Why does it seem difficult for Grade 12 Learners to Find a Job?

It is difficult for Grade 12 learners to find a job in South Africa primarily due to a lack of work experience, insufficient skills, and economic challenges.

For many Grade 12 learners in South Africa, finding a job after completing school can be particularly challenging. Several factors contribute to this difficulty, supported by specific statistics and evidence:

Lack of Experience

  1. No Work Experience: According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) – Q1: 2024, the official unemployment rate was 32.9% in the first quarter of 2024. Many Grade 12 learners lack work experience, which is a critical factor for many employers when hiring, even for entry-level positions.
  2. Limited Internships: Programs like the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) offer limited internship opportunities, and not all high school graduates are aware of or have access to these opportunities, resulting in fewer chances to gain practical work experience.
  3. Employer Preferences: Companies like Shoprite and Pick n Pay often prefer candidates with prior retail experience for entry-level jobs. This preference puts recent school leavers at a disadvantage as they compete with more experienced candidates.

Insufficient Skills

  1. Skills Gap: The World Economic Forum’s Global Competitiveness Report highlights that South Africa ranks poorly in terms of the quality of its education system, particularly in math and science. This skills gap means that high school graduates often do not possess the technical skills required for many jobs in fields such as engineering or information technology.
  2. Soft Skills: Research by the Human Sciences Research Council (HSRC) indicates that employers find many young job seekers lacking in essential soft skills such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, which are critical for workplace success.
  3. Specialized Knowledge: Many positions require specific training or qualifications beyond what is offered in high school. For instance, jobs in the healthcare sector often require post-secondary education and specialized training.
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Economic Factors

  1. High Unemployment Rate: South Africa’s overall unemployment rate was 32.9% in Q1 2024, according to the QLFS. This high rate affects all job seekers, especially those with only a high school diploma, as they compete with more qualified candidates.
  2. Economic Downturns: The COVID-19 pandemic severely impacted the South African economy, leading to job losses and hiring freezes. The National Income Dynamics Study (NIDS) – Coronavirus Rapid Mobile Survey (CRAM) indicated that about 3 million jobs were lost between February and April 2020 alone.
  3. Informal Sector Dominance: According to Stats SA, about 27.9% of employment in South Africa is in the informal sector. The QLFS reported a decrease in informal sector employment by 100,000 in Q1 2024. Jobs in this sector often do not require formal applications and may rely on personal networks and referrals, which Grade 12 learners might not have.

Lack of Career Guidance and Resources

  1. Inadequate Career Counseling: Many schools, particularly in rural areas, lack comprehensive career counseling services. According to the DBE’s School Monitoring Survey (2017), only 32% of schools had adequately resourced career guidance programs.
  2. Limited Access to Resources: Learners from disadvantaged backgrounds might not have access to resources such as the internet, career fairs, and job placement services. For example, Statistics South Africa reported that only 10% of households in rural areas had access to the internet in 2019.
  3. Awareness of Opportunities: Many Grade 12 learners are not fully aware of various career opportunities, especially in non-traditional fields or emerging industries. Programs like Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator help raise awareness but reach a limited number of youths compared to the demand.
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Strategies to Overcome These Challenges

  1. Gain Experience: Participating in part-time jobs, volunteer work, or internships can help build a resume. Programs like the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative offer valuable work experience.
  2. Skills Development: Enrolling in short courses or vocational training programs can bridge the skills gap. Institutions like TVET colleges and online platforms such as Coursera and Udemy offer affordable courses.
  3. Networking: Building a professional network through family, friends, community organizations, and social media platforms like LinkedIn can open up job opportunities.
  4. Career Services: Utilizing career services offered by schools, community centers, or online platforms like MyFuture can provide guidance on job search strategies, resume building, and interview skills.

Finding a job as a Grade 12 learner in South Africa is challenging due to a combination of lack of experience, insufficient skills, economic factors, and limited career guidance. However, by understanding these challenges and actively working to overcome them through gaining experience, developing skills, networking, and utilizing available resources, Grade 12 learners can improve their chances of finding employment.