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Fusing Entrepreneurship with Skills


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The development of skills is critical for any country to achieve its competitive edge and growth objectives. Earlier this year, a report published an array of skills that are scarce in South Africa. They include, but are not limited to, Networking and Information Security, Electrical Engineering, Mechanical Engineering, Finance and a wide range of ICT skills.

Many of us would argue that how can we have a shortage of skills when many of our graduates cannot find work? The obvious predicament is that are we teaching and equipping our students with the qualifications and skills that an ever-changing market needs – and are our tertiary curricula fast becoming redundant and irrelevant?

Even if so, these days, book-taught and practical skills are just not enough. Interpersonal and entrepreneurship skills are becoming must-haves too. Gone are the days when a company will hire you and molly-coddle you every step of the way, the working environment is just too competitive and jobs are limited. Companies want you to hit the ground running, think on your feet and find new ways of doing things – all for the betterment of the company’s bottom line.

Of course, relevant skills remain a key issue across the globe, especially in South Africa. Many recruiters that I have spoken to, lament on the need to attract not just the right kind of qualification, but the right kind of skill.

Recently, the Minister of Higher Education and Training gazetted the reestablishment of sector education and training authorities within the new SETA landscape. I perused the 24 page document that deals with the main activity descriptions and codes of the various qualifications under the various SETAS.

This was an eye-opener. The number of various job sectors and/or opportunities available to empower the unemployed is staggering. These include fertiliser production, financial administration, forest protection, lumber drying, earth crust drilling and the list just goes on and on…

The question that comes to mind is how can entrepreneurship be fused into all of this?

As a side-bar, a colleague of mine mentioned that the majority of these SETA courses are not new. This got me worried because I started wondering if most young people are even aware of these SETA opportunities that offer a plethora of skills training?

Back to my earlier point. Besides equipping them with skills, we have to make them entrepreneurial in how they deploy and exploit such. They must be confident risk-takers, innovators, disrupters and job creators.

Universities must also focus on building the entrepreneurial spirit and ensuring that students become future-fit and market savvy, after all they have a captive audience of young eager minds willing to contribute to both community and country. In this regard, I often ask my fellow young people what they are doing to achieve such and many do not have any answers.

Fusing entrepreneurship with market-relevant skills is crucial because it will help young people to be creative, confident and assertive with the willingness to learn, persevere and succeed.

Sometimes putting pride aside, being brave and taking a low-paying job just to get a foot in the door to the business arena is a great step towards the bigger picture. It’s better to learn something than nothing. Sadly, many young graduates want to start at the top from the get-go, yet the world doesn’t work that way and it never will.

We will not fix the job issues with qualifications only, skills (entrepreneurial) are very critical.

 Kizito Okechukwu is the co-Chair of the Global Entrepreneurship Network (GEN) Africa – 22 on Sloane is Africa’s largest startup campus.