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The Higher Education Sector Must Prioritise Entrepreneurship Skills

Entrepreneurship Skills
  • To tackle youth unemployment, graduates must be trained to create jobs
  • South African graduates need to be job creators than seekers

The rapid increase in the rate of youth unemployment in South African, has, according to Stats SA, expanded (exacerbated by the COVID-19 devastation) to  63.2 percent amongst youth aged between 15 – 24 years. The rate for young people between the ages of 25 and 34 is 41.2 percent.

Recent Labour Market Intelligence research has revealed that the increasing unemployment rate has also widened the gap between the supply and the demand of graduates. This suggests that higher education institutions urgently need to align themselves more closely with the needs of businesses and equip students with the necessary knowledge and skills that will enable them to make effective contributions in the workplace. 

A specific observation of the supply chain graduates that enter the workplace and struggle to translate what has been learned at institutions of higher learning into skills useful for the work environment implies the attribution by employers that graduates are not work-ready.

However, according to the CEO of SincPoint Lebo Letsoalo, this may not be necessarily true: “this may not exactly be the case, because while it’s true that most of the graduates, especially in the supply chain industry, may not be adequately equipped for the workplace, it could simply be the result of the lack of additional training, mentorship and coaching to help them adjust to the new environment.”

Lebo Letsoalo, who is a supply chain coach herself, believes that graduates in the supply chain industry need to be equipped with the professional, workplace, and entrepreneurial readiness support and training in order to unleash their potential. 

The changing global economy generally requires graduates who are equipped with the necessary skills and experience so that they can add value to a business. In turn, these necessary skills and experience increase graduates’ chances in the job market. “In South Africa particularly, with a very high youth unemployment rate, more than just landing and keeping a job… graduates need to be trained to be employment generating rather than seeking”, says Letsoalo.

She believes that the higher education sector mandate needs to be changed to align with the current needs of the economy, especially at a time when government and business are working to resuscitate an ailing economy crippled not only by the global pandemic but also other fiscal challenges. 

“We cannot continue to focus our education outcomes on creating employment seekers when the economy is shedding jobs. As the economy contracts and some industries become obsolete, other opportunities open up. This is one area of hope that’s brought to us by technological advancements such as 4IR which has not only forced a change in ways of operation in the workplace but has also presented a myriad of entrepreneurial opportunities for young people.”

Universities, therefore, need to create a curriculum that builds an entrepreneurially skilled cohort of graduates. It also needs to be designed in a way that graduates can easily adjust to the workplace and speedily become a productive pool of professionals.

It is for this reason that SincPoint in collaboration with African Women In Supply Chain Association (AWISCA) has just launched a youth entrepreneurship programme as part of their student chapter targeting young people in supply chain studies. The programme provides a platform that exposes them to global business thinking in procurement and logistics, with curated opportunities to network and engage with industry specialists, funders, possible networks and captains of industry. It is bolstered by the partnership between AWISCA and several South African universities including the University of Johannesburg and Vaal University of Technology.

“It needs to be a balance. Whilst the economy needs innovative and skilled graduates with a clear focus on entrepreneurship, a post-pandemic economy will equally need graduates with specific and specialised skills to work in a new and emerging economy. It is therefore up to universities to adjust to the immediate needs of the imminent future”, concludes Letsoalo.

Students can sign-up for the programme by following any of the following social media links:

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