President Cyril Ramaphosa has called on both private and public sector companies to employ young graduates despite their lack of work experience.
Speaking at the youth day celebrations at Orlando Stadium in Soweto on Saturday, Ramaphosa said the requirement of work experience had become a barrier for employment among the youth.
He said this requirement should be put aside and that companies should employ young graduates regardless of what experience they possess.
"The challenge for unemployed youth is not only one of skills. There are many graduates, who have completed university degrees, who are still unemployed," said Ramaphosa. "This is a vast pool of skills and knowledge that is being wasted."
"Employers need to understand that for our country to succeed, for their businesses to thrive, they must take responsibility for providing young people with the work experience they need.
"They must realise that the only way to get work experience is to get work."
R1.3 trillion investment drive
He added that society had invested a great deal in the education of young people, but that the economy was not benefiting from that investment.
"If we are to succeed in creating more jobs for young people, our economy needs to grow much faster and for that it needs investment," Ramaphosa said.
In getting youths employed, Ramaphosa said government has done much through its public employment programmes and investment in infrastructure as well as introducing the Employment Tax Incentive to encourage companies to employ more young people.
He also spoke about the Youth Employment Service, an initiative led by the private sector and supported by government and labour, which launched earlier this year to bridge the gap between school and work. "With a number of large companies already involved, it aims to create a million work experience opportunities for young people over the next three years."
He added that government had also embarked on a massive investment drive that aims to attract R1.3 trillion into the economy over the next five years. "We are focusing on investment into those parts of the economy that have the greatest potential for growth and the creation of jobs. "We are focusing on investment that will create opportunities for young people in particular. "If we are to make effective use of this investment, young South Africans need to be equipped to participate in the fourth industrial revolution."
'Selflessness, discipline, hard work'
Ramaphosa urged youth to become agents of their own liberation, saying that their challenges can be overcome. "The challenges that our youth face are great, but they are not insurmountable. We can overcome them if we work together. "Young people must be preoccupied with activities that contribute to making South Africa a better and safer country for all to live in.
This meant that the youth should not engage in alcohol and drug abuse nor participate in crime and corruption, he said. "And more importantly, young people must keep themselves safe from HIV by using a condom, abstaining from early sexual activity and being tested regularly."
Ramaphosa said part of Youth Day was about commemorating and celebrating the heroic deeds of the youth of 1976. It was also about celebrating a new generation of young freedom fighters who had dedicated themselves to the struggle against poverty and inequality.
"From those who have come before them they have learnt the value of selflessness, discipline, hard work and an abiding love for the people."