The economic climate has made job-hunting more competitive. A job seeker is up against 92 other people for every vacancy they apply for — a figure that is significantly higher than it was in previous years, according to the South African Graduate Employers Association. As a result, a matric has become a minimum requirement for a multitude of jobs.
In the past, there were many sectors — mining, wholesale and retail, and services among — that would employ people who didn’t have a national senior certificate, or its equivalent. There were enough unskilled jobs available for this filtering mechanism to be rendered unnecessary. But in recent years human resources departments and recruitment policies have adapted to deal not only with the influx of unemployed youth, but also with the changing needs of a technologically advanced world.
Skilled workers are needed more now than ever before. And yet two-thirds of adults have the first point of entry: a matric.
What a matric means
A matric qualification doesn’t only demonstrate an individual’s familiarity with specific subjects. It also points to the acquisition of more intangible — but equally important — skills. If you have a matric, you’ve shown your ability to think critically and creatively, to solve problems, and to work under pressure. As a result, you’re more likely to be able to keep up with workplaces that are introducing new technology, shifting their working practices, and asking their employees to adapt and innovate.
A matric is also a necessary launchpad to future study and professional success. Without it, employees who have the potential to progress into increasingly skilled and technical positions find themselves hindered. The wide-angle view of this scenario is that, the more employees are unable to make headway in their careers, the more the companies they work for are similarly bound. A business is only as successful as the people it employs.
Of course, expanding this perspective once again points to the larger societal and macroeconomic benefits of having an educated and professional workforce. Nations with low levels of education are unlikely to grow and prosper economically.
How employers can help
South Africa continues to bear the brunt of an education system that for decades failed the overwhelming majority of its population. Many men and women already employed still don’t have a matric, and therefore don’t qualify for other educational and career opportunities.
Fortunately, corporate South Africa has stepped up to the plate, offering employees the chance to complete some or all of the subjects required to get their matric through third-party programmes such as Matric Works.
Employers are able to observe the potential inherent in their employees, and to advance the careers of those who show ability and ambition. There are also tangible benefits in terms of the broad-based black economic empowerment scorecard. Providing a matric qualification to employees counts as a bursary under the scorecard and comes with the attending points. Employees, in turn, are given the opportunity to rewrite their futures.
The result is a growing number of employees who are able to do the work required of them and to push themselves into senior positions thereafter. In an economically fragile country, a matric qualification has the potential not only to transform the lives of South Africans, but the success of individual businesses and the country’s collective future, too.
Jackie Carroll is the managing director and co-founder of Media Works, a provider of adult education and training for more than 23 years