Degree to disagree: Entrepreneurship is the answer to youth unemployment

Worreid unemployed youth
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Did you know, according to research done by the site Top Universities:

It costs between R53,440 to R64,890 a year to study at a "good" university in South Africa?

This depends on the degree you choose, of course, and the number of years it takes to finish it – but it’s safe to say this is unrealistically expensive for most South Africans. After all, as valuable as a degree can be, it doesn’t determine how smart or capable you are in the grand scheme of things.

Realistically, it’s not an option for most young South Africans. So, why even mention it? Well, the common belief is that the answer to our crippling youth unemployment statistics lies in more university degrees when this isn’t actually the case. Regardless of whether you matriculate or graduate, joblessness is still a looming reality for many, according to this pointed argument by HuffPost.

Yes, having a degree can be an asset but the world is changing, and in today’s business landscape, we’re geared towards innovation and entrepreneurship – especially as we face one of the worst youth unemployment crises in history.

“The results indicate that the number of employed persons decreased by 2,2 million to 14,1 million in the 2nd quarter of 2020 compared to the 1st quarter of 2020. This unprecedented change is the largest quarter 1 to quarter 2 decline since the survey began in 2008.”Stats SA

But here’s the kicker...

The same Stats SA report goes on to explain that unemployment has also dropped, which seems strange right? Well, it’s because millions of people are simply not even looking for jobs for a variety of reasons and this extends to the youth sector.

People who aren’t actively seeking jobs aren’t always included in these statistics. If we were looking at the total number of unemployed people between Q1 and Q2 in this country, we see a devastating picture. This more accurate statistic is called the expanded unemployment rate, and it shows us that our youth are in dire straits.

Today we see a generation of young people – potential leaders and changemakers – facing impossible hurdles. In fact, this reminds me of something that I’ll never forget.

More than just a number

I recently came across a story about a young woman who seemed to be almost on the verge of tears as she faced unemployment. Cameron Cupido is a Stellenbosch graduate from Cape Town, with a masters degree in Visual Communication.

She had applied for more than 30 jobs without any success, which you can read more about here later, and maybe you’ll have the same reaction as me.

Now, you’d think with an educational achievement like this, getting a job would be easy. So why did Cameron need to reach out to the news to publicise her struggle as an unemployed graduate?

The more I read about Cameron, the more I saw myself in her story of not being able to find a job, despite her qualifications.

Cameron wasn't just a representative of herself but rather, a generation that understands being an "unemployed graduate" all too well.

Imagine for a minute what this feels like, facing poverty, hopelessness and possibly struggling to believe in your own ability.

Eventually, with the helping hand of good Samaritans and socially driven corporates, Cameron was able to land herself a well-paying job that would sustain her and her family financially. As much as Cameron’s story ended on a sweet note, the remainder of the 6,7 million (Stats SA: 2019) unemployed hasn’t had the same good news.

Honestly, the labour market can be a cut-throat environment

When it comes to actually finding a job in South Africa, and the chance to do what you love, even graduates need to show practical skills – which is difficult to achieve. With this in mind, we can think of Entrepreneurship as a kind of vaccine for the nightmare that is unemployment.

"Implementing policies that make it easier to start up a business, along with changes in the higher educational system, could go a long way to minimizing graduate unemployment in Sub-Saharan Africa." — Martin Bosompem

According to Martin Bosompem, a lecturer at the Department of Agricultural Economics and Extension: the University of Cape Coast in Ghana Scidev, the youth unemployment rate is spurred on by the fact that Africa has an extremely youthful population, and the education system is broken, placing too much emphasis on theory instead of encouraging job readiness or self-employment.

The problem starts at school

Entrepreneurial education, in the South African context, isn’t as important in the school system as it should be – especially as the youth unemployment rate is skyrocketing.

It’s true that in niche industries, graduates are chosen first but, the stats still show a loophole that goes beyond parrot-reading a textbook in the hopes that it brings out the “Corporate CEO” in our young people. The next generation needs to create its own jobs.

But there's hope!

With all this in mind, I want to leave you with a little bit of good news. Entrepreneurship and innovation is the new graduate certification.

The opportunities are rife for startups and leaders to build their own businesses, as long as they have the right tools to lead them to success. It’s time to make use of these opportunities to help fight youth unemployment and give exciting young talent access to education and wealth.

That doesn’t mean university doesn’t matter, simply that it doesn’t have to be the go-to or the first step.

What I want to see is a country, and let's not forget an emerging economy, where Entrepreneurship is the holy grail and celebrated in homes and classrooms.

Because at the end of the day, this is a key answer to the unemployment, poverty and lack of skills development we’re facing as a society. It’s a chance for us to empower our youth, as they change the world! This is the driving force behind the School of Entrepreneurship.

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Leon Lategan

Leon Lategan

Leon Lategan is The Entrepreneur Activist, a Coach & Creator of Entrepreneurs and the Founder & CEO of the School of Entrepreneurship.
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