An open letter to matriculants: class of 2020 – appeared in The Great Guide March 2021
You did it.
After the most peculiar, unprecedented, and challenging year the modern world has ever faced – you have matriculated. Maybe you are the first to finish school in your family. A huge accomplishment and you deserve to celebrate. Now, as the rewarding sentiment settles in, youʼre asking yourself, whatʼs next? University, diplomas, short courses? You see so many options and diverse opinions.
As the founder of Lulaway, I have engaged with thousands of job seekers and hundreds of employees; and this is what I would like to tell you.
You stand at a unique place in history. You have the insight and foresight to make an informed and strategic decision on the path you will take towards financial independence. You are in a fortunate position to take advantage of the shake-up which has changed the world as we know it. Brand-new opportunities are waiting for young, smart talents – just like you. But there is a catch: it will take a monumental shift in your perspective.
What Iʼm about to say is not a popular opinion, but you deserve to know the truth and make choices based on reality, not illusions. You have worked too hard to be fooled. The world is not the same as it was two years ago – and if you are going to make it, you need to adapt and understand what it takes.
The stark reality is that South Africaʼs economy is hobbling along. Covid-19 hit us hard. We were already facing a massive youth unemployment crisis before this pandemic; the lockdown exacerbated the problem. As things slowly normalize, the recovery will be shaky and painstakingly slow.
As a new matriculant, youʼre entering a job market flooded with job seekers.
Since the start of democracy, there has been an intense focus on empowering citizens to succeed in traditional office-based jobs. Admin jobs, business admin, management learnerships, and call- center learnerships are common. But the data shows this approach has not been working. Despite vast and varied initiatives, the unemployment crisis remains unchanged.
That is because the economy cannot grow if everyone wants to sit behind a desk. There are many skill shortages: plumbers, welders, electricians – all in short supply.
The key reason comes down to misguided perceptions. Youth, and their parents, are happy to shell out tens of thousands of Rands for a diploma or short course in an area which will never set them on a path to earn a living.
Why? Because it sounds good on paper.
On our database, we have a lot of job seekers holding these qualifications while they remain unemployed month after month. Covid-19 has disrupted this broken model – and hopefully will bring the transformation we need.
As working remotely becomes the norm, and the gig economy is thriving, paper qualifications are all but useless.
While you may be happy to pay R30 000 for an art course, I beg you to ask yourself: Is this a wise choice given the current economy?
Our national mentality is flawed, and you have the opportunity to change it from the ground up. As technology takes over many regular functions, there will only be one factor that matters:
Can you do the job?
While this is scary for some, there is also an incredible opportunity. If you have the basic skills, the willingness to learn and show up – you can go far. And you can set your sites beyond local borders. Remote working means that you can eventually work online, earning in foreign currency, and learning from the best in their fields.
The gig economy – 4IR – is here to stay.
The only question is: will you be a successful part of it or not?
CEO and Founder of Lulaway