HeiletBertrand_100.jpgAs we leave #youthmonth behind and move into July, it is a good time to consider the difference that procurement can make in the lives of South Africa’s youth. In this month’s SmartProcurement, Heilet Bertrand, Marketing Manager, Institute for Futures Research, University of Stellenbosch, takes a look at what procurement can do.

Youth Day (16 June) not only serves to commemorate the courageous actions taken by young people in 1976, but also as a reminder of the progress that South Africa has made towards the upliftment of the youth.

But what does the future hold for the youth of South Africa? What are the opportunities and risks facing the youth and can procurement really make a difference in their lives?

Looking at some of the numbers, the age groups 0-19 and 20-24 have been growing at a rapid rate – about 40% of our population is younger than 20. Despite UN projections showing a plateau in both of these age groups, we know that South Africa has major education challenges. We know that part of the challenge is for young people to prepare for the 4th Industrial Revolution and we also know that the unemployment rate for ages 15-29 is close to 50%.

SApopulation_500.jpgSo, there are many youth and they are dealing with many negatives. But what are the positives? What can procurement do?

Mentoring: what’s in it for me?
In a world of uncertainty, mentoring is a relationship that can change us. What makes mentoring different from any other professional relationship is that it is unconnected and free. It is a safe and trusted environment in which to learn and ask questions.

For a young person, there is a huge leap from going to school and university to actually functioning in the professional world. It is going from obtaining knowledge and learning theory to actually doing it. Mentoring helps the mentee with professional socialisation and support as well as allows the mentor to pass on their knowledge and enhance their profile while closing the gap between theory and practical application.

Procurement professionals should see the benefit of being a mentor. These benefits include experiencing a high level of personal satisfaction, knowing that you have helped develop the next generation of leaders, and a feeling of recognition and acknowledgement.

One of the key positives in South Africa is the demographic dividend. This is when the growth in the number of people of working age is higher than the average growth rate (and they have fewer dependants). If South Africa can capitalise on the window of opportunity that is created by this demographic dividend, the country could have a very positive future outlook.

The key challenge, however, will be to ensure that this group of working-age individuals are properly skilled and employable but, above all, have employment opportunities, especially in procurement.

Young people of today are mobile savvy and know how to work with technology. This means education via mobile devices is more possible than ever before. And, even though data is still expensive, data coverage has improved vastly. Therefore, young, unemployed people who are seeking to improve their skills now have the opportunity and access to do so. The challenge is whether they know how to make use of this opportunity.

It is important to mention that it is not only government’s responsibility to ensure that the demographic dividend opportunity is utilised. Business also has a huge role to play in leveraging this opportunity – regardless of whether this is through skills development or creating employment opportunities.

As a country, we need to stop paying lip service to entrepreneurship. Young people all over the world need to realise that no one owes them a job. However, government and business need to create better opportunities for access, seed money as well as a favourable environment for entrepreneurship to flourish.

The reality is that this window of opportunity will not last forever. If we as a country fail to properly train and enable young people, we might face the prospect of a social disaster.

This topic is also discussed in a video as part of the IFR/USB So what? series.

Heilet Bertrand is the Marketing Manager at the Institute for Futures Research, University of Stellenbosch. For more information about the Institute, please visit www.ifr.sun.ac.za.