Skip Navigation LinksMerchants-Corporates-need-to-think-differently-about-youth-unemployment-vf Opinion piece | Think differently about youth unemployment

​GOVERNMENT AND BUSINESS NEED TO COLLABORATE TO GROW THE TALENT POOL. 


Youth unemployment has once again been put in the spotlight during President Jacob Zuma’s State of the Nation address and corporate South Africa will have to start addressing some of the real challenges around accessibility if this is to be overcome. According to a new report issued by the International Labour Organisation (ILO) in January, South Africa currently ranks 6th globally in terms of youth unemployment with a current rate of 52.5%. Immediate intervention is needed by South African businesses to prevent long term issues. This is the view of Jennifer Algie, People Director at Merchants, Southern Africa’s largest business process outsourcing (BPO) and customer experience specialist.

“One of the biggest challenges facing the majority of unemployed youth remains access to opportunities,” says Algie. “There are some who are ready to enter the workplace and simply do not know how to and​​ there are others that have a clear will to work, but are not quite work ready,” she says. “Here corporate South Africa can play a tremendous role by partnering with organisations such as Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, who find unemployed youth, connect them with organisations who are looking for talent and provide them with work readiness skills to place within organisations.” Harambee, an organisation which sources, trains and places unemployed young people from disadvantaged backgrounds into first-time jobs, gives Merchants access to the 80% of potential candidates that the company would not otherwise have been able to reach. 

Algie says the key thing is that companies have to make an investment in these first-time job entrants, by supporting them through the transition into a working environment and the underlying pressure they might experience in meeting family responsibilities. A caring and understanding approach results in a positive contribution to the youth. 

Another opportunity is accessing graduates. “Being a graduate does not automatically mean that you have all the skills needed in the work environment,” says Algie. For years various industries have been saying that there is a gap between what the graduate is capable of and what the workplace requires. “We need more apprentice type programmes to equip these graduates with the skills they need so that they can thrive.” 
Algie adds that in certain industries companies expect higher level skills for a job that might not really require, a practice which increases the entry level criteria and the salary requirements. This also results in people saying we don’t have the right skills in the country. “Corporates can no longer take the easy way out and have to be part of the solution. They need to understand where the gap lies and put initiatives in place to bridge that gap.” With a philosophy of ‘our people and customers first’ Merchants has developed solid internal programmes to upskill their employees, which allows them to promote internally wherever possible, including taking graduates into leadership and support roles without contact centre experience. 

Algie says the key thing is that companies have to make an investment in these first-time job entrants, by supporting them through the transition into a working environment and the underlying pressure they might experience in meeting family responsibilities. A caring and understanding approach results in a positive contribution to the youth. 

Another opportunity is accessing graduates. “Being a graduate does not automatically mean that you have all the skills needed in the work environment,” says Algie. For years various industries have been saying that there is a gap between what the graduate is capable of and what the workplace requires. “We need more apprentice type programmes to equip these graduates with the skills they need so that they can thrive.” 

Algie adds that in certain industries companies expect higher level skills for a job that might not really require, a practice which increases the entry level criteria and the salary requirements. This also results in people saying we don’t have the right skills in the country. “Corporates can no longer take the easy way out and have to be part of the solution. They need to understand where the gap lies and put initiatives in place to bridge that gap.” With a philosophy of ‘our people and customers first’ Merchants has developed solid internal programmes to upskill their employees, which allows them to promote internally wherever possible, including taking graduates into leadership and support roles without contact centre experience. 

“We need more governmentfunded projects like Harambee as this is the only way to tap into the market of young people who don’t have the network to necessarily find opportunities.”



​ABOUT MERCHANTS


Merchants is a recognised global leader in providing customer management and related business process outsourcing solutions that deliver positive business results. Providing flexible access to technology, facilities and people, we enable companies to keep pace with – and exceed – customer expectations.
Merchants is a Dimension Data company – the world’s leading contact centre systems integration business and part of the NTT group. 

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In addition to helping you identify the future needs of your customers, Merchants is able to source, build, manage and support all aspects of your entire contact centre infrastructure requirements – from technology hardware and software to buildings and facilities.

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