The National Youth Policy (NYP) for 2015–2020 (NYP 2020) was developed for young people in South Africa. It has a focus on redressing the wrongs of the past and addressing the specific challenges and immediate needs of the country’s youth.
Youth Empowerment Must Be a Consolidated Strategy
The National Youth Policy draws our attention to how the government has created a channel to address youth issues. Unemployment is a recurring theme as it remains impossible to solve. This is largely due to a lack of cohesively organised inter-departmental strategies. For example, the Department of Labour and Unemployment must publish a youth wage report. This will allow us to fully understand how the labour market values youth. But they don’t. Neither do youth employment channels such as Harambee.
Training Entrepreneurs Without Securing Investment
Entrepreneur training for youth is often doomed because there is often no strategy for entrepreneurship and startup.
For example, placing unemployed youth on New Venture Creation learnerships without securing start-up capital is not strategic or empowering. If anything, it reaps disempowerment and disillusionment. As unemployed youth will likely lack the social and financial capital to independently secure investment, which is not their fault. The blame lies with the SETA and training programme organisers. They should be required to address these weaknesses before implementing training.
National Youth Policy Intent
- NYP 2020 builds and improves upon South Africa’s first NYP, which covered the period 2009–2014.
- NYP 2020 seeks to create an environment that enables the young people of South Africa to reach their potential.
- It identifies the mechanisms and interventions that will act as catalysts to help clear critical blockages and achieve a positive environment.
- Outlines interventions to enable the optimal development of young people, both as individuals and as members of South African society, enhancing their capabilities to transform the economy and the country.
- To be an integrated development strategy, which will articulate in detail how the implementation of the interventions should be carried out,
- For the goals of the policy to be realised, the government will need to partner with all sections of society, including the private sector.
“Integrated, holistic and sustainable youth development, conscious of the historical imbalances and current imbalances and current realities, to build a non-sexist, non-racist, democratic South Africa in which young people and their organisations not only enjoy and contribute to their full potential in the social, economic and political spheres of life but also recognise and develop their responsibilities to build a better life for all.” National Youth Development Policy Framework Vison
NYP 2020 Goal
The goal is to consolidate youth initiatives that enhance the capabilities of young people to transform the economy and society. This will be achieved by:
- addressing their needs;
- promoting positive outcomes, opportunities, choices and relationships; and
- providing the support necessary to develop all young people, particularly those outside the social, political and economic mainstream.
This policy emphasises the need for various youth development efforts and interventions that holistically respond to all aspects or spheres of young people’s lives.
NYP 2020 Objectives
The objectives of the NYP 2020 are to:
- Consolidate and integrate youth development into the mainstream of government policies, programmes and the national budget.
- Strengthen the capacity of key youth development institutions and ensure integration and coordination in the delivery of youth services.
- Build the capacity of young people to enable them to take charge of their own well-being by building their assets and realising their potential.
- Strengthen a culture of patriotic citizenship among young people and to help them become responsible adults who care for their families and communities.
- Foster a sense of national cohesion, while acknowledging the country’s diversity, and inculcate a spirit of patriotism by encouraging visible and active participation in different youth initiatives, projects and nation-building activities.
Targeted Education and Training is Critical for Youth
The NYP paints a picture of opportunity for those organisations with a focus on capacitating youth. It illustrates why this group is listed as a primary target market amongst SETAs.
High drop-out rates and inadequate skills development
There is evidence that increasing the skills levels of young people increases their chances of being gainfully employed. The government, therefore, has a vested interest in funding training interventions and in incentivising businesses to likewise invest.
Low skills levels among youth and a weak pipeline for human capital development
The rates of participation in schooling have improved. But this gain is offset by the poor quality of education at all levels of the system. The skills pipeline is infested with obstacles that undermine unbiased access to opportunities in the labour market:
- Literacy and numeracy skills at primary school level are well below the international average. Poor-quality results in primary school lead to weak participation in other school levels.
- Low uptake and pass rates for mathematics and science at Grade 12 level inhibit growth in higher education, particularly in engineering, science and technology.
- About 47% of 22 to 25-year-olds in the country have completed Grade 12, compared to 70% in most developing countries. The pass rate decreased in three provinces (Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and the Northern Cape).
- Large numbers of learners are dropping out of secondary schools without getting a National Senior Certificate or Grade 12, or an FET or adult basic education and training qualification.
- About 1 million young people exit the schooling system annually, of whom 65% leave without achieving a Grade 12 certificate.
