I look at my young daughters before my eyes and can’t help but reflect on the early 80s when I was the same age, pushing through my senior years of just wanting to complete my schooling so that I could earn my own money and be semi or fully self-sufficient.

The Trials and Tribulations to secure employment persists in the 21st Century
My entrepreneurial lessons began at an early age. Aerobic instructing, babysitting, and assisting with my mother’s school labeling home industry were my only routes to raising funds for my Technikon Diploma. Having diligently completed my tertiary education and now having to face the world of work, my mission impossible of seeking some form of employment begun. But this only resulted in disappointment, when the same conversations happened over and over: “Sorry we need someone with a minimum of 1-2 years’ related experience” or “You don’t have the formal qualification for this role”!

As with every school or college leaver, my fruitless attempts of submitting my CV for what I believed would be the perfect job match failed. I soon came to the quick, sad realisation that I and 200 others were facing the same fate. My story has a heart-warming ending in that, after many failed attempts, a temporary recruitment agency saw my potential, allowing me to gain the necessary skills to be employed by one of their senior partners.

The 21st century is upon us and if anything, the world of both work and life has become harsher, with the youth of today having to navigate through the grueling uncertainties of the past two years. What a paradoxical life our youth are living! Life in the 80s had its challenges, but not nearly as challenging as my daughters longingly wishing to recapture life as I lived it. How strange that vintage clothing, 80s remixes, film cameras, and the desire to purchase old sentimental crockery and trinkets have returned back to fashion.

Qualification and Experience versus Power Skills
Faced with our stubborn unemployment rate, despondent, qualified youth tirelessly applying for jobs realising they won’t secure is something I will never forget. Qualified and rearing to go, what many people underestimate (undervalue) is the enormous wealth of accumulated power skills this generation has gained through these past two years of uncertainty. Notwithstanding the youth having to complete their studies and qualify online, they have had to exercise competencies and behaviours which remain untaught and are learned along the way.

There is no rule book or qualifying Degree for agility, resistance to change, time management, self-discipline, mindfulness, motivation, nor adaptability. As parents, we might instill values and attempt to influence/nurture behaviours, but at the end of the day, there is no qualification for power skills. I say “Hire the behaviour and train the skill”.

Many companies continue to look at refining and reframing their company culture, values and purpose, with a view to retaining, engaging and attracting the best people. If this is the case, should companies not be paying closer attention to providing increased entry for our youth? If our youth are able to demonstrate the genuine willingness, power skills, and qualities that align with the company beliefs, is this not enough to “Hire the behaviour and train the skill?”

Too often, we hear of failed hires due to the incorrect “culture match” since preference was given to the formally qualified incumbent with the correct years of experience. With global labour market trends focused on addressing DEI, remote working, access to a borderless talent market, high demand skills gap/shortage and aging, it begs the question of whether companies can be doing more to address their talent management strategies, providing our youth the breakthrough they need to demonstrate what they are made of.

What more can be done for our Youth of today?
I acknowledge that some companies are addressing the youth unemployment through various initiatives, but have no doubt that more can be done within our global and borderless talent marketplace:

  • Professional private sector leaders should be actively demanding the teaching of emerging job set requirements and skills within schools and educational systems.
  • Whilst The Great Resignation has transformed our global labour market, we are sitting with qualified graduates who can fulfil open vacancies, especially within multinationals. Local talent needn’t have to uproot themselves to work overseas, but can now work remotely.
  • As our digital landscape continues to transform, with it comes the opportunity for companies to capitalise on online distance learning and upskilling. Companies should not overlook the wealth of experience that their qualified, seasoned retirees hold in being able to mentor, coach, and develop entry-level appointees, or equip existing employees with the skills they need to be promoted within the company.
  • Establish in-house apprenticeship or graduate programmes and/or invest in training centres to welcome the new generation to shadow and gain some working experience, helping them leverage future career opportunities.
  • Focusing on societal issues within ESG (Environmental, Social and Corporate Governance), companies could make a world of difference by collectively investing time and resources to educate, coach, upskill, and more. Sometimes all the youth need is a foot in the door or a little timely advice to get going.
  • The pandemic saw a major shift in industry sectors cutting down and/or transforming their workforce. Many jobs were lost but many have been created. Companies seeking the best in talent should focus on skills and experience that are transferable across industries, aiming to hire employees with the right competencies and power skills.

“Do not judge me by my successes, judge me by how many times I fell down and got back up again.”
– Nelson Mandela