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Examining career development approaches to address youth unemployment in Ixopo, KZN: community-informed perspectives.

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Youth unemployment in South Africa has significantly increased in the last few years. While youth unemployment rates have increased across all racial groups and geographical areas in the country, the black youth from rural areas seem to be carrying more burden of unemployment. Ixopo town in Kwa Zulu Natal province, which has a predominantly rural African population was selected for this study. The rural village was chosen because, like many rural areas in South Africa, it is facing enormous challenges of youth unemployment. The study aimed to examine the career development approaches and practices used to address youth unemployment in rural areas. A qualitative study was undertaken at the Ixopo community to examine the career development approaches and practices used. In collecting the data, semi-structured interviews, a focus group discussion and documentary sources used. A sample population of twenty-three (23) participated in the study through semi-structured interviews and focus group discussions. Semi-structured interviews administered to 4 local teachers, 2 community members, 2 community development workers,1 municipal official and 4 university students who originate from the community. A focus group discussion was held with ten (10) Grade 12 learners from the local high school — thematic data analysis employed to analyse the collected data. The findings show that the rate of youth unemployment is very high in rural areas. It is also evident that there is an increasing rate of unemployed youth which is not in education, employment or training (NEETs). Meanwhile, the rising number of young unemployed graduates is also becoming a massive concern to the rural communities and the country. The research concluded that some of the major causes for the high rural youth unemployment include: Low levels of education due to early exit from the schooling system; high levels of poverty resulting to high rates of school dropouts; unavailability of industries to employ in the rural communities; as well as the lack of adequate career development and guidance to prepare youth for future careers and employment. The study also found that learners in rural areas lack career ambition and inspiration because they often struggle to balance their severe socio-economic condition and studies. In terms of career development approaches and practices, it emerged that the schooling system is weak in the delivery of career development and guidance. The study revealed that teachers not equipped to deliver career guidance to learners; they lack sufficient training on career guidance and counselling, and there is a lack of resources and relevant updated information for them to the effective delivery of career guidance in the rural schools. The study also shows that the schools and the local municipalities are making an effort to provide career guidance services through annual career exhibitions, roadshows and other interventions. However, these do not seem to achieve the desired outcome because the responses often compete with socio-economic challenges like poverty, which distract the youth from focusing on their education and careers. Hence, the study also scrutinized the socio-economic, environmental and individual factors that affect the delivery of career development and guidance in rural areas. The study shows that the socio-environmental and individual factors have massive influence in the delivery of career development and future employability of rural youth. These factors include the influence of family; poverty; peers; career gender and stereotypes; lack of role models, lack of self -confidence and lack of access to information, communication and technology (ICT), among others. The effect of these influences is that they either limit or increase future employment prospects for rural youth. The recommendation from the study that, to alleviate and address rural youth unemployment, career development approaches for youth in rural communities should be tailor-made to accommodate their unique, disadvantaged socio-economic situations.


Masters Degree. University of KwaZulu-Natal, Durban.