- Half of those who exit the schooling system do so after Grade 11, either because they do not enrol in Grade 12 or they fail Grade 11.
- Participation rates in FET institutions have grown significantly, but they are still insufficient in number and quality to meet the intermediate skills needs of the economy.
- Only a small number of those who leave the schooling system enrol in technical vocational education and training (TVET) colleges or have access to any post-school training.
- In 2011, only 115 000 people enrolled in general vocational programmes at FET colleges.
Enhancing Access to Post-school Education and Training
Access to post-school education and training is limited for school leavers. Those who do access these opportunities are often not sufficiently prepared for the workplace due to the poor quality of training provided. The situation is compounded by the fact that career development services are inadequate. There is no national campaign promoting occupational training for those who cannot pursue more traditional study paths. Teachers don’t know about apprenticeships, learnerships and the skills development strategy.
National Youth Policy Power
The NYP states that the challenge facing post-school education is to find ways to assist the vast majority of school-leavers who do not qualify for direct entry into higher education or employment to gain skills. They need to start this by capacitating current teachers and the university lecturers who groom future teachers. Teachers need to receive Skills Development training to understand how SETAs and the broader policy environment can advantage youth development.
The youth policy can prioritize expanding access to quality education and skills training programs for young people. This can include:
- multi-purposing schools as vocational training centres,
- empowering youth-led private training providers, and
- providing scholarships, bursaries, and financial support to ensure that young people have the opportunity to acquire relevant skills and knowledge.
NYP can Promote Monitoring and Evaluation of Education, Training and Youth Wages
The policy should include mechanisms for monitoring and evaluating the effectiveness of training and development programs targeting young people. Tracer studies tracking the impacts of education and training on improving livelihood security and wages should be prioritised.
These studies can help identify areas of improvement, assess the impact of interventions, and ensure that resources are allocated efficiently. By monitoring the outcomes of training and development initiatives, the policy can be refined and adjusted to better meet the needs of South Africa’s youth.
Higher Education Requires Bigger Bursaries
Poor completion in higher education affects the supply of high-level, skilled graduates. Since access to scholarships and bursaries for Masters and Doctorate studies is weak and no practical strategy is in place to produce more Black academics – it’s more difficult for those from marginalised communities to study at these levels. Bursaries often fail to include a living allowance which makes studying unsustainable.
Barriers to Employment: Promoting youth entrepreneurship and job creation
South Africa’s high rate of youth unemployment is largely attributed to the skills shortage in this age group. The policy can encourage the development of entrepreneurial skills among young people and create an enabling environment for youth-led businesses. This can be done through the provision of business development support, access to funding, mentorship programs, and the establishment of youth-friendly policies and regulations. By promoting entrepreneurship, the policy can help young people become job creators rather than job seekers.
- In 2011, only 31% of young people completed their matric (Grade 12) education.
- Even though most students were Black, the student participation rate of this population group remained proportionally low in comparison with the Indian, Asian and white population groups.
- The percentage of individuals aged 20 years and older who have attained Grade 12 has been growing since 2002, increasing from 21.9% in 2002 to 27.7% in 2013.
- Over the same period, the percentage of individuals with some post-school education increased from 9.3% to 12.8%.
- The percentage of individuals without any schooling decreased from 10.6% in 2002 to 5.6% in 2013.
- This indicates that access to schooling is increasing, but not enough young people in the post-school phase are gaining training in the different skills needed to participate in the knowledge economy.
Creating Career Pathways for School Leavers With and Without Matric
Large numbers of young people exited the education system prematurely and possess no professional or technical skills, making them effectively unemployable.
- About 60% of unemployed youth aged below 35 years have never worked. Without a targeted intervention, they will remain excluded from the economy.
- A multi-faceted approach is needed to strengthen basic education and reduce dropout rates for current students.
- It has to create viable pathways for school-leavers to access post-school learning opportunities, while directly addressing the lack of skills and work experience among out-of-school youth.
Training Strategies Must Be More Competitive
Skills development providers should use these factors to inform their business strategies and build leverage. Although the Department of Higher Education is pushing for increased funding allocations to TVET colleges and a reduction in the perks previously offered to business – it should be noted that these colleges are not as agile as smaller training providers.
Training providers should consider evolving their business focus and competing where the colleges can’t. Most private providers have a more comprehensive business database and existing business networks at their disposal to tap into for on-the-job experience.
FET colleges are notorious for struggling to establish these relationships as academics often have very little authority in the real-world work scenario.