Despite South Africa’s massive unemployment crisis, there remains great demand for suitably qualified employees in a range of fields. At the same time, there are thousands of young people who are convinced that gaining the necessary skills to fill these positions is out of their reach for many reasons that are often based on incorrect perceptions.

“When people think of further study, they often think that the only worthwhile option is degree study at a public university. This could not be further from the truth,” said Elbie Liebenberg, the managing director of Oxbridge Academy, which serves more than 20 000 South African distance-learning students every year.

She said there are misperceptions about study options that result in the unfortunate situation that young people give up hope too soon, without realising their personal and professional potential.

“We would like to urge learners, and those who have already left school, with no idea (of) where to go from here, to consider whether they are being held back because of false beliefs about their own abilities and the conviction that there are no opportunities out there,” Liebenberg said.

She said it is usually one or a combination of the following myths that cause individuals to not pursue further study:

MYTH 1: I am not smart enough

“Our society focuses on the high achievers – the Master’s and doctoral graduates who perform in their respective fields. For many of us, degree and postgraduate study is indeed not the right path. However, there are thousands of companies and small-to-medium businesses that need the skills required to do specific jobs in specific fields where a vocational qualification is more desirable than, for instance, a Bachelor’s degree.

“So if you thought studying meant going to university, that that is the only worthwhile option, you are quite mistaken.”

Liebenberg said that there are hundreds of vocational qualifications that are accessible even to young people who did not pass matric or passed without university exemption. She added that people who have no idea about what to do with their future should make an effort to investigate courses available at accredited institutions.

“Do some online research, and investigate the qualifications on offer. Make sure that you check out online testimonials, because there you will find the opinions of people just like you. 
“Importantly, make sure that the promise of the institution and the testimonials of alumni align.”

MYTH 2: Even graduates don’t get jobs 

“Young people are often, and understandably, despondent about their chances in the job market, given our high unemployment rate,” said Liebenberg.
“But this is because there is too much focus on the ‘prestige’ of a degree versus the utility of a vocational qualification. There is a plethora of fields where employers want to see proof of competency, instead of an unrelated degree,” she said.

These include, but are not limited to, certain positions in advertising and marketing, bookkeeping and accounting, business management, early childhood development, call centre operations, human resources management, occupational health and safety, project management, secretarial fields, tourism and hospitality, and supply chain and logistics.

MYTH 3: Anything less than a degree means I will be forever stuck in an entry-level job

“A first qualification is just that – a foot in the door,” said Liebenberg.
“Once you’ve committed to your personal and professional development, you will find that your confidence builds and that the future becomes your oyster.”
Liebenberg pointed out that many people go on to become entrepreneurs and start their own small businesses after mastering the technical requirements of a field.

“If you can determine where your passion lies, there is almost certainly a path you can follow to realise your dreams, regardless of your current circumstances or beliefs about your abilities,” she said.

Liebenberg said young people are sometimes afraid of failure because they have “failed before. This leads to a lack of self-confidence and self-belief, as well as feelings of low self-worth.

“These young people doubt their own capabilities and give up too early because they simply do not see any light at the end of the tunnel. But every year, thousands of these demotivated individuals find a glimmer of hope and give their future a chance by taking that first step on the road to empowerment.

“In these cases, we have seen how action begets action and the formerly despondent start to flourish. We want to urge young people and the adults around them – the teachers, the parents and the guardians – to not give up hope on their dreams and aspirations, particularly where the loss of hope is a result of negative beliefs about self or pessimism about future opportunity.”

Supplied by Oxbridge Academy.

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