I feel great sympathy for young people, both black and white, because getting a job is hard for them today.
Advances in technology have led to jobless growth. This has particularly affected entry-level jobs in all business sectors. But there is, and always will be, a demand for people who can make and fix things. Yet this seems to be a direction that is largely ignored.
When I was in standard 8 (grade 10), there were three classes at that level at my school. It was the year in which the boys turned 16 and at the end of which an external exam was written in the Cape Province. Those that passed received a Junior Certificate. There was much talk about leaving school (you could at 16) and it was about a third that did. There were only two classes for the standard 9 and 10 years.
Where did those who left go? At that time in Uitenhague the biggest employers were Volkswagen, Goodyear, and the large SA Railways workshops. Most of those who left entered apprenticeships with these organisations.
Did this mean that they had chosen a lesser direction in life? I don’t think so. On attending school reunions after 10 and 25 years there were no differences, certainly at a financial level. Among those who had completed matric and gone on to university there were a few doctors, lawyers, engineers and those who had senior positions in business. Among those who had left at the age of 16 there were many business owners and those who had moved on to more senior positions in technical areas.
I think there is a lot of snob appeal in the pursuit of a degree rather than the pursuit of a useful education.
Incidentally, a boy who had stayed on to standard 10 but failed (in those days your position in class was shown on your report – he always came last) also did not do military service as he had health problems. Some of us did wonder what would become of him. But, on return from their military service those who had stayed in that town were amazed. He had started his own business and was flourishing and does to this day. I must add that he had had no help from his family. This speaks loudly to the need to light the entrepreneurial spark in children while they are still at school.
I was pleased to see that the ANC conference seemed to accept the ‘youth wage subsidy’ despite the ongoing opposition of Cosatu who feel it will be detrimental to their members. I hope that the youth who enter employment under this scheme receive training in technical areas.
This is what we need in South Africa.