Skills development body: SA needs to urgently address mismatch in labour market

The country’s youth unemployment (youth being those aged between 15-34) rate currently sits well over 65%. According to Stats SA, 32.8% of all those aged between 15-24 were not in education, employment or training.

FILE: CHIETA CEO Yershen Pillay. Picture: chieta.org.za/

JOHANNESBURG - South Africa has become infamous for being one of the most unequal countries in the world. The latest unemployment statistics from earlier this year revealed that the country’s rate now sits at 35.3%, placing us as the number one country on the continent with the highest unemployment rate.

The country’s youth unemployment rate (youth being those aged between 15-34) currently sits well over 65%. According to Stats SA, 32.8% of all those aged between 15-24 were not in education, employment or training.

According to Yershen Pillay, chief executive of the Chemical Industries Education and Training Authority, a statutory body established the Skills Development Act in 1998 to ensure that the country's needs were known and used to create various training initiatives in the chemical and manufacturing industries, says the high unemployment rates require action on the part of government, business, and civil society. According to Pillay, South Africa’s skills development landscape is vast and fragmented, with multiple stakeholders from skills development providers to skills authorities such as CHIETA.

“Recent data from the Boston Consulting Group suggested that South Africa had the largest share of mismatched workers, at a staggering 50% of 30 emerging market economies. The skills mismatch is a root cause and one of the main contributing factors to the high unemployment rate in the country,” he said.

Pillay says by focusing on the skills mismatch as a root cause of the unemployment problem, this leads to a series of questions: “Does South Africa need a grand strategy on skills matching and what would that look like? How do we promote local and international collaboration in addressing the skills mismatch in South Africa? Does South Africa need a ‘Skills City’ in every province to bring together the local and international skills community for more positive results? How we bridge the digital skills divide between urban and rural?”

Pillay proposes a dedicated skills city. “To bridge the digital skills, divide between urban and rural may require SMART Skills Centres in every corner of the country. This could form the pillars of a grand strategy aimed at enabling skills development for the future of work.

“The concept of SMART skills centres is aimed at bridging the digital skills divide by taking skills development and training directly to rural communities. In this way, the cost burden placed on poor learners such as transport and data costs are eradicated, and learners are more engaged through the immersive skills experience.”