By Jackie Carroll
South Africa’s current economic climate has made the job-hunting process more competitive than ever before. According to the South African Graduate Employers Association (SAGEA), job seekers are up against 92 other people for every vacancy they apply for – a figure that is significantly higher than it was in previous years. As a result, a matric has become a minimum requirement for a multitude of jobs. Without one, applicants are unlikely to gain a foot in the door at all.
In the past, there were many sectors – mining, wholesale and retail, and services among them – that would employ people who didn’t have a National Senior Certificate, or its equivalent, in hand. There were simply enough unskilled jobs available for this filtering mechanism to be rendered unnecessary. In recent years, however, HR and recruitment policies have adapted to deal not only with the massive 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 only two thirds of South African 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 ongoing 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. Like the businesses within them, 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 any other educational and career opportunities they might be interested in pursuing.
Fortunately, corporate South Africa has stepped up to the plate, offering employees the chance to complete some or all of the subjects required to obtain their matric through third-party programmes, such as Matric Works.
The benefits of this approach are numerous. 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 B-BBEE Scorecard. Providing a matric qualification to employees counts as a bursary under the scorecard and comes with the attending points. And employees, in turn, are given the opportunity to rewrite their futures.
The more flexible programmes available – such as Matric Works – allow individuals to pursue the number of subjects at the correct level they require in order to obtain their matric. Matric Works’ content is also primarily available online (although is easily downloadable for offline use), allowing users to work independently and with the support of on-premises tutorials.
The result is a growing number of employees who are able to do the work required of them in the first instance, and to push themselves into every increasingly senior positions thereafter. In an economically fragile country, a matric qualification has the potential not only to transform the lives of ordinary 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, South Africa’s leading provider of adult education and training for over 23 years. Media Works forms part of the Optimi Group, and has developed the Matric Works programme for businesses.