, trade unions could be unhappy with the fact that new entrants in the job market threaten the protective layers wrapped about union members in the workplace
  • Fingers could be pointed at defective skills development models, and others are likely to argue that universities must do away with fees so that free education is available to all
  • Industry is likely to point out that freshly ground graduates are not equipped to make a difference in the workplace unless they are re-skilled, costing more time and money
  • The youth will bleat that “there are no opportunities” and that no one is willing to give them a chance
  • Last, employers will argue the current labour dispensations make it difficult to get rid of underperformers, thus they are not willing to hire unless labour frameworks allow them to get rid of dead wood with relative ease.

Growth Institute are not labour specialists, nor are we economists.  We are educators and we will discuss youth unemployment from the perspective of education and skills development.

Lack of opportunities

Not a single day goes by in South Africa that the youth in all demographics complain that there are no opportunities.  Some say they are too white for an opportunity; some say they are not black enough and others say that they are still being discriminated against for many different reasons.

The fact is that the private sector, in compliance with the Skills Development Act, the Labour Relations Act, the Income Tax Act (in terms of learnership credits) and B-BBEE legislation actually creates many opportunities for all the youth to be uplifted.

It is also a fact that many of the youth are unwilling to benefit from Skills Development initiatives because the qualifications associated with these initiatives are not degrees.

Next, some who are offered opportunities where they could get a free education worth thousands of Rands, say that they cannot afford to come to class.  Yet, the same persons who state that they cannot afford to come to class may live in a Hyde Park estate or in another suburban and they may have family members working as company executives in Sandton.

We must contrast this attitude with a person who lives in a squatter camp and who makes a plan to find a support system so that he/she can attend a Skills Development Program.

In June 2018, at a Youth Day event, Growth Institute conducted an informal market survey under 18-year olds living in suburbs and in townships and we discovered that 38% of those who claim that they cannot afford tertiary studies actually received pocket money ranging from R 500 to R 3 000 per week.  Can the affordability excuse still hold water if a person receives pocket money with an annual value of between R 26 000 and R 156 000, and where the average annual cost of some very good programs is about R 24 000 (including class fees and study material)?

Is it not time to question why those who are clearly financially able to improve themselves, refuse to do so whilst others move heaven and earth to grasp an opportunity, resolving to succeed at all costs?

Attitude is clearly an issue.

Parents who own successful small to medium enterprises are often blissfully aware that current legislative frameworks allow them to place their children on Skills Develop programs without relying on SETA funding.  This unawareness should be addressed and parents should be educated on how to make use of structures created by the State so that we can eradicate the country’s skills shortages.

Industry relevance of qualifications

Industry often expresses the view that some qualifications are not relevant to the workplace.  It is also pointed out that some qualifications lack certain fundamental skills.

For example, industry find it very difficult to understand how a person with an HR qualification cannot handle payroll matters.  Nor can industry understand how a graduate in Labour Relations do not understand skills development or B-BBEE. Third, industry wonders how a degree in Intrapreneurship or Entrepreneurship is actually relevant to the workplace.

Tertiary institutions will argue that it is a Herculean task to design qualifications that could meet all possible permutations needed by industry.  Considering that it could take five years or more for a tertiary institution to develop a new qualification, it is understandable that qualifications are slow to adapt to changing market needs.

The other side of the coin is that tertiary institutions need revenue and that some programs (such as an Accounting Degree) in itself do generate sufficient income to sustain the tertiary institution.  Therefore, a range of alternative qualifications exist so that revenue targets can be met.

The bigger criticism, however, is that tertiary institutions teach students theoretical models that are not relevant to the workplace.  Nor, they say, do tertiary institutions spend enough time to make students workplace ready.

Tertiary institutions will point out that they have a so-called Triple Helix responsibility towards society.  Their responsibilities are:

  • Primarily to teach,
  • Secondarily to do research, and
  • Thirdly, to find alternative income streams known as the “Entrepreneurial University[4]”. In South Africa’s context, third income streams typically refer to the development of extra-curricular courses offered to industry as part of work-integrated learning programs, thus creating additional income streams.  There is also another dimension to the third income stream, namely to solicit donations from benefactors in the private sector.  In addition, many large universities such as MIT, Stanford, Caltech, and others engage with the private sector on a range of research and development projects, where specialist academics do no teach but render R&D services to industry.

South African academics do not have the same liberties as in other countries where specialised teams are responsible for the third income stream activities.  Most academics are expected to handle all three streams at the same time.  They are so busy with teaching, research and short courses that they do not have time to really develop collaborative research models or custom-built programs that industry wants.

If industry want programs that meet their specialised needs, then industry must find a coopetive way to fund universities for the development of qualifications or programs relevant to industry as a collective.  There are cases where South African universities develop specialist training programs for certain sectors (such as the big banks).  Our economy, however, is much greater than a few banks who can afford investing in specialised courses.

For industry to get staff with industry-specified qualifications, will mean that industry will have to invest significant amounts of money into universities so that they can get what they want.

