The kids aren’t all right

03 November 2017

South Africa stands on a precipice. A nation that once held such promise for prosperity has seemingly lost its way, trapped in a mire of controversy and corruption. And as we struggle to stay afloat in a sea of social and political turmoil, perhaps the most poignant of all our problems is the reality that, as of the second quarter of 2015, the youth unemployment rate in SA (younger than 25) stands at roughly 63.1%. (Source – Biznews)

It is absolutely staggering that we have allowed this to happen to the future of our country and we can no longer turn a blind eye to the crisis that is threatening to overwhelm our future generations. Indeed, as the unemployment rate has steadily increased year on year to the current record high at which it now stands, all evidence suggests that if we do not address this with urgency and ferocity, it is only going to get worse.

In a nation that already teeters on the brink is this really something we can sustain?

Taking back our own future

Sadly, we must acknowledge that there is always an inherent level of apathy towards the bigger issues in society. As ordinary citizens and individuals we lack the resources or political sway to really do anything about it or make a difference, tending instead to ignore such issues or blame those in power for their lack of action.

Though we may not be able to affect change at the macro-level, there are ways in which we can make a difference in our own lives and the lives of those around us. Often uplifting oneself has a knock-on effect that will in turn help to uplift others and perhaps halt and even reverse the rising tide of youth unemployment.

So, with a view to uplifting the individual and thereby allowing them to do the same for others, we will be looking at two alternate solutions to traditional employment. These can be implemented at a personal level for young people who wish to forge a better future for themselves and their peers and take the first step in ensuring that they don’t just become another statistic.

  • Create your own job model

Finding a job is often the biggest hurdle that young people face. A lack of skills, experience or employment opportunities often mean that a work seeker is doomed to fail before ever being given a chance. If an employer isn’t willing to give you a shot or there simply aren’t any jobs available, why not create your own?

It definitely isn’t for everyone and it takes a certain level of dynamism and self-belief, but in the age of ever evolving technology that gives nearly everyone access to a global marketplace, new types of careers are materialising everyday.

Pioneering a new job type can be intimidating, but if you have a particular skill and the confidence to convince someone that they should be paying you for that skill, it’s entirely feasible that you can turn that into a prosperous career. The first step is often as simple as assessing your strengths and skills. What are you good at? What are you passionate about? Is there a market for those things and if not, could you make one?

You have strong opinions and a flair for writing? Brand yourself a freelance content developer and approach various blogs to contribute content. You just need one of them to give you a chance to show what you can do and get the ball rolling.

5000 followers on Instagram and your friends all come to you for style advice? Start your own website to give fashion tips and offer your services as a personal shopper. If you believe in your own ability and let that shine through, it won’t be long before others do too.

Necessity is often the mother of invention and with the Internet and social media providing numerous, often entirely free, platforms for self-promotion, the opportunity to forge a career that leverages your unique skills is an exciting avenue worth exploring. Even if it doesn’t work out for you, the chances are that you’ll have gained valuable experience and contacts along the way, opening more doors to employment.

  • Start your own business

Similar to, though relatively safer, than the aforementioned option, taking the entrepreneurial path is something that more and more South Africans are gravitating towards. In fact, SMEs (Small and Medium-sized Enterprises) make up about 91% of formalised businesses in SA whilst providing employment to about 60% of our labour force and generating over 34% of our GDP. (Source – The Banking Association South Africa)

If you have the spirit of an entrepreneur and the hunger and determination to forge your own legacy, starting a business might just be the path that you gravitate towards.

Some of the most successful businesses start out on the smallest scale imaginable, when passionate individuals see a miniscule niche and find a way to fill it. Whether it’s selling boerewors rolls outside your local church on a Sunday to the hungry post-praise masses or borrowing your friend’s bakkie and driving around the suburbs collecting the waste that piles up whilst Pikitup are on strike. You might start off earning a few hundred rand a week, but soon enough you’ll see the demand for your services increase, you’ll have a need to hire a helping hand or two and before you know it you’ll find that you’ve laid the foundations of your empire.

There are no guarantees of success and many small businesses fail. However, any entrepreneur will tell you that failure is often a crucial step on the road to success, and every failure is a chance to learn and grow so that next time you do better. If you’re serious about ensuring the success of your small business, Absa’s enterprise development centres offer a range of free resources and support for budding entrepreneurs, including PC training, business plan development support and more. If you would like to know more, click here.

Encouragingly, South Africa actually has one of the most conducive and supportive environments in Africa for starting and running a small business. Every year millions of rands’ worth of support is made available to SMEs from the department of Small Business Development, primarily through their Black Business Supplier Development Programme. The Small Enterprise Finance Agency (SEFA) provides disbursements and finance and the Small Enterprise Development Agency (SEDA) provides growth and sustainability support. Additionally many youth-owned, Black-owned and women-owned businesses receive support in various sectors across the country, through the New Growth Path and Industrial Policy Action Plan.

You can access these resources through this portal. Additionally, you might want to explore Absa’s own SMME finance solutions.

With the various support and financing channels available to the South African entrepreneur there has never been a better time to start your own business. If you’re considering starting your own business you may want to check out Absa’s ReadyToWork initiative, a highly valuable resource for information and advice for starting your own business. You can also make use of Absa’s SME Toolkit resource, which has a wealth of information, document templates and more to give your SME a head start.

Taking the plunge

Although traditional employment channels are considered much safer, with the promise of a steady salary and sheltered growth environment, it is clear that taking this path is not always feasible or even possible. Faced with a real crisis of youth unemployment we can either sit back and hope that something is going to change, or we can take action in our own lives, forge our own future and dictate our own career paths. The choice is ultimately yours to make, but hopefully after reading this you’re aware of some of the less traditional options available to you.

Disclaimer: The advice contained on this blog is for general purposes only and does not take into account individual circumstances, objectives or financial needs. Accordingly, readers are advised to seek appropriate advice from licensed professionals prior to making any investment, or taking up a financial product or service.