In March 2024, a staggering 45.5% of young South Africans aged 15-34 years were reported to be jobless, according to Statistics South Africa. To drive meaningful change and reduce this crisis-level figure, both the private and public sectors have to come together and intensify their efforts to create more jobs.

Shaun Lamont, Managing Director of First Group Hotel and Resorts believes that the hospitality sector can play a big role in tackling this critical issue. “The latest data underscores the alarming fact that youth unemployment continues to remain persistently elevated and presents a huge challenge for our country,” he says. “It not only affects the economy but also stifles the potential of an entire generation. As a major contributor to the country’s GDP and a significant source of employment, the hospitality industry is uniquely positioned to make a substantial impact.”

Lamont offers 4 ways the hospitality sector can play a role in helping to address joblessness among our youth:

1. Creating Accessible Entry-Level Opportunities
The hospitality sector is known for its diverse range of entry-level positions that require minimal qualifications. By creating more accessible job opportunities for our youth, the industry can provide a crucial first step into the workforce. Roles in housekeeping, food and beverage service, and front-of-house operations offer young people the chance to gain work experience and build their careers.

First Group, for example, is deliberate about recruiting and training young people, focusing on those from disadvantaged backgrounds. This approach not only helps in reducing youth unemployment but also promotes social inclusion and diversity within the workforce.

2. Offering Comprehensive Training Programmes
The hospitality industry can serve as a vital training ground for young people, offering structured programmes that combine theoretical learning with practical experience. These programmes can cover various aspects of the industry, including culinary arts, hotel management, and customer service. By investing in the development of young talent, the sector can create a skilled workforce ready to meet the demands of the industry.

At First Group, we have seen firsthand how effective training can transform lives. Our training initiatives not only prepare young people for successful careers in hospitality but also instil confidence and a sense of purpose.

3. Promoting Internships and Work-Integrated Learning
Internships and work-integrated learning programmes provide young people with invaluable on-the-job experience while they complete their education. The hospitality sector, with its wide range of operational areas, is ideal for such initiatives. These programmes not only enhance the employability of young people but also ensure that they are equipped with practical skills that are directly relevant to the job market.

First Group has partnered with several educational institutions such as the International Hotel School to offer internships and work placements, giving students real-world experience and a better understanding of the industry’s demands.

4. Implementing and Hosting Learnerships
Many properties are well-pressed to offer structured learnership programmes that combine theoretical instruction with practical, hands-on experience. These programmes are designed to develop job-specific skills and provide young people with the opportunity to earn while they learn, leading to formal qualifications and better employment prospects.

“Young people are so full of energy, passion and new ideas. Their potential for innovation is boundless if given the right opportunities and guidance to channel their talents constructively,” asserts Lamont. “If we want a stable and prosperous future for South Africa, we have a collective responsibility as individuals, businesses, and a nation to play our part in addressing youth unemployment. So, let’s start by empowering the next generation with opportunities to thrive,” he concludes.

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