By: Taariq Amod
Businesses big and small have closed their doors since the lockdown on the 27th of March 2020. Some of those, despite relief efforts, might never open again and with them, looms the impending job bloodbath. For the recent graduates of recent years and the graduates of 2020, the future looks bleak. With an excess of unemployed people on the cards, the unemployment rate already dire at 29% and the chance of being accepted into a company, for those wanting to join the workforce, narrowing sharply in favour of those already employed – is there any hope left? Surprisingly, the answer is yes – with caveats of course – with some answers being found in the pages of history. What events unfolded during the last global crises and how did the industries and recent graduates of the time respond to it?
During and after the Great Recession, in a bid to offer more employment, major businesses in the US offered more internships, temporary employment and freelance opportunities than permanent positions. This quickly became the norm, especially for entry-level graduates and soon many countries followed suit with this model, South Africa included. If one were to judge the probabilities of getting hired, applying for the former type of jobs would yield a higher success rate than the latter.
Of course, there are industries to consider that, despite recessions or booms throughout history, don’t change overall employment prospects. In professional industries such as accounting, law, healthcare, repair and maintenance, food including farming and retail and educational services to name a few, job opportunities will not be hardest hit by any economic shock including the Coronavirus.
In fact, the medical supplies industry is currently undergoing a boom and will continue to even after Coronavirus pandemic. However, this does not take away the knock-on effect the Coronavirus might indirectly have on the business and this will not necessarily prompt these industries to employ more or absorb more labour from the economic fallout. Chances are likely still higher than in other white collar or blue-collar industries of hiring.
Perhaps the focus should be on public and private industry to rework how they employ graduates. In other words, taking the processes adopted during and after the Great Recession a bit further. Restructuring tertiary education in such a way where it allows potential graduates to already have a foot in a company could solve the problem now and in future.
This is already practised abroad in places like Germany with the Mittelstand in its major technological industries and locally with bursary schemes in selected industries in accounting, healthcare and engineering. Others might know this practice as “Vac Work”. Why not increase this band further to all educational disciplines? Not only will those potential graduates have experience in those companies, fulfilling prerequisite criteria that some companies demand, but it would allow them time to up-skill their theoretical and practical knowledge, thereby adding value to the company from the moment they leave university or college.
Despite all the doom and gloom surrounding the current pandemic and lockdown, the one certainty is that, with all things, they all eventually come to an end. While prospects now seem non-existent, with the lockdown on level 4 and many businesses remaining shut for now, it is important to start planning immediately for the moment of facing the economic malaise post-corona, especially for the youth.
Taariq Amod is the CEO and founder of Vernac News NPC, and currently resides in Johannesburg. He enjoys political and artistic types of media in written forms such as poetry and critical thinking articles and visual forms through paintings, memes and thought-provoking vlogs.