How to build a bridge for young graduates to get their first job

How to build a bridge for young graduates to get their first job

The gap between completing education and finding a job can be a chasm. From college to career, there has always been a period where graduates find it hard to get into the jobs they’ve trained for because companies demand an experience that these graduates don’t have.

It’s the chicken and the egg situation that can feel close to impossible for those entering the job market. This is a challenge echoed in a recent Nelson Mandela Foundation conversation that asked how companies and individuals can overcome the youth unemployment gap of 63.9%.

Young people want to work. They want and need the opportunity to flex their fledgling skill sets and gain professional traction.

Organisations need skills. According to the World Economic Forum (WEF), there is a critical shortage of the talent required to fill the gaps and keep businesses on the right track. The WEF believes that the solution lies in investing in workers and providing people with the opportunity to gain skills, reskill and upskill.

In short, breaking the barrier between education and employment is as simple and as complicated as providing young people with the opportunity to get practical experience. And the responsibility for this lies firmly in the hands of the private sector. Companies need to invest in programmes and opportunities that create a clear and direct route to long-term employment that empowers the youth. There has to be a dramatic shift away from the narrative of ‘not experienced enough’ towards ‘this is how to get the experience’.

Internships, graduate programmes and apprenticeships do offer a solid track for many, but they are usually reserved for those who have achieved the best results, and the highest marks.

This only serves to widen the gap for those whose skills don’t lie in high percentages. This introduces the need to provide young people with opportunities that give them practical experience within a professional environment. It will allow them to gain crucial skills around working with other people in real situations that ask them to flex their skills and grow as individuals.

This highlights another area that needs work – soft skills.

Many graduates don’t have any experience working with other people and managing multiple personality types, deadlines, and high-pressure working environments. Often, when they get a job, they fall at the first social hurdle as they don’t have the soft skills of collaboration, personal interaction and relationship-building.

Practical engagement for the youth must include the tools they need to build and maintain relationships so they can navigate the personal and political complexities of the average office and customer.

If companies can abseil down into the chasm and hold the space for graduates, then they will benefit immensely in the long term. The youth they bring into the business are going to be trained within that environment so they will gain an innate understanding of how the business works and the culture it upholds. It also has a significant impact on the communities within which the youth live, on the economy and on society as a whole.

Plus, and this is key – investing in young jobseekers and providing them with employment opportunities ensures business and societal sustainability. The older generation is easing out of the workplace, leaving giant gaps that have to be filled. If companies invest in subsequent generations, especially through mentorships, they will retain knowledge while ensuring sustainable growth.

That said, while companies have a critical role to play in opening the space for the youth, young people need to build on their skill sets by investing in themselves and creating their own opportunities.

It’s been obvious for a very long time that a university degree isn’t enough. So, young people need to get part-time jobs and do volunteer work and find novel ways of enhancing their skill sets so their CVs and their skills look enticing to future employers.

While there is no clear-cut way to build the bridge and remove the gap between education and employment, it is clear that finding a way is critical to the success of the companies and the country. The private sector needs to build programmes, open up mentorships and create success pathways, as these will benefit everyone in the long term.

This article was originally published on News24

Reach out to Philisa Mvunyiswa if you have any questions on this article.

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