Degrees versus vocational programs

South Africans have an unhealthy infatuation for degrees. For years, they have been indoctrinated that a degree is only valid ticket to the job market.  Certificates and diplomas, especially those associated with trades or vocations, are considered as inferior.  Critics forget that some of these “inferior” qualifications have a higher required pass mark than the more “prestigious” degrees (60% in an external exam versus 50% in an internal exam).  Moreover, critics think that trades or vocations are associated with menial, dirty jobs that no one wants.  They forget that the majority of jobs listed on the State’s critical scarce skills lists are the exact same trades and vocations that everyone seems to despise.

Rand for Rand, a well-qualified tradesperson has the same earning potential as a well-qualified doctor, lawyer, accountant, actuary, or white-collar executive.

An unwillingness to do a day’s worth on honest work where one risks becoming dirty, is a braking factor in driving down unemployment rates in this country.

Also, many of the youth have completed the theoretical components of N-Programs (N3 through N6) but cannot find employment because they never completed the practical component of that program.  This means that a National Qualification cannot be awarded until the practical component is finished.  Unfortunately, the practical components, in most cases, must be completed as part of an apprenticeship.  Not many are willing to do apprenticeships and not many employers are willing to take in apprentices.  There is a perception that apprenticeships are a form of cheap labour associated with the old Apartheid years.  There is also the reality that some colleges who offer the N-programs are silent about the required practical components associated with these NATED programs.

South Africa would have to re-insist that apprenticeships and practical learning components receive then attention that it should.

Another perception that must be dispelled, is the idea that one cannot become, for example, an accountant unless one has a degree, and unless one belongs to certain professional bodies at the expense of other professional bodies.  There is a great need for people doing bookkeeping, payroll and associated functions with only a diploma or certificate in hand.  The idea that one has to employ a degreed person to do a job that someone with a certificate or a diploma can do, must be questioned.  This is especially true of certificates and diplomas recognised by professional bodies other than a few that create barriers of entry instead of broadening a profession as a whole.

Workeracy and entrepreneurship versus jobs

The youth must get used to the idea that a qualification should enable them to create work and instead of looking for a job.  Some of today’s youth do not want to be saddled in one role only.  They want to be multipreneurs and they feel that there is not tolerance in the labour market for multipreneurs.

The youth also believe that entrepreneurship or workeracy is not possible unless one is already a billionaire or unless one has instant access to high levels of start-up capital.

They do not realise that the essence of entrepreneurship and workeracy is not founded in high levels of capital but in the ability to create a product or service needed by others.  More so, a service-oriented workeracy dispensation may not need high levels of start-up capital but the ability to persuade potential customers that they need a specific service that is either not found anywhere else or that can be obtained and a lower cost and at a higher quality than what the customer has been exposed to before.

Workeracy and entrepreneurship does not mean instant success.  It often translates into hours, months or years of hard work before the billions start to roll in.

The question is: to what extent is the youth willing to invest in effort and time so that rewards can be reaped?

Parting thoughts

South Africa’s youth unemployment debacle needs a new mindset.  The lingering question is: who will be willing to face the challenges and venture the time and energy to overcome the barriers presented to us?









There is LIFE after Grade 12

Matric Sadness

Grade 12’s are entering the final exam phase of their school careers.  This time of year is marked with high levels of stress, suicide and general feelings of hopelessness in case a learner fails his/her Matric exams.

Several case studies at the Growth Institute show that failing a Matric exam is not the end of the road.  We believe that far too much emphasis is placed on Matric.  In fact, Matric learners are so stressed about the exams that their marks could drop by as much as 30% compared to what they have achieved in Grade 11.

It is not unlikely that a person who, got an average of 60% in his/her Grade 11 subjects, suddenly ends up with an average of as low as 30%.

The State’s default answer to those who failed Matric is that they have to enrol at a TVET college.  What is not said, is that those who failed Matric and who decide to go to a TVET college, have to start a program that is two levels lower than the Grade 12 level.  Thus, a person has to redo Grade 10 before he/she could progress to the next TVET level.

In a previous article, we indicated that the success rate at TVET colleges is not even 10%.  Thus, TVET colleges may not be a suitable answer.

Even when a person passed Grade 12 with very good marks, there are cases where the subject combinations that they took in school are not relevant to the minimum admission requirements at the majority of tertiary institutions outside the TVET framework.

The fact is that not all tertiary programs require that a candidate must have a Grade 12.  Coupled to this fact, is the misinformed myth that all programs who admit persons with Grade 11, are inferior.

Critics forget that many programs offered at private colleges are assessed by independent external examining bodies.  This means that the person who starts a first-year program at some private colleges, is exposed a series of professional exams that are focused on very specific skill sets that are relevant to the workplace.

It is a great social injustice to deny somebody access to a tertiary qualification simply because he/she did not pass Grade 12 but got very good marks in Grade 11.  There is indeed a solution for candidates in this group.  They could get access to a program that is on the same level as Grade 12 (NQF 3) and that allows them to progress towards a National Diploma (NQF 6) recognised by a host of professional bodies.

