Newly elected TUT Council member and Alumnus Pakiso Motau (26), is determined to make a change in graduate unemployment.
As said by Motau, the initiative is a graduate drive inspired by unemployed graduates of this people’s university looking for ways to help eradicate the high unemployment rate among young people.
According to Stats SA, the unemployment rate among the youth aged 15–24 years was 55,2% in the first quarter of 2019. Among graduates in this age group, 31,0% were not employed during this period, compared to 19,5% in the 4th quarter of 2018. This constitutes an increase of 11,4 percentage points quarter-on-quarter. However, the graduate unemployment rate is still lower than the rate among those with other educational levels, meaning that education is still the key to these young people’s prospects improving in the South African labour market.
Motau explained the purpose and goals of the initiative. “We engage stakeholders inside and outside the University to assist graduates through mentoring and equipping them with leadership skills, as well as making internships, job opportunities and business opportunities available,” he said.
He added that Step into the New Era aims to restore the dignity of graduates and give hope that education is still key to success and improving their prospects of finding jobs. “We will work closely with the University to empower its own graduates,” he added.
An important element of the initiative is to look after the emotional well-being and professional preparedness of unemployed graduates. This includes motivational talks to reduce depression graduates may suffer while looking for employment, helping to prepare professional CV’s and sharing relevant interview tips as well as assisting them to prepare for interviews. “We are still testing the initiative among unemployed TUT graduates. Based on the positive responses we have received so far, we plan to expand the programme to include other universities of technology, traditional universities and Tvet colleges,” he elaborated.
He said a number of things motivated him to launch this initiative, including the negative narrative that education is no longer the key to success because of the high unemployment rate. “This perception is based on a lack of information. There are many opportunities for graduates in private and public sector. The anxiety that they will not find employment and will have to return home after completing a qualification also played a role in starting the project. Many graduates don’t get employment because their CV’s don’t meet market requirements. Another obstacle is the inability to express themselves properly in job interviews. We are driven to help them become competitive and successful in the corporate world,” he explained.
Their plans include employing graduates to run the movement on a fulltime basis, as well as forming solid partnership with stakeholders interested in working with them. “As we speak, the department of Public Service and Administration (DPSA) has already committed to work with us. We want to get the President of the Republic and all government departments involved. In addition, we should to establish a proper database to able us to account for all unemployed graduates and bring the information to Government’s attention,” he said.
Motau added that they want to ensure graduates don’t feel they are alone, since Step into the New Era will be with them. “We call on all our alumni who are doing well in life to remember home. We have business people, directors and managers. We don’t say employ us because you know us, we only ask for proper opportunities, following regular HR processes, to show that we are capable and we can do anything. All our graduates need are opportunities,” he added.
He shared their success stories that already include graduates getting internships at well-known companies like Telkom, Standard bank and Municipalities.