Youth Day 2017: Create the opportunity for tomorrow’s leaders by Lathasha Subban

Tick Tock…It’s about Time By Lathasha Subban
June 15, 2017
How serious is your business about Talent Management? by Marius Meyer
June 19, 2017

Today is Youth Day, when we celebrate our youth and support them with opportunities to become the leaders that South Africa needs. There is profound sense of hope when we engage with young individuals who are in a constant mode of development and opportunity seeking. They are energised with confidence and boldness in their abilities and are looking forward to making their mark in the world. From school to tertiary or working youth, there is the resonance that South Africa will breathe opportunity for them and they are willing to persevere during a turbulent socio-economic and political environment  – an economy that is struggling to provide the opportunity to meet the optimism of the youth.

Again, the question beckons, do we still remember why we celebrate Youth Day in South Africa? Have we transformed our nation with opportunities that develop and employ youth? Are we creating opportunities and recognising talent in the in the youth today? Remember the reason we celebrate Youth Day and why as HR professionals we play the biggest role in developing, upskilling and creating opportunity for young talent today.

“It is a day violently etched on the South African collective conscience. Commemorated over 30 years later as Youth Day, an official holiday, it is the day that honours the deaths of hundreds of Soweto school children, a day that changed the course of the country’s history: 16 June 1976.”

At the present moment, there are some bleak challenges that create many obstacles in youth development is South Africa. According to UNFPA South Africa[1], the situational analysis that impends youth development and opportunity are as follows:

  • Overall 42 per cent of young people are between the ages of 14 and 35 and the gender difference is not substantial. Over two thirds of the young population (69.3 per cent) reside in four provinces (EC, KZN, Gauteng and Limpopo). Young people in South Africa are highly technological with 88.1 per cent of those aged 15-34 living in dwellings with access to landline, cellular phone or internet access. Taking note of these improvements, South African youth still face significant challenges such as high unemployment rates, high HIV infection rates and an increase in youth headed households for the ages 15-24.
  • Secondary school Gross Enrolment (GER) is high at over 90 per cent. However, 2 million young people aged between 19-24 years are neither employed nor in an educational institution. This is significant because completing secondary schooling is shown to have a protective effect against HIV, especially for young girls. In addition, men and women with tertiary education are significantly less likely to be HIV-positive than those without tertiary education. Unemployment has been named as one of the biggest problems in South
  • HIV prevalence is twice as high amongst young women as amongst young men between the ages of 15 and 24 years and females are four times more likely to have HIV than males of the same age. On average, young women become HIV-positive about five years earlier than males. The 2009 HIV prevalence in the adult population (aged 15–49) was estimated to be 17.8 per cent. Young people in South Africa also encounter high levels of gender based violence. They also face barriers in accessing HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services due to limited decision-making power, lack of control over financial resources, restricted mobility, and care responsibilities.
  • Teenage fertility is reported to be on the decline although these estimates are still high. Stats SA Community Survey (2007) reflects that teenage fertility has declined by 10 per cent between 1996 (78 per 1000); 2001 (65 per 1000) and (54 per 1000) in 2007. The South African Youth Context report released in 2011 asserts that 9.5 per cent male and 6 per cent female high school learners reported ever having had an abortion or a partner who had had an abortion. Only 48 per cent of these learners reported using legal health services.
  • Reliable data on youth with disabilities remains a challenge. Based on the available data, persons with disabilities comprise 3 per cent of the population aged between 10 and 19. For the ages 20-29 and 30-39 this figure is 3.5 per cent and .419 per cent respectively.

See more at:

To add to the challenges is the high unemployment of 27.7%, and since “South Africa’s population is largely made up of young people; those who are below the age of 35 years constitute about 66% per cent of the total population. With over 54 million South Africans, 18.5 per cent are between the ages 10-19”[1]; the employment opportunities are low. This spirals into many other challenges like living conditions, access and affordability to basic living; education, health and basic human rights access.   The impending drive for youth to be a part of economic participation and social cohesion, is still high however challenged by the circumstances.

As wisely envisioned by the father of our nation, the late Nelson Mandela, “Young people are capable, when aroused, of bringing down the towers of oppression and raising the banners of freedom.” With these words there is definitely light at the end of the tunnel, and it starts with HR recognising and identifying the talent and the need to grow talent today for tomorrow. As HR professionals, our ability to create pipelines and pools of talent for business is the light leading us through the dark tunnel. Here are a few tips that will guide the HR portfolio in leading the youth development today:

  • Ensure that your recruitment process identifies talent that grows and sustains your business.
  • Utilise your graduate programmes to groom, develop and upskill youth of today.
  • Provide equal opportunity and BBEEE policies that uplift the nation and your company.
  • Develop leaders that are willing to mentor and coach the youth of today.
  • Create a leadership pipeline or ladder through set criteria and standards, that drive succession and develops strong, ethical and innovative leaders.
  • Influence the company objectives to align to that of the country’s objectives, that drive youth and educational and empowerment opportunities.
  • Be transformative and innovative in creating and sourcing your young talent.
  • Invest in your young talent, and surround them with opportunities to grow.
  • Drive education, support it and sponsor it where possible.
  • Listen to the voice and ideas of the youth, and help them reach out to their communities and create citizenry.
  • Start….now!

The SABPP has taken youth development, and is excited about the future of the HR profession. The SABPP realises that in order to develop the future HR talent pool we need to give recognition to our youth; those young men and women who have committed themselves to the Human Resources field. SABPP has thus taken the important role of ensuring that tertiary students are fully prepared for a working environment in the HR field. Students have the opportunity to join the SABPP, and kick start their career by networking with both students from other universities as well as our growing number of HR professionals. These networking opportunities provide students with the insight they need in order to plan for their future and set goals.

SABPP Student Chapter, source:

Even though South African youth face many challenges, they still exude hope. As in the wise words of our interns and graduates at the SABPP, who have this to share to youth today:

“Stay focused, don’t do drugs”. It’s easy to throw in the towel. Don’t procrastinate, do the important things now. Be patient and work with your opportunities, and develop yourselves.” Andile Ngubane, SABPP Marketing Intern.

“Don’t give up on your dreams and aspirations. It’s easy to get despondent just don’t give up. Develop yourselves and use your skills well.” Ceanne Schultz, SABPP Marketing Officer. 

I think we need to change the way we live, focus more on making dreams a reality, and grab every opportunity you get and make the most of it.” Lerato Tshewule SABPP HR Intern.

SABPP’s young talent: Ceanne Schultz; Andile Ngubane and Lerato Tshewule

The youth of today will always be the leaders of tomorrow, and we need to support their development and encourage their ability to improve South Africa. In the midst of the numerous challenges we face as a nation, our young leaders may have the solution and the tenacity to bring it to fruition.  Today’s leaders are the inspiration for our youth and we need to take responsibility in how we lead and set examples. The country needs leaders of tomorrow to uplift our nation. We need to be resilient and uphold our constitutional values. We need leaders with eyes that see the nation and its diverse people; a mind that thinks of equal opportunity for their fellow citizens, and a heart that beats for one nation to resonate in one rhythm. That we can find in our youth of today.

This article was written by Lathasha Subban, Head: Knowledge and Innovation of the SA Board for People Practices (SABPP).  For more information, you can follow SABPP on twitter @SABPP1 or visit their website on