By Carmen Schaefer, Head of Academics at Red & Yellow

It is no secret that our devastating unemployment rates have been greatly impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic. Current records show an all-time high of 34.4% in South Africa, a devastating realisation for a country where the lack of employment has already been an ongoing struggle for many years. 

There are currently 7.8 million jobless people in South Africa, the majority of whom are youth. According to Stats SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey the unemployment rate for those between the ages of 15 and 24 years old is 64.4%, while an even more concerning statistic is that it is sitting at a high 42.9% for those aged between 25 and 34, an age where young people should be building their careers. 

More often than not, when this topic gets brought up during conversation, many point their fingers to the government to find solutions. But studies have indicated that despite government investment, the youth unemployment rates continue to rise, and although the government absolutely should play a prominent role in elevating the problem, there are also some steps that we, the public, can take to change the future of South Africa. 

One way to impact our unemployment crises is to encourage and build the skills that drive self-employment and entrepreneurship. Quite simply, the more businesses that are created, the more job opportunities there are. 

As a tertiary educator, my focus falls to high school graduates or those starting out on their career path. Having worked in the education sector for many years, I often see parents pushing their youngsters to take a traditional career path, one that, in their mind, provides stability for their future. Pushing a young person to pursue a job that does not interest them is not the answer, as this often leads to them taking longer to get to where they wanted to be. One can still be focused on the broader destination without having a specific job in mind. Rather look to what skills can be learned to build and future proof a sustainable career in a field that you are passionate about, than limit yourself to one specific traditional role. 

Many people think that creative careers and entrepreneurship don’t pay, but this is a very outdated opinion and we have seen this concept proven wrong time and time again. There are so many accomplished creatives and business owners who are masters of their industries.

With the norm being to earn a degree in an industry, then use it to find a job that you love, I suggest doing things another way.  Why not enter the working world and study simultaneously through online courses? This gives one the flexibility and the opportunity to experience an industry firsthand, allowing one to identify gaps within the market and therefore choose courses that develop skills to address these needs. 

Students should think about what they really want to do, then customise and build studies to create their dream job, developing the skills to eventually become their own boss. 

During lockdown we saw so many people turning their hobbies into businesses, so one option is to study a course or degree that can be used to grow an interest into a career. A Bachelor of Commerce (BCom) degree sets learners up with the foundation to start their own business, like Business Management and Customer Experience, along with softer human skills, such as creative thinking and empathy. From there, they can customise knowledge through short courses and online learning.

The idea is to look for options that combine creative skills with business savvy, with supplementary skills such as project and people management, digital marketing and innovative thinking coming in handy within any job space.

I like to refer my students to our alumni or inspirational role models – engage with people in companies or who have successfully launched their own businesses and ask what steps they took to get to where they are now. The more information one can gain the more ideas and inspiration one will have to shape one’s own path. Be a sponge! 

It is also all about understanding oneself and an innate curiosity, understanding what drives you, and starting inward before looking outward. 

Encouraging this way of thinking allows people to develop a plan and journey for their career that can go in many different directions, instead of relying on needing a specific job offer at the end. Some of the jobs that exist now are already over-subscribed, while others haven’t even been invented yet. Of course, it is good to have researched the industry or field, the needs, and the vocational possibilities it offers. I’m often delighted whilst reading our students’ applications to study, they have such clear visions and dreams of the kind of business or job they want to create. 

Researching general career trends allows people to stay ahead of the curve and prepare for a job of the future. An example is the latest buzzword within the digital industry – the rise of the Metaverse. This concept will challenge the way we interact with technology and will contribute to the increased demand for skills such as Digital Content Creator and User-Centered Design (UCD). UCD is the process of designing with the end user in mind, ensuring that their experience is as enjoyable as possible. 

By encouraging young South Africans to think laterally about their future, we allow them to build careers that do not tie them into fixed jobs, but rather allow them to develop into being the employers of the future. This alone won’t solve our unemployment crisis – it’s a complex puzzle that needs much than that. But if some start on this journey, they will not only benefit their own careers, but also create opportunities for others along the way. 


NOTES TO EDITOR: Red & Yellow School of Creative Business.

Red & Yellow Creative School of Business is a CHE-accredited private higher education institution headquartered in Cape Town, South Africa. It is an established cornerstone of the South African marketing, advertising, design and business industries, teaching its students to think creatively and equipping them with the critical commercial and 4IR skills that they need to thrive in a digital world.

Established in 1994, the Red & Yellow Creative School of Business offers degrees, advanced diplomas and certificates in marketing and commerce, digital marketing, user-centred design, graphic design and art direction, copywriting, digital content creation, as well as business and corporate offerings. The school also offers a range of popular online short courses and national certificates, and its highly regarded corporate training team works with some of Africa’s most well-known companies to deliver innovative, customised programmes focused around 21st century skills. 

Red & Yellow has deep, longstanding ties with industry and works with leading brands and agencies throughout Africa to ensure its students and alumni are always world-class and work-ready. Its students are regular nominees and winners at local and international awards ceremonies, including the Loeries, Pendorings and D&ADs. 

The school’s alumni include business leaders who have achieved remarkable career success, across the continent and internationally, such as Jason Harrison and Faheem Chaudry of M&C Saatchi Abel; Veli Ngubane at Avatar; Dorcas Onyango at Coca Cola; and Steph van Niekerk at Grey JHB, ranked as South Africa’s No. 1 Creative Director and No. 1 Copywriter in 2019.

In addition, Red & Yellow is a member of Honoris United Universities, the pan-African private higher education network focused on educating the next generation of African leaders and entrepreneurs with industry-ready skills. 

For more information, please visit