Enterprising School Leavers

Enterprising School Leavers
Learning Brief

Beautiful Gate South Africa

Addressing the issues of unemployment and poor career guidance

Category: Enterprising School Leavers | Employment/education opportunities for particularly vulnerable groups | 26 August, 2012 - 13:02



Recent statistics released by the Institute of Race Relations show that 51% of South Africans between the ages of 15-29 are unemployed. This equates to almost half of the youth population. This percentage consists of many school-leavers with matric and tertiary qualifications. In this age group, the number of unemployed African women is 63% of the total. Each and every year, there are large numbers of young people who are passing their matric year with no clear direction of how they will find employment opportunities afterwards. There are many reasons linked to this problem, of which a lack of career guidance in schools is the most common.

The well-publicised incident by student and parents which took place earlier this year in January outside the University of Johannesburg (UJ) premises indicates the level of desperation as well lack of information. This incident led to the death of a parent due to a desperate mass of prospective students fighting to be able to apply for tertiary education.  Due to young people leaving grade 12 with limited knowledge regarding future careers, other institutions of learning and possible opportunities as craft apprentices, most students think that going to university is the best (if not the only) option.

The lack of career guidance in schools contributes to the myth and perception that in order to be employed or employable a university degree is necessary.  Such perceptions are deeply rooted in our society, peers, teachers and parents. While universities are full to their capacity, on the other hand, Further Education and Training (FET) colleges across the country need students to fill classrooms and utilize the bursary opportunities SETAS and government provide.

At Beautiful Gate Resource Centre we have also noted a trend. In all our career advice sessions we had with Grade 11 and 12 learners from various high schools; we have noticed that many learners are not well informed about various careers which are offered in universities. Changing their mindset and perceptions is a tremendous challenge as many are convinced that universities are the only way to go.

This problem is made worse by the fact that Life Orientation teachers themselves are overwhelmed by the curriculum and are expected to assist learners to choose their professions. Most of them don’t have the capacity to conduct research around professions which are in demand, never mind having resources to do such or share with their classes.


We believe that such perceptions can and should be dealt with at an early age or grade. The process of choosing a career is detailed, complex and a very important decision in a young person’s life.  It starts with self knowledge in terms of interests, values, likes, dislikes, knowing one’s strengths and weaknesses, understanding the economy and more.  Not all communities and schools have sufficient career guidance services or support and hence year after year young people are choosing “popular” careers or are pushed to careers where there are lesser numbers and greater bursaries. Such choices lead to drop outs, a high failure rate, negative attitudes and ultimately a ruined future – both for the person as well as for the economy.

There are however, various initiatives across South Africa which are addressing poor access to information services like career guidance. Unfortunately not all of them are accessible to the vast majority of the country. Such programs include the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) with its Youth Local Offices in various parts of the country, the Nedbank - My Future, My Career Programme and SABC TV programs like the Media Career Guide.

Our belief is that the best approach would be for younger learners (grade 8 onward) to be enrolled in a career guidance programme or service. This service can be run alongside the Education system or from within but should ensure that adequate resources and skills are provided to assist learners to meaningfully consider their best career choices. Where in-house services are not available, schools should be encouraged to partner with Career Guidance services such as those offered by non-profits such as the Resource Centre at Beautiful Gate.


The second problem relates to the first. Unemployment is no longer an issue of grade 12 qualified school leavers only but university graduates as well. At any one time we have over 100 graduates in our database who are unemployed. The South African Graduate Development Association has indicated that up to 30 to 50 % of university students are unable to find jobs after they graduate nationally. Our province is not exceptional to this crisis.

According to the South African Graduate Development Association (SAGDA) graduates are the fastest growing group swelling the numbers of the unemployed.

The alarmingly high drop-out rate, the lack of career advice, and inappropriate study choices were some of the major reasons for the growing unemployment rate among graduates.

At the Beautiful Gate Resource Centre we have encountered many unemployed graduates coming in search for work. It is alarming to know that graduates from FET Colleges and Universities such as Univ. Of Western Cape, Cape Peninsula Univ. Of Technology and Univ. Of Cape Town are among the unemployed. A number of graduates even exhibit signs of hopelessness and low self esteem which can be linked to various issues, such as pressure from home, society and peers to find meaningful work. In many cases they are not looking for employment based on their qualification - they just need “any job”.


Strengthening Partnerships

At Beautiful Gate we aim to strengthen existing partnerships as well as scouting for new partnerships as this enhances achievement of our goals. The team’s focus is to identifying organisations that are adding value to our vision and mission, particularly as it relates to youth development. 

One exciting new partnership developing is with the Philippi Economic Development Initiative (PEDI), a City of Cape Town led non-profit organisation with the aim of developing the business and employment opportunities in the area. PEDI and the Beautiful Gate Resource Centre are now developing ways to link the beneficiaries attending the Resource Centre with employers and employment opportunities in the area.

The Resource Centre

The Centre was launched in June 2010 and DG Murray was among the pioneer funders of this project. The Centre was a response to the last community survey in 2009 where community members cited the lack of services and information as a key issue. The project also aligns well with our approach to strengthen our developmental thrust. Through this approach we help and empower more people bringing hope to the larger community. The centre has a Print Material section which has books, publications and a notice board and also a Computer room for IT services.

Implementation & Project Activities

We provide the following services through the Centre:

  • Providing educational opportunities, including study options, bursaries and educational loans, and career guidance, homework support
  • Access to ID documents and government social grants
  • Employment opportunities, including job vacancies, CV writing, career guidance & workshops.
  • Life skills, character & spiritual development – HIV/drug/alcohol/teen pregnancy awareness, children’s rights, parenting skills, Bible study materials, sports
  • Coordinating and attending networking meetings and identifying capacity building and training needs for community group leaders.

In terms of implementation to date, progress has been above satisfactory in relation to most of our indicators. We managed to conduct a good number of the workshops and sessions planned for the period. The Resource Centre has also increased it’s availability by opening 5 days a week (from four days) due to the increasing demand for services. One area that we still need to work on is information management and data capturing of people who have been successfully connected to study and work opportunities – this area is work in progress. At present we are not able to receive enough qualitative feedback from our beneficiaries regarding the specifics of the value the Centre adds.


  • Younger learners should be enrolled in a afterschool career guidance sessions. Graduates should organize themselves in establishing organized structures like Graduate Clubs which can facilitate projects like networking and capacity building programs focusing in life skills.
  • Graduates should be curious and committed to read and research literature (such as the books and magazines that are exhibited in the Beautiful Gate Resource Centre) which provide useful information which can assist them in the empowerment process.
  • To boost graduate employment, universities and colleges need to become more involved in marketing their graduates for employment and creating opportunities for graduates and employers.
  • As a partner in skills development we need to think critically around the needs of graduates as well – perhaps a graduate development program is needed. Although such a program is not presently within our mandate (as it is very technical and requires a high level of expertise) it does have the potential to contribute in linking graduates to work opportunities or internships.   

P.O Box 144 Cape Town Mitchells Plain Western Cape South Africa

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