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Labour prospects grim for matriculants: Economist

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Prospects are not looking too great for recent matric graduates seeking to enter the job market, especially in light of a worsening economic situation in the country. With several union strikes, price hikes, and an ongoing electricity crisis at South Africa’s sole energy provider, Eskom, job opportunities have become few and far between.

“Prospects don’t look fantastic; in fact they look pretty dismal. This means that those matriculants who now have a certificate are going to proudly say “now I qualify for a job”. I’m afraid that is not so,” stressed Ian Cruickshanks, an economist at the Institute of Race Relations (IRR).

This bleak assessment was largely based on the fact that the level of education encompassed in matric to prepare students for the labour market, was woefully short of standard. Furthermore, the majority of these students were unlikely to gain entry into a tertiary institute such as a university, due to the quality of their pass mark.

But things were not all doom and gloom, with Cruickshanks suggesting these students show some level of entrepreneurship instead.

“I think that it is time to say that not everybody is going to be a doctor, lawyer, or high flying technical wizard. What we have to say is that it is better to be a carpenter, a bricklayer, a plumber. Concentrate on priorities. Concentrate on restoring their own dignity, contributing to their ability to survive and provide for themselves, and contribute to their families,” he said.

Because of a lack of openings in many of these fields, he said it would be wiser for students to take the initiative on the road to entrepreneurship.

“It is no good knocking on the door of all the big corporations of South Africa. They are all downsizing,” he explained.

Cruickshanks said the reality was that the job market had changed to a point where people were no longer able to start at the bottom of the chain, slowly working their way to the top of a company or business. This was because many big companies were finding it better to avoid the escalating cost of manual labour, by going the route of mechanics instead.

“I’m afraid it is not going to get any easier. That is why one has to be a bit different in the approach that one takes,” he said.

And although recommending students enter the job market in this manner, he said it would be equally important to supplement work with some form of tertiary education. This would potentially open better opportunities for them in the future. VOC (Mubeen Banderker)

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