YOUTH DAY 2016: Celebrating the youth of today


YOUTH DAY 2016: Celebrating the youth of today
by Lathasha Subban

We all share a world with 1.3 billion young people about to enter adulthood.  Nothing could be more important than making sure that they have opportunities,” Christopher J. Nassetta, President & CEO, Hilton Worldwide Youth@Work: Bridging the Opportunity Divide IYF Global Partner Meeting June 21, 2012

Do we still remember why we celebrate Youth Day in South Africa? Have we transformed our nation with opportunities that develop and employ youth? What are we celebrating this Youth Day in 2016? For the SABPP, Youth Day is more than just another public holiday. It is a day that we celebrate youth and highlight youth empowerment and recognise youth as the future leaders of this country.  The 16th of June is not just a day to celebrate the youth of today but to also remember why we celebrate Youth Day in the first place.

“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.”


Picture: Photograph taken by Sam Nzima of a dying Hector Pieterson carried by Mbuyisa Makhubo. Hector’s sister Antoinette Sithole runs hysterically alongside.

16 June 1976 started off to be a peaceful march of students (youth) who stood up for what they believed. This was the day that the youth of 1976 empowered their voice to create change that will impact generations to come. It was also the day that many youth lost their lives for what they believed in, and their lives was not lost in vain. It is remembered and celebrated every 16th June, every time our youth chooses the language they study; a young student passes an exam; graduates from a tertiary institute and then employed, that is when we truly remember and celebrate the sacrifice on 16 June 1976.

Currently the youth of today are faced with many challenges and less opportunities for growth and development. To name a few:

  • Access to schooling and education. According to the Constitution of the Republic of South Africa 1996, Bill of Rights Chapter 2: Everyone has the right ­
  1. to a basic education, including adult basic education; and
  2. to further education, which the state, through reasonable measures, must make progressively available and accessible.

Currently the access to education has been established yet other challenges have arisen like “fees must fall”; the vandalism of higher institutions, destruction of state property; the standard of education differing between private and government schools; and access to education in rural areas with proper sanitation and structure. Apart from these challenges, there is a shortage of skilled educators who are integral in youth development.

According to the Global Competiveness Report 2014/2015[1] South Africa is ranked 132 out of 144 economies for its “Basic health and primary education” pillar, whilst ranked 86 for its “higher education and training”. These are the hard truths of what our youth face today from a global competiveness and a national competiveness perspective. As an economy we have to create the platform to develop globally competitive youth who will steer the country to great heights and measures. Companies within South Africa have to utilise education to create a pipeline of skills, and identify their competitive edge through their skills development pipeline. HR professionals need to encourage the culture of skills development coupled with employment opportunities that drive profitability and sustainability, without overtaxing the business.



The Global Competiveness Report 2014/2015

  • Unemployment has a major impact on the youth of today as it reflects the decrease or lack of opportunities for growth. Governmental and parastatal entities has embarked on the “create jobs” journey, and yet the unemployment rate has increased steadily over the last 5 years. Employment opportunities have decreased yet the market is flooded with skilled graduates ready for employment. A strong gap between the private sector and the public sector alliance in the creation of job opportunities have not been efficiently managed.

The SABPP initiated a research project in November 2012 to study issues around employability of HR graduates and where/how they find their first jobs in HR. All universities were invited to encourage their HR final year students to participate, and as a first round, 76 students from three institutions submitted data.  This is a two part study in which students were asked in the first part questions about their job hunting intentions, and in the second part, which will be carried out over the next month or so, the students will be followed up to see what their success has been.

Most students (57%) would look at either the public or the private sector for a job, while 25% would look only in the private sector and the remaining 18% would look only in the public sector. 67% of students would move wherever the job offer takes them, while 16% prefer to stay in the area where they have been studying. Thus, the youth is mobile.

The statistics below reflect the increase in the unemployment rate of school leavers to post matric to graduates from 1995 to 2015. It also illustrates the unemployment per province and age. It clearly confirms that unemployment is one of the biggest challenges that youth are facing currently within South Africa.


Unemployment statistics in South Africa: Source Money Web

Youth Day however is a day that beckons hope in the challenges mentioned above.  SABPP has created many opportunities that empower, grows and develops the young professionals within HR. The SABPP Student Chapter is an exclusive SABPP HR Student society, comprising of HR students who are actively registered as Student Members with the SABPP. This exclusive society will become recognized and deemed a SABPP Student Chapter once 50 students from the specific institution have registered with SABPP.

