When billionaire Magda Wierzycka proposed a seemingly proactive solution to the rampant unemployment afflicting millions of people over the weekend, she evoked heated reactions.
Wierzycka suggested that if every household took on an additional cleaner or gardener, millions of unemployed people would have jobs and not be reliant on social grants.
Twitter exploded with objections. People were furious at what they perceived as a myopic and condescending proposition. They argued that such a solution would only perpetuate the problem of unskilled labour created by historical injustices and leave no room for skills development or career growth.
The resulting debate demonstrates that South Africans are not willing to be condemned to mediocre jobs with no opportunity for growth. South Africans are ambitious, aspirational and want more for themselves and their children. They want more sustainable systemic solutions such as supporting entrepreneurs and the training of skilled artisans. They demand the opportunity for upward mobility and are insulted at being condemned to a life of menial labour with no growth.
Employing more domestic workers is not the solution. This will not create lasting socioeconomic change.
While it may offer some relief to the poor, domestic worker jobs are dead-end occupations and do not offer upward mobility.
They ignore the unrelenting spirit of the South African to develop to his or her full potential.
Wierzycka was, however, right about some things. Our country desperately needs solutions now.
Average citizens, who are in a position to, can and should play a role in job creation.
Business and government should work more closely together to provide quality education, jobs and internships.
She is also correct in highlighting the stark reality that the surplus of unskilled labour means that many have very few immediate options available to them.
There is a proven way to create employment for the jobless.
Learnerships and internship programmes are an effective mechanism to absorb unemployed people into the workforce and take advantage of opportunities that offer growth and progress.
Businesses need to take on one extra intern to give them a better opportunity to gain real work experience and have be afforded the opportunity to grow.
At Lulaway, we’ve seen the positive impact that internships have on both the interns and the businesses that hire them.
We have placed thousands of interns and disbursed over R80 million in internship funding.
Many of the 30 000 job seekers we’ve placed over the past seven years have secured life changing jobs through internship programmes. We know it works.
While they may start out as cashiers, call centre agents and junior administrators doing menial work, the key differentiator is that they are placed in an environment where they can progress beyond that and achieve their true potential, more so than any domestic work opportunity could provide.
While usual rhetoric is that business and government should work more closely together to tackle job creation, we rarely hear about the responsibility of the individual. What Wierzycka is spot-on about is that mid-income South Africans can and should play a role in job creation.
Citizens like you and me can make a difference by encouraging our employers, suppliers and associates to take on at least one intern.
If you own a business, no matter what size, you could employ someone on a learnership programme.
We are encouraged that Wierzycka is prepared to put her money where her mouth is in supporting job creation by offering R200 000 to any organisation offering a real job creation scheme, because real job creation solutions do exist.
We have already submitted a proposal to Wierzycka, committing to create permanent jobs for 10 eager to work job seekers for her contribution of R200 000. But our challenge does not end there.
We see this contribution as the genesis of a crowd-funding campaign where anyone and everyone has an opportunity to drive job creation.
Every R1500 raised can help an unemployed person to get a job that will propel them forward.
We have hundreds of thousands of job seekers on our database (many of whom have vocational qualifications, diplomas and degrees) and dozens of employers who would be eager to hire these job seekers as interns.
Your contribution could change a life, enable a business and make an impact on our economy.
For any change to take place, everyone must take responsibility. We are collectively responsible for the welfare of our nation, and only by each doing our part will our country reach its potential.
Let us join hands as a nation and do our bit towards tackling poverty by creating sustainable, growth-enabling employment – internship by internship, one job at a time.
To play your part in creating employment, join the initiative by visiting www.onejobatatime.co.za
• Andile Mkhosana is chairman of Lulaway.