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New technical educations create opportunities for South Africa’s unemployed youth

Targeted vocational training as a tool to beat skyrocketing unemployment rate
Af DI & 3F

South Africa has one of the world’s highest rates of youth unemployment. In 2019, more than a third of South Africans between 15 and 34 were neither in work nor education or training. Targeted vocational training is a new tool to change that. The first participants are enthusiastic.

“When you are unemployed, there is no simpler way to explain the feeling – it’s sad,” tells Elijah Mohale who was unemployed until recently: “I am 33 years old now, and I don’t have anyone to financially help me. Even having food in your house can be quite a mission.”

Elijah Mohale has a certificate in civil engineering, but a prestigious qualification has not helped him find a decent job. As is often the case in Africa, engineers or lawyers are not in high demand. Instead, companies are looking for people with specific, technical skills and workplace experience.

Short vocational trainings in selected sectors

To address this problem, the Confederation of Danish Industry (DI) and 3F have partnered with local labour market and corporate partners to create the “Installation, Repair and Maintenance Initiative”, which offers vocational training to casual workers and unemployed youth like Elijah Mohale.

The programme consists of 12 weeks’ intense training at a vocational college with a focus on in-demand skills like electricity and plumbing as well as work-readiness. This is followed by at least six months of workplace-based learning. In this way, the programme can act as a fast track to decent jobs for South Africans who do not have the opportunity to complete years of vocational education.

Education developed in close collaboration with the private sector

The new vocational trainings have been developed in close cooperation between the vocational colleges and the private sector. This is an important breakthrough in South Africa where the private sector do not traditionally work with technical and vocational colleges. The approach has been developed with counsel from DI and 3F and inspiration from the Danish system.

Over the course of the four-year project, the partners behind the Initiative are creating five new vocational training programmes that match concrete needs on the labour market. 1,500 South Africans will have completed one of these programmes in 2022.  

Upon completion of the training, 50% of the graduates are expected to be in relevant employment. Elijah Mohale who currently is doing his workplace-based learning with an employer has become optimistic about his future:

“I am happy and confident, that when I do go to a workplace, I will definitely show them everything I have learned.”