“When I first joined the SABPP as a member of an initiate committee on the Soweto Campus of the University of Johannesburg, I found myself joining a family united with the goal to uplift the youth in the Human Resources profession. The committee launched a student chapter on the Soweto Campus and membership grew steadily. After launching the student chapter, I realised that when you want to be the one to instigate change and give people the opportunity to be a part of the bigger picture then you aren’t bettering yourself only, you’re bettering all those around you.”

                                                                                                            Sibusiso Radebe: Student Member University of Johannesburg, Soweto Campus

As part of developing the future talent pool SABPP recognises the important role it can play to ensure that tertiary students are fully prepared for a working environment in the HR field. Once officially recognized, SABPP will correspond with students from the University Student Chapter and offer and provide as much support as possible to ensure that awareness is created about the importance of HR and good ethics and practice in the field of HR. Any events to promote the HR Field will be supported by SABPP and funded by SABPP. SABPP aims at practically preparing students to become familiar with the HR profession. Over the past year SABPP has officially launched the student chapter at 5 Universities which are namely:

  • Walter Sisulu University: Ibika Campus
  • Walter Sisulu University: Mthatha Campus
  • Vaal University of Technology
  • Tshwane University of Technology: Polokwane Campus
  • University of Johannesburg: Soweto Campus

The Student Chapter has a tremendous impact on the youth because 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. It empowers young people through activities such as:

  • Door opener and Networking
  • Research opportunities
  • Leadership opportunity
  • Regular electronic newsletters
  • Special discounts on seminars
  •   National Student Award via HRUF

“Looking back, July 2015 was the day SABPP changed my life when they introduced kick start your HR Profession career with SABPP.

It is your passion that will fuel your journey for the rest of your life, it was through passion that you have instilled in me that got me thus far in my career. So many remarkable words they feed us with on the day, even today I still hold on to them even on this very same day, you kept on emphasing the importance of getting out of our comfort zone as students, persistence and striving towards our goals.  The day I was registered as a student member I was excited and I knew this was the right professional body that would support me even though I was an undergraduate student until I would get employment and retire. SABPP prepared me to be familiar with the profession and for the corporate world.

SABPP has empowered me in a tremendous way. Thank you for the incredible opportunity for making me part of the SABPP Family through the internship programme.


Shitshembiso Cornelia Mkansi, HR Intern, SABPP

Harambee Youth Employment Accelerators is a free service that helps young South Africans overcome many of the difficulties they face in finding and keeping their first job. SABPP signed a memorandum of understanding with Harambee in 2015 and since then members of SABPP have been involved in mock interviews that Harambee organises to help prepare jobseekers for actual interviews.

Harambee’s objective is to help young people with a matric or equivalent qualification who have been looking for a permanent full-time job, but haven’t been able to find one to be matched with an employer. They also help young people who have a university degree or other tertiary qualifications but haven’t been able to find a job.

Most people find their jobs through a social network – school or university, friends, family or previous work experience. For people who don’t have these social networks, networks that link to jobs, finding a job is difficult. Harambee works to create this kind of social network for young work-seekers. Research by the Development Bank of South Africa shows that a young South African who can get and keep a first job for at least 12 months has an 85% chance of being employed for the rest of their lives.

Do we still remember why we celebrate Youth Day in South Africa? Have we transformed our nation with opportunities that develop and employ youth? What are we celebrating this Youth Day in 2016? To answer the questions that were asked that initiated this article, the response is such:

  • The SABPP still remembers the sacrifice and importance of 16th June 1976, and even so the role that HR professionals play in skills development and youth employment.
  • Our nation has been recognised to have transformed from pre to post 1994, however youth development has been encouraged and legislation (BEEE; Bill of Rights) has provided access to job opportunities yet our unemployment rate is increasingly high. HR Professionals have the responsibility to identify unique skills that can achieve business success; to create a pipeline of talent available to business readiness; to provide guidance and solutions in legislative compliance and talent building.
  • HR professionals can further support youth by creating bursar programmes that filter into a talent pool for the organisation. By identifying growth opportunities for the business, HR can align the talent development to meet the demands of business growth. This would provide employment opportunities for the youth entering the job market.
  • We celebrate Youth Day to recognise the talent South African youth have and the potential that talent has to make a progressive impact in the country’s economy today. SABPP recognises the role youth today play in developing the future leadership of tomorrow.

In the business of HR, skills and competencies are interwoven with HR and talent strategies, and HR professionals must plan accordingly to enable business with the best fit skills and competencies. SABPP celebrates Youth Day and have displayed their support in youth development through their programmes and initiatives. Now they encourage other organisations to celebrate Youth Day by empowering and enabling the youth of South Africa. Celebrate the 16th of June by remembering and recognising the 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


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