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Human Resources

Tanya Kalyan (South Africa) - Realizing the Potential of Generation Y

‘Ithubalentsha’ in Zulu means an opportunity for youth.  This is exactly what the National Youth Development Agency is establishing in South Africa with the launch of its new micro enterprise program.  The initiative aims to give young entrepreneurs aged between 18-35 the exposure, finance and skills they need to enter the workplace or expand their own businesses.

It is of massive detriment to the country’s economy that the potential of South Africa’s young entrepreneurs is largely unrealized.  Especially considering that the majority of the country’s population is under 30 and according to statistics, the national average age is only 25.  It is a well-known fact that young people in South Africa face a number of challenges which prevent their socio-economic development, especially those who come from rural and peri-urban areas. Much has been written about the problems caused by the South African skills shortage. However, this is not the only barrier blocking the door to business for young people.

Research we published back in August showed that 71% of Africans (the highest in the world) believed a key reason for the employment problem in their area was that entry level workers have a different work ethic to older employees.  Perhaps it is the perceptions and stereotypes of generation Y that is one of the main inhibiters for young entrepreneurs. The issues and concerns about the ‘next generation’ have been the same for decades and resurface with each new wave of young professionals entering the workplace.

The notion of generation Y has thrown yet another cat amongst the pigeons. However, the Ithubalentsha program could go a long way to fixing any apprehensions, as one of the main incentives is to create direct relationships between young people and experienced professionals through mentorship schemes. The NYDA have created the Ithubalentsha Micro Enterprise Program to rapidly address some major limitations faced by the youth of South Africa. The initiatives will focus on five key areas, identification and technical training, entrepreneurship training, micro-enterprise finance, business mentorship and business opportunities, and market linkages. By focusing on these factors, the NYDA believes it can finally start to lower the high failure rate among start-up businesses initiated by young entrepreneurs.

It is encouraging to see these new initiatives continue to support innovation and young entrepreneurship in the country. It was strong focus in 2011, and with the support of public and private businesses in South Africa, this project and the potential for future business will continue to grow in 2012.

By Tanya Kalyan, IDG Connect

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