In the recent Mauritian Budget Speech address, the escalating youth unemployment rate was highlighted as an area of concern. The unemployment rate in Mauritius went down from 7.1% in 2017 to 6.9% in 2018. However, of that 6.9%, 25.1% are youth aged 16 to 24 years. According to the Statistics Institute, there’s been an increase from 24.9% unemployed young people in 2017 to 25.1% in 2018. And a number of those struggling to find work are graduates.
Why? Marietjie van der Merwe, Managing Director of Global Natives Ltd in partnership with USB-ED, says she believes these are some of the causes of unemployment:
1. The type of employment young people are looking for. Mauritius has a telling shortage of homegrown workers to fill less-skilled roles, with much of this kind of labour fulfilled by individuals from overseas.
2. There’s also not that much interest from young people in vocational roles like being a plumber, electrician or carpenter. In the Budget Speech, it was indicated government is working to increase vocational training offerings, which should catalyse more interest in these professions.
3. The education system is failing to prepare young people adequately for the requirements of the ICT (Information and Communications Technology) sector, which means the country is having to import skills. The skills of young graduates aren’t matching with market gaps.
Van der Merwe says that the government has invested in myriad programmes as solutions to youth unemployment, however, these rely on strong public-private partnerships and buy-in from participating corporates to make them count. “These government initiatives aim to close national capability gaps through training and skill matching. Several of them – like the Youth Employment Programme (YEP) – place young people within a private company. The company can then claim back part of individual’s stipend and training expenses.”
She says that the government provides a platform for addressing graduate and youth unemployment as well as addressing the skill scarcity in certain sectors. However, it is very important that corporates are involved in ensuring they’re actively mentoring and upskilling young people in exchange for their time and talent. Much of this mentoring and upskilling can be achieved through executive education, “Irrespective of whether a company is partnering with the government or not, it has a responsibility to invest in young talent. One of the best ways to do so is by offering its emerging leaders’ access to continuous learning opportunities, training, coaching and mentorship.”
Here are a few ways van der Merwe believes corporates can help equip young people for long-term employability through executive education. Note, it’s not just youth who should receive training but their line managers as well, in order to be the coaches and mentors that young people need.
1. Instill immediately applicable skills: Theoretical knowledge doesn’t always lend itself to real-world application. Mentorship and coaching can help bridge the gap by enabling young graduates to apply technical skills in a workplace context. It also helps young people familiarise themselves with the company culture and quality expectations.
2. Ensure a sense of purpose is instilled: This cannot be underestimated. By asking more established leaders in a business to informally and formally guide and mentor millennials and Gen Z-ers, you’re giving all parties a clear sense of purpose. Mentors can share their knowledge and experience. Mentees get the chance to gain the soft and hard skills required to excel in key roles down-the-line. Both can learn from each other and inter-generational relationships are forged. Mentorship also needs to link mentees to the business’ overarching objectives and strategy. Additionally, it should be a platform for creativity and for young people to become part of the decision-making process.
3. Focus on soft skills: Soft skills like creativity, collaboration and complex problem solving are pivotal in the digital age. [...]
4. Encourage collaboration: One of the big problems with school education is that it can create a kind of competitiveness. ‘I need to be the best, so my knowledge is my knowledge and I won’t share it’. In a business, failure to share knowledge can be fatal. So, it’s vital silos are broken down and cross-departmental collaboration is encouraged.
5. Stress innovation and design-thinking: It’s not enough to just have great ideas. Young people need to know how to present, develop and package ideas to progress them to execution phase.
6. Build entrepreneurial mind-sets: [...] It’s not just about developing a great product or service – it’s also about ‘selling’ it. For example, if you build an app, you also need to know how to get stakeholders to engage with it. As SMEs account for 50% of employment in Mauritius, its crucial more people are encouraged to start ventures and are supported in their journeys to making these sustainable in the long-term.
7. Inspire the desire for high EQ: Often, young people in their 20s and 30s are promoted to managerial roles due to their technical prowess. They might not have the emotional maturity and EQ for these positions, which is where ongoing learning – of self, first and foremost – comes into play.
8. Succession planning: All businesses need a strategic agenda when it comes to talent management and succession planning. Young talent needs to be identified early on to be groomed for key positions. This takes a shift, enabling the talent stream to move from an operational mind-set to an ability to think strategically and to engage in insightful decision-making processes.
9. Bring in the big guns: A smart idea could be for businesses to work with highly successful retirees – many of whom settle in Mauritius. It could be fruitful to provide a mentorship platform to pair participating retired folk with top young talent to capture that knowledge.
Van der Merwe believes that going forward, opportunities for unemployed youth will primarily be found in the tourism, textile and finance industries, plus through digital solutions in different sectors. The government’s recent budget speech also emphasized the need for universities to train young people in AI in order to be future-fitand to integrate them in the SME sector.
“Equipping young people with relevant capabilities for these industries starts at school level and continues into tertiary education. Once employed, it’s also vital individuals are given ongoing opportunities to refresh skillsets to remain relevant and engaged.”
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