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JESSICA HAWKEY | Hiring eager youth and being diverse can grow firms

File photo.
File photo.
Image: 123RF/Martin Bergsma

While there is no doubt that young people need more job opportunities, the challenge, from a business perspective, is finding sufficiently skilled people to come into a business and make an almost immediate contribution to the company. Through providing experiential software development experience combined with theory, organisations can hire skilled staff and be certain that they have a sustainable succession plan.

At the same time, having diverse voices around the table is key for any organisation’s growth because it brings with it different ways of seeing opportunities, threats, weaknesses and strengths. In SA, we are blessed with a multitude of different people from across the spectrum of society, providing alternative perspectives on key business aspects. 

We have all seen South Africans stand together in times not only of gees and celebration, but also when it comes to adversity. Springbok jerseys were the order of the day whenever we played in the recent Rugby World Cup and the country cheered almost as never before when we brought the trophy home for the fourth time since the dawn of democracy.

There is no reason why this "can do" attitude cannot be brought into the boardroom and in every other aspect of a business, helping bring more young people into the work environment. As Harambee rightfully points out, inclusive hiring of those who wish to make an impact on the company is a good business strategy and just makes business sense, as it tends to result in less absenteeism, increased staff retention and improve a company’s reputation – both of which aid in increased productivity and revenue.

Inclusive hiring at all levels of an organisation also benefits the broader economy by helping tackle SA’s socio-economic woes. The economy is only expected, as per National Treasury, to grow 0.8% this year, while 7.9 million South Africans are unemployed and another 13.3 million have given up looking for jobs.

When it comes to the younger age groups, those who either didn’t finish school or only have a matric, have higher levels of unemployment than the average level in SA. The unemployment situation will intensify if something is not done urgently to provide skills to future leaders and give them the opportunity to uplift themselves and their families. By 2030, young Africans will make up 42% of those across the globe, according to the World Economic Forum.

After leaving school, 3.5 million youth are not in any system of further education, employment or training – excluded for one reason or another from the institutions that are meant to help them move into the formal economy, as well as benefiting their families and the broader community.

Bringing eager youth into a live training environment, where they earn their once-off tuition fee back over the course of the year as their stipend, is a solid solution for unemployment that all companies can embrace. At the same time, it brings valuable diversity into an organisation, through which companies can grow and prosper because they include all South Africans.

Such a programme, as has been our experience, aligns new hires with organisational culture and expectations. An emphasis on soft skills, professional development and technical training ensures that candidates are better equipped to integrate seamlessly into work cultures and fulfil their roles effectively.

Youngsters can help companies improve time to productivity as, with prior training, they require less time to adapt to work environments, understand processes, and contribute effectively. This translates into faster project ramp-up times and quicker delivery of results.

Embracing inclusivity, including candidates from diverse income backgrounds and fostering a workforce with a blend of practical skills and technical knowledge not only promotes innovation and creative problem-solving but also has a positive economic impact by uplifting communities, reducing disparities and providing opportunities for individuals from various backgrounds to thrive in the workplace.

  • Hawkey is MD of redAcademy

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