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Youth unemployment poses a significant challenge in SA, but temporary employment services (TES) providers can make a substantial contribution in reversing the crisis.

TES providers can address youth unemployment and establish pathways to employment for the youth, using their expertise in workforce management and vast networks to connect young job seekers with temporary placement opportunities.

By doing so, young individuals are assisted in acquiring valuable work experience and developing essential skills, which can lay the groundwork for long-term career success. Through flexible workforce solutions and dedicated support for the youth, TES providers present a genuine solution to combat the youth unemployment crisis and contribute to the economic empowerment of SA’s younger generation.

Turning the tide on a socioeconomic crisis

Unemployment rates have climbed steadily in the past few years. However, in 2023 the unemployment rate among individuals aged 15 to 29 has surged to 62.1%. The effects of the Covid-19 pandemic on businesses have been devastating, characterised by retrenchments and cost-cutting measures, which, coupled with inflation and the rising cost of living, have all contributed to businesses downsizing. As a result, the reduction in business operations has had a direct effect on work opportunities, further worsening the issue of unemployment. TES providers are uniquely positioned to turn the tide on high youth unemployment. With expertise in supplying various industries with labour resources, they are familiar with industry requirements and have a clear understanding of where youth placement would be the most effective.

An age-old conundrum for young job seekers

For young people, it’s difficult to get a job without experience, and it’s even more difficult to gain work experience without a job, so these kinds of temporary placements are an inventive workaround for this age-old conundrum. Furthermore, such temporary placements are a brilliant way for young people to gain exposure to working in several industries in a way that wouldn’t be possible with permanent placements. Such variety can be beneficial in helping them choose a field or industry they’re best interested in, or at least rule out industries they’re not suited to. In addition to gaining work-specific experience, such temporary placements are also useful for new job seekers to acquire important soft skills.

Gaining skills and work experience

Such skills are often just as important as hard skills (technical skills) when it comes to getting hired. Many companies say they would rather hire someone with strong soft skills and the ability to learn hard skills on the job, than someone with strong hard skills and weak soft skills. For young job seekers, getting a foot in the door with one or more TES providers (even on a placement-by-placement basis) is much easier than trying to get a foot in dozens of doors, looking for permanent placement at a myriad of companies.

A tough market to crack without help

Job seeking these days is particularly tough, as the candidate market is flooded. Applying for jobs is a mammoth task, and often requires job seekers to register their CVs on multiple job portals. This requires internet access, and the time and ability to apply to dozens of jobs that often require a tailored cover letter or a written test to be completed and then there are the interview processes to consider, all of which can be fruitless and disheartening. By applying to a TES provider, young individuals can have the administrative burden of job-seeking taken out of the equation. Once they have been added to the database at a TES provider, they will be contacted when there's a specific vacancy or any opportunity for them.

Proactively tackling youth unemployment

In taking a proactive stance on addressing youth employment, TES providers can set specific targets within certain industries to ensure that they’re putting young people out into the job market. For example, where a provider has 25,000 people out in the field daily, by ensuring that 40% of those are young job seekers, that’s 10,000 young people a day, gaining work experience and the opportunity to earn an income. While sceptics might point out that these are only temporary placements that do not solve the need for permanent employment, it is important to acknowledge that the job market now is not the same as it was pre-pandemic. Even temporary work is better than no work. It’s still an opportunity to earn and contribute to their family’s income. Each temporary placement can be added to their resume, and goes to show their experience on the job, making them more employable in the future, should they choose to seek out permanent employment later.

Keeping up with change

It’s also important to note that not only has the job market changed, but job seekers themselves have changed. Flexible employment is better suited to younger individuals who might not be ready for permanent placement anyway, due to family or study commitments. The younger generations do not share the same attitudes to employment as their elders, and with temporary employment they can instead have access to several jobs and industries within a shorter time frame, working in various areas across several disciplines. Additionally, tertiary education straight out of school is not an option for many, and earning an income and gaining work experience, even on a temporary, project-by-project basis can be far more beneficial and life-changing than most people imagine.

• Lucinda Alfonica is regional legal manager at Workforce Staffing.

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