Building positive futures by addressing SA’s youth skills shortage
Johannesburg - It is becoming increasingly difficult to bridge the widening skills gap in South Africa, especially in the youth segment.
This is the view of Antonia Oakes, Executive for Customer Experience and Responsible Business at Old Mutual Insure, who says that it is disappointing that there isn't a more uplifting story to tell.
"There is a staggering shortage of opportunity for the youth, which is evidenced by the massive unemployment rate," says Oakes.
Her words echo the recent shocking statistics from Statistics South Africa, which suggest that 42.1% of 25-year-old to 34-year-olds are unemployed. Even though the graduate unemployment rate in South Africa is low when compared to other educational levels, youth unemployment remains a huge problem. In Q1: 2022, the unemployment rate among young graduates (aged 15-24 years) fell from 40.3% to 32.6%, while it climbed drastically from 6.9% to 22.4% for those aged 25-34 years.
"One of our focus areas as corporate SA, should be to create sustainable opportunities for our youth, by cultivating strategic partnerships through a shared value approach to deliver solutions that purposefully drive social impact," says Oakes.
Oakes is spearheading Old Mutual Insure's responsible business programme, which has seen the company impact the lives of over 420 youths in the last year alone by forging strategic partnerships in communities where there is a severe lack of opportunity.
"One of our main goals is to equip youth with the skills critical to achieving sustainable development and economic growth," explains Oakes.
Several communities and young individuals have benefited from Old Mutual Insure's skills development investments this year. The Ubuntu Pathways Job Skills Training (JST) programme prepares over 200 young people for the workplace annually through professional workshops and vocational training. This programme is made possible through Old Mutual Insure's long-standing partnership with Ubuntu Pathways, targeting out-of-school youth between the ages 18 to 25.
"We have also undertaken a remarkable Autobody Repair Programme, which aims to create a value chain within the Autobody repair space by providing a six-month skills training and a three-to-four-year apprenticeship," says Oakes. "Through this programme, 32 young women have completed their six-month skills training in spray painting and autobody repairs and a further 10 women have undertaken a three-year apprenticeship in spray-painting."
The company is also making a difference in the lives of schoolgirls, many of whom live in "period poverty".
"We partnered with the Wild Hearts Foundation three years ago to address the needs of young girls regarding access to sanitary products in rural areas. The funded initiative led to the launch of one of the first factories in Africa to produce high-quality reusable sanitary pads in the Mbombela, Mpumalanga area. To date, over 37,000 women and girls have been impacted and effectively protected the environment by reducing landfills of disposable sanitary pads by approximately 58.3 tonnes as well as creating training and employment for a few women."
Building on the success of this project, Old Mutual Insure launched its Empowering Girls initiative earlier this year, which sees the company offering schoolgirls appropriate opportunities to support their professional and personal advancement through relevant life skills, ICT literacy, mentorship, and job shadowing programs.
"The young people of today have a role to play in society and to propel our nation to greater heights. They must be given the space to do this, with our support, and most importantly be given meaningful responsibilities in society," concludes Oakes.