Bursaries will create the opportunities our youth needs

B-BBEE funded bursaries are the answer to South Africa’s staggering youth unemployment rate

How can we fix youth unemployment in South Africa? One of the greatest challenges we face, has been called a ticking time bomb on more than one occasion. It reverberates throughout our society through campaigns such as the 2015/16 #FeesMustFall as well as recurring university protests. These are clear indications that our youth are fed up – they are desperate to access higher education but frustrated that while promises are made, nothing has changed.

Sean Sharp, Executive Head of Sales for EduPower Skills Academy, understands this frustration. He believes the exponential change that is needed to create opportunities for our youth is readily available through B-BBEE funded bursaries. In fact, he applauds the changes Government has made to B-BBEE to facilitate this.

“No one should have their education limited due to a lack of household income. One of the most important benefits of bursaries is that they give us engineers, nurses, lawyers and office workers from backgrounds that would make traditional higher education impossible to access,” says Sean. “By making more company-sponsored bursaries available through B-BBEE, the Government is ensuring that we have more people in these professions which is better for us as a society and provides the skills needed to support South African businesses.”

Sean explains why he believes bursaries are the most powerful mechanism available to create opportunities for South Africa’s youth:

1. Talent management

Human talent management is one of the most important strategies in a company. Businesses that invest in identifying and attracting the best talent are often seen as the most successful. But outstanding talent is rare and with demand outstripping supply, recognising raw talent for the future and ensuring their development through bursaries is critical. So it is one of the most cost-effective forms of talent management and targetting young potential can provide not only brand ambassadors who are aligned to the company culture but a competitive edge too.

2. Building a Talent Pipeline

Bursaries also give companies the opportunity to develop future skills. South Africa has lagged behind the world in terms of the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR). Developing skills and ensuring the infrastructure exists for our youth to become immersed in the 4IR space is now crucial if South African business is to remain relevant in the rapidly advancing technological world. Bursaries combined with the relevant resources are therefore the best way to accelerate our access to the huge unexplored potential talent pool in the 4IR space.

3. Maximising potential through mentorship

Most bursary beneficiaries are young and lack life and work experience. If we only provide financial support, we are doing them an injustice as many of the beneficiaries may find it difficult to cope with the pressure and may drop out. At EduPower we’ve found that ongoing mentoring and life coaching throughout the programme is essential to help our bursary candidates navigate the skills development journey. More importantly, it helps them blossom, to achieve their full potential and unleash their creativity to become innovators.

4. Reduced dependence on the State

South Africa is a developmental economy where a significant part of the population is reliant on government grants or aid for their basic needs. Those who lack skills live on the margins of the economy and as a consequence are marginalised by society too. The more skilled our nation becomes, the less their dependence on the state, allowing Government to focus more resources on infrastructure development and creating an enabling environment for the stimulation of sustainable economic growth.

Sean says that bursaries have the potential to make the impact and transformation that is needed to change the youth unemployment trajectory.

“Bursaries are the most powerful mechanism we have to change the prospects for our youth. It’s all about the student and equipping them with meaningful skills and experience to give them the best possible start to their careers. By ensuring their economic mobility, we can transform their future and move South Africa forward.”

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