Sowing the Seeds for Youth Development
Sowing the seeds for youth development not only involves a commitment to lifelong learning to enhance business knowledge, it also focuses on understanding the dynamics of self employment and relevant responsibilities to employees, customers, and suppliers. Most young people today are ready and willing to dive into employment of any sort or explore promising self-employment opportunities to build livelihood resilience, yet many lack basic personal, social and life skills that will allow them to become knowledgeable and responsible adults with the capacity to make a difference in uplifting their communities and contributing to the economy. Many young entrepreneurs fail to develop highly potential ideas to start a business because they lack adequate funding. Industry leaders advise that young entrepreneurs need to build their own support network to expand their business knowledge, skills and experience. Nobody is going to hand it to you on a silver platter. Besides, you don’t need a million rand to start a business. Starting a business is a do-it-yourself project, and young entrepreneurs must not expect individuals and institutions to fall over themselves to offer support.
For young people to become knowledgeable, they must be self-motivated to pursue purposeful learning and forego an entitlement mentality of believing the world owes them something. A common catchphrase today seems to be “government or the private sector must do something” when instead the responsibility lies with the individual. Young people must acquire both inter-personal and employability skills – by their own volition – that would give them a reasonable chance of making their way through life as parents, workers, entrepreneurs and active citizens within their community.
While literacy and numeracy are key life skills that impact all aspects of life, the most important life skill is the ability to learn. For young people to become responsible, they need to recognize the difference between strengths and weaknesses, threats and opportunities, and be capable of consequential thinking and problem recognition to facilitate choosing actions and behaviors that will serve not only their own interests but also those of others.
Important lessons include how to think and act with confidence in themselves and respect for other people. However, there is wide recognition that many young people today fail to understand the significance of integrity, self-control and self-respect. Many are enticed by illicit activities as a quick and easy way to make money. These involvements are strongly motivated by rebellion against society that has failed to meet their normal expectations of acquiring essential skills and “getting a job”. Work is an important part of every person’s life; it defines who we are socially; for young people, acquiring essential skills to find a stable position symbolizes the transition from childhood to adulthood. But job opportunities for unskilled youth are few and far between. Young people find it embarrassing when friends or family members ask what they’re doing; this “status frustration” often leads to rebellious behavior.
Young people, through example, must be taught to recognize and express appreciation for others’ talents and skills and volunteer to assist those less fortunate than themselves, which in itself is an opportunity to gain life experience. Volunteering also promotes skill development, socialization, allows one to test-the-waters before selecting a field of further study or a vocation. In the strictest terms, society judges a person’s worth by their ability to participate in the economy. In today’s economic climate it is viewed as a setback when someone doesn’t have a job (or at least a set of in-demand job skills), or has little or no employment history.
While it might be hard to break out of this paradigm, it is imperative that our nation’s human capital – young adults, men, women and disabled persons – are afforded every opportunity to receive a well-rounded education, access to vocational training, re-skilling, mentoring in entrepreneurship, and on-the-job training as an apprentice or intern to smooth the progress of work readiness. Similarly, jobseekers today must recognize that they can no longer depend wholly on outside sources to grow their skills repertoire; they need to make an effort to understand market dynamics and adopt a philosophy of lifelong self-learning. This may necessitate enrolling for short courses, attending workshops, testing-the-waters by volunteering, or working ad-hoc for companies.
A good starting point is to learn from books to at least grasp the relevant terminology and basic theory of a chosen occupation, followed by working for little or no pay at the start to gain job experience as a volunteer or apprentice. Work Readiness must be based on acquiring relevant “soft skills” to help jobseekers build confidence in finding a job; it involves building on strengths and opportunities to continually expand knowledge, and on overcoming shortfalls that obstruct the switch from being unemployable to landing a job with ongoing prospects or running a business.
Soft Skills entail the collection of personality traits that endear a person as a valued employee (or successful entrepreneur), including integrity, friendliness, language competency, being financially literate, receptivity to training, and an optimistic attitude. Employers also look for the ability to work well in teams; self-management; positive work ethic; problem solving and decision making; communication; flexibility to adapt to change; punctuality; good personal appearance; ability to relate to colleagues in a close working environment; critical thinking, willingness to work hard; and a staff member who is prepared to go “the extra mile” when necessary.
Most young people on their way to adulthood, at times struggle with self-doubt. It is therefore imperative that family and community members support the process of youth development through active participation. Empowerment is an effective strategy for providing young people with opportunities to develop competence through independent project-based learning. This however does not mean relinquishing all guidance, but rather shared responsibility as a means of teaching young people the rules of the employment and entrepreneurship while simultaneously allowing them to expand their minds to think beyond what they normally would. Empowerment leads to competence and competence is linked to self-esteem that allows individuals to assume increased responsibility, positive values, social competencies, and a positive personal identity.