The fact that such programs are focused on workplace-based skills means that a person who completed such a program could be in a position where:

  • The skills learnt is relevant to the workplace and needed by the workplace
  • The skills learnt provide access to professional bodies that allow a person to practice as:
    • Bookkeepers
    • Financial accountants
    • Office managers
    • And other related professions of functions

Our advice to anyone who did not pass Grade 12, is to consider that there are options other than being forced into a TVET stream or being forced to face a life of unemployability because there is no perceived access to a tertiary academic program.

What can I do with my incomplete qualification?


Every year, thousands of South African youth drop out of university or college with an incomplete qualification.

Research done by the Growth Institute has shown that more than 40% of youth who drop out, actually completed a college or university program but that their results are withheld for a variety of reasons.  In many cases, the students have an outstanding study account, which causes the withholding of results.

Another 40% of youth think that they did not achieve a qualification after they dropped out and they simply do not know how to find out whether the are entitled to a qualification or not.

Growth Institute found that, in the latter class, students have studied towards a professional exam and that some colleges withhold the fact that the student have passed the professional exam and are, therefore, entitled to a qualification.

In addition, some colleges mix and match professional qualifications with internal programs and refuse to award a qualification even though the student has met all the requirements of the professional examination body.  In this case, qualifications are withheld because a student may not have completed a small fraction of the internal program.

Students who studied a NATED (N3, N4, N5 and N6) are often not awarded because the students have not completed specific practical course requirements.

No matter what the case, the fact remains that students who wrote certain professional exams are not aware that they actually met all the requirements of the professional examining body.  Such persons, need help to right a glaring social injustice.

The South African youth are not aware that they could make use of a Recognition or Prior Learning (RPL) intervention so that they could be considered for an alternative qualification.

An RPL intervention is not a magic bullet that will transform an incomplete qualification in an alternative full qualification.

Growth Institute’s research has shown that 55% of youth who did wrote some professional exam, needs only three more credits to be awarded a qualification at a specific level.

We are committed to help the South African youth to get what they deserve.

A Great Opportunity Awaits You!


Growth Institute is offering an opportunity to young, dynamic, individuals to prepare for a career in a number of international hotels.

All persons between the age of 18 and 25 who register for any of our Hotel Management Programs, could be earmarked to work overseas.

If you meet the following entry requirements, you could be in the run for an opportunity of a lifetime:

  • You must be between 18 and 25 years old
  • You must have Grade 12 with:
    • English 60%
    • Math Lit 60%
  • You must be a South African citizen
  • You must have a valid driver’s licence
  • You must have completed at least Level 3 and Level 4 Hotel Management at our college
  • You must pass all selection interviews

Act today and stand a chance to join the fastest growing industry in the world.  The new classes start on 1 September 2019.

Apply via our website


Good News for anyone without Grade 12


Yearly, thousands of learners are forced to leave school after they completed Grade 11.  In almost every case, personal circumstances necessitate leaving school before there was an opportunity to finish Grade 12.

Most early school leavers believe that they will never be able to get a tertiary qualification because they lack a Matric Certificate.

The good news is that a Matric Certificate is NOT a prerequisite to a tertiary qualification.  This means that Growth Institute is willing to accept students who completed Grade 11 and who have achieved the following marks:

  • English 60%
  • Mathematics Literacy 60% or Mathematics Core 55%

Accounting or Bookkeeping is not a prerequisite for any of our courses.

We feel that any institution who refuses to accept persons who achieved good marks in Grade 11 and who could not achieve Grade 12, is not taking the interest of the youth at heart.

Circumstance should not stand in the way of achievement.

That is why Growth Institute’s Dignity Program has been designed to give every person, who passed Grade 11 with good marks, an opportunity to obtain a tertiary qualification.

Setting new standards in tertiary education


The days of rote learning or learning in a strict, regimental, environment are over at Growth Institute.

We demand that our students stand on their own feet and that they are able to hold their own in a workplace that becomes more relentless by the day.

We have flipped the classroom.  Students are expected to do specific volumes of pre-reading and research before they come to a class.  Lecturers discuss topics in class, asking exploratory questions and spending time to assess which student needs more attention.

Growth Institute believes in the adage that one can lead a horse to water but that it remains the horse’s responsibility to drink.  Since all of our course require practical application, Growth Institute assist students to find placements in a workplace.  These placements are considered to be unpaid internships and the onus is on students to meet specific workplace-based outcomes that are part of the course.

Students who are reluctant to sing up for workplace experience quickly find that they lag behind because the majority of assessments and exams that they have to complete, requires students to quote examples out of their practical workplace experience.

Our experiential approach to learning means that those students who eventually pass their senior levels, are well prepared for the workplace.  They have been exposed to a number of demanding situations and they quickly learn how to build a strong coping support system around them.

We can rightly say that the majority of our students are gutsy, resilient and well-adapted to deal with the workplace.