Young South Africans need to change their mindset from looking for a job to creating jobs through starting their own businesses. This was the key message to emerge from the School Entrepreneurship Trust’s inaugural panel discussion held on Friday 6 December at the Bandwidth Barn in Cape Town.
The discussion was the culmination of the School Entrepreneurship Conference , held at the University of Cape Town (UCT) from 2 to 5 December 2013. The event, co-sponsored by Deloitte and the Technology Innovation Agency, brought together 100 high-school learners from disadvantaged communities to participate in lectures, workshops and a business pitch idea competition.
Marius Alberts, Deloitte’s regional leader in the Western Cape, said the high rate of unemployment among South Africa’s youth – currently at 48% – is cause for alarm. “The greatest challenge in fixing the youth unemployment crisis is to create more jobs,” he said. Alberts believes initiatives like the School Entrepreneurship Conference are vital to drive the change needed among the country’s youth.
Eugene Daniels, Deloitte Education Expert, previously the district director of the Western Cape Education Department, asserted that youth unemployment has reached crisis proportions. “Education has not kept up with developments in our global economy and educational standards remain mediocre, despite a huge investment in education,” he saiD.
Daniels believes that learners need to leave school with meaningful skills that allow them to “create their own jobs instead of joining the unemployment queue. Industry is crying out for learners with the necessary skills and appropriate attitudes,” he said. “We need to transform schooling so that it is more relevant to the world of work.”
“An entrepreneur is a change agent who wants to make a difference in the world,” asserted Alex McLeod, founding trustee of the School Entrepreneurship Trust at Friday’s panel discussion, which featured representatives from business, government and the non-profit sector. “The world’s most successful entrepreneurs all started young – some even from the age of eight or 10,” McLeod said. The former management consultant left his full-time job to pursue his dream of nurturing entrepreneurship among high-school learners.
The School Entrepreneurship Conference is now in its second year and there are plans to expand its scope, including a School Entrepreneurship Olympiad, run in association with UCT and Rhodes University.
Commenting on the School Entrepreneurship Conference, Alberts said it was initiatives like these that would act as catalysts to bring about change. “Globally, Deloitte aims to make a difference in the lives of more than one million young people by 2015,” he said.
“We aim to work alongside educators, non-profit leaders and the government to lead the development and delivery of solutions to local education and skills challenges.” He added that Deloitte-supported programmes are helping to develop citizenship, employability and professional and entrepreneurial skills designed to last a lifetime.
“We’re committed to making a positive impact in education and skills because society depends on the success of today’s young people. They must to be prepared to excel in today’s knowledge-based economy,” Alberts concluded.