In the challenging landscape of youth unemployment, Tasneem Eckardt, a 23-year-old from Mitchell’s Plain, finds herself among the countless young individuals grappling with the daunting task of securing employment, particularly with no prior work experience fresh out of high school. According to the latest data from StatsSA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS) for the first quarter of 2023, the number of unemployed youth between the ages of 15 and 34 has risen by a staggering 241,000, reaching 4.9 million individuals. Consequently, the youth unemployment rate has soared by 1.1 percentage points, now standing at a staggering 46.5%.
In order to shed light on the struggles faced by young people like Tasneem, I had the opportunity to sit down and speak with her, delving into her personal journey in search of employment over the past three years since completing high school.
Fundza: When you left high school, did you decide you wanted to study or what was your career path?
Tasneem: I dreamt of becoming a teacher. I applied to many institutes, but I kept getting rejected. And that made me like, you know, is there really something wrong with me? Or was it my grades?
Fundza: You didn’t get into studying. So, what was your next step?
Tasneem: I applied to jobs, any opportunities that I could find, but I kept getting rejected. And the main reason was because I never had any work experience coming fresh from high school, so that was one of the barriers.
Fundza: What were your expectations for finding a job after you finished high school?
Tasneem: My expectations were that I was going to get this job and you know, earn a good salary in order to help my family and just start settling and doing things that I would like to. Unfortunately, that never happened. I even failed my matric. I improved my results and received a bachelor’s pass and even that wasn’t good enough for university.
Fundza: What did you do while looking for a job? Did you participate in a program?
Tasneem: During that time, I was taking care of my grandmother. And then I decided, while I’m at home, I could actually just start getting my learner’s license, doing my driver’s license. And that also opened many doors for me. Some jobs take it as a bonus when they see that you have a driver’s license. I also did babysitting to earn an extra income, but it wasn’t enough to provide.
Fundza: How did you stay motivated during your job search?
Tasneem: My family has been my biggest motivation throughout my time of being unemployed. They encouraged me to continue applying and remained positive that some doors would eventually open. I kept on applying for work and during the time I also applied at a local college where I got accepted to do an IT course for 12 months. This kept me busy and also uplifted my skills. At college, I met with another opportunity to do an apprenticeship as a Massage Therapist. Ever since the apprenticeship, I have continued practising Massage Therapy.
Fundza: Do you have future aspirations to study and become a teacher?
I am qualified as a National Diploma ECD teacher, but I haven’t hit my goal yet. I would like to teach older students.
Fundza: Searching for a job for such a long time can be really tough. Would you say your struggle to find a job has affected your mental health? Maybe experiencing being really overwhelmed, under pressure or stressed?
Tasneem: I think I was more frustrated. And then also really stressed out because it felt like I had to depend on my parents for so long. I think anyone would get tired and feel despondent. So that was a very big challenge as well. I don’t think any young person wants to experience that. But unfortunately, that is what we are faced with.
Fundza: What advice or words of encouragement do you have for someone who is also struggling to find a job?
Tasneem: My advice would be to never give up. You never know which door might open and you have to keep knocking basically.
After an arduous journey of searching for the perfect job opportunity, Tasneem’s perseverance finally paid off. She was thrilled to secure an internship at RLabs, a dynamic youth empowerment program. In this exciting role as a digital artisan, Tasneem delved into customer service and digital marketing, honing her skills and gaining valuable experience.
Little did Tasneem know this internship would be a stepping stone towards a bright future. Impressed by her dedication and talent, Tasneem was offered a full-time position at Zlto NPC, a remarkable company with a mission to recognise and reward positive contributions within one’s community. Now, she finds herself immersed in the world of Zlto Partnerships Development, where she serves as a vital part of the Client Support team.
Tasneem’s journey is an inspiring reminder that perseverance and determination can lead to incredible opportunities. Through her experience at RLabs and now at Zlto NPC, she has discovered a path that aligns with her passions and empowers her to make a meaningful difference in the lives of others.
Tell us: What advice do you have for someone struggling to find a job?
Read more here about a student teacher aiming for greatness.