Why are youth skills important to our work in South Africa?

Like most African countries, South Africa experiences high levels of poverty, inequality and access to opportunity for previously disadvantaged groups remains quite low, especially amongst the youth. Youth between the ages of 18 and 35 constitute 37% of the South African population, which was estimated at 58.78 million in 2019 (StatsSA).

This youth bulge presents both opportunity and risk in that there is access to a large work-able group that could help grow the economy but if not adequately skilled to meet economic demands, could miss the opportunity and become a major propellant of poverty. An estimated 41,7% of youth are not in employment, education or training and this makes their skills development quite imperative, not only to improve their prospects but to secure the success of the South African economy.

The British Council’s skills objective of building trust and international opportunities that support efforts to enhance the skills and employability of young people aims to address this and coincides with the national’s skills development vision of ‘a skilled and capable workforce that shares in, and contributes to, the benefits and opportunities of economic expansion and an inclusive growth path’. 

What have we as the British Council done to support youth skills?

Our Skills programmes in South Africa have been largely centered on building networks between South Africa and the United Kingdom, strengthening institutions and promoting dialogue between government, education and industry to deliver a quality Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) provision in order to promote positive outcomes for young people. We have delivered two projects to support the Department of Higher Education and Training’s (DHET) objective of quality post-schooling education and training. 

The Skills for Employability programme built the skills of young people and adults so they were able to work and compete in today’s globalized world. It did this by encouraging closer links between educational institutions and industry with a focus on strengthening the TVET sector. Established partnerships between SA and UK institutions collaborated on the development of new, industry-led curricula across a wide range of sectors, introduction of new and effective employer engagement approaches, enhancing leadership and management skills of senior managers and Principals in South Africa, continued professional development of practitioners, employability skills of students and helping to shape national skills strategies. 

In 2019/20, we delivered I-WORK (Improved Work Opportunities – Relayed Knowledge), which promoted collaboration between policymakers, public and private organisations and the vocational education sector in developing and piloting new approaches to demand-led education, specifically apprenticeships. I-WORK was a collaborative project across five countries; Ghana, India, Malaysia, SA and UK. The project prompted interrogation of our apprenticeship system as well as the merits of employer engagement in the delivery of the TVET provision. New approaches to employer-led training and employability of young people were implemented by six of South Africa’s TVET colleges resulting in relevant upskilling of the young people who participated and a digital guide to provide young people with information on apprenticeship was created and added to the government website.

What specific improvements in youth skills have we seen as a result of our work?

604 students from TVET colleges involved various pilots have either been employed, received workplace experience to complete their qualification or are apprentices, with potential for permanent employment. The strategies continue to benefit more students beyond the pilots.

65 new employers are actively involved in shaping the future of youth through education

579 lecturers have developed new approaches as well as been exposed to current industry equipment and technologies, improving teaching and learning and ultimately enhancing the skills qualifications of youth. 

89 young people have benefited from entrepreneurial support through incubators and mentorship, post-qualification and two have formalised their own business.

New curricula in renewable energy has been developed by two partnerships with the help of industry, which provided equipment for workshops and contributed to content development. This is now being delivered more widely in the colleges to create a pipeline of competent young people able to support the drive for cleaner energy. 

You can find out more about how our work in Skills Systems supports people of all ages to access and create meaningful employment via our website or by getting in touch with the team.

Staff from Northern Regional College (UK) and students at Vuselela TVET College (SA), at a soup kitchen