The critical role that the hospitality industry can play in reducing youth unemployment

Shaun Lamont. PHOTO: Supplied

According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), South Africa’s national youth unemployment rate for the first quarter of 2022 was a staggering 63.9% for 15-24-year-olds and 42.1% for 25-34-year-olds.

It’s no secret that being an unemployed youth is likely to lead to a life of insurmountable struggle.

And, whilst many consider the lack of education and training to be the root cause of youth unemployment in South Africa, statistics show that regardless of education level attained, youth unemployment continues to create a national crisis of epic proportions.

According to Shaun Lamont, Managing Director of First Group, the hospitality industry can offer vulnerable youngsters without skills and experience, the opportunity to gain the skills they need to earn an income and offer them the dignity of providing for themselves and their families.

He adds that while the COVID pandemic hit hospitality the hardest, the industry is clawing its way back and reinventing itself for the changed needs of its customers post-pandemic.

“With hospitality firmly on track, and the festive season only a few months away, the hospitality industry is perfectly positioned to make a dent in the youth unemployment rate, provided industry leaders are prepared to take a leap of faith and give the youth a chance.”

Shaun offers four reasons why he believes hospitality is well placed to help reduce youth unemployment rates:

1. No skills required: There are many entry-level jobs in hospitality that require no prior education, training, or experience, and which can all be taught on the job, for example, ground keeping, housekeeping and waitering.

2. Job market entry & experience: Through in-service training, unskilled youth are given the opportunity to formally enter the job market, giving them the elusive experience that is a pre-requisite for most jobs. Furthermore, the skills taught in hospitality are transferrable to many other industries.

3. Life skills: The soft skills taught via in-service training are invaluable for future roles, as well as for navigating life – how to work in a team; effective communication; problem solving; taking responsibility for one’s actions; how to provide exceptional customer service; how to always remain professional, etc.

4. Room for growth: Hospitality does not need to simply be a temporary steppingstone. For youth who are prepared to work hard, are committed, and have a great attitude, it is possible to work your way up in the hospitality industry. In fact, we have many success stories of people here at First Group who have started in junior positions and have climbed the hospitality ladder.

Shaun says that to make a difference, all hospitality establishments need to be deliberate in their hiring strategies.

“For all entry-level jobs, commit to including youth in your hiring strategies. Embrace those without tertiary qualifications and do not shy away from school leavers/matriculants with no skills or work experience – if nobody gives them a chance, how will they ever gain experience? Together, we can start changing the lives of the youth in our country, one job at a time.”

George Herald