Trade apprenticeships are key to tackling youth unemployment

A group of trade apprentices. Photo: Supplied

A group of trade apprentices. Photo: Supplied

Published Jun 28, 2022


As Youth Month draws to an end, the unenviable youth unemployment rate, which sits at 63.9% according to the latest quarterly labour force survey by StatsSA, is far from over.

Higher Education, Science And Innovation Minister Blade Nzimande recently stated that South Africa needs at least 60% of school leavers to pursue artisanal type training to meet the country’s demand for scarce skills.

Traditional trades, such as plumbing, electrical work, carpentry and construction, have a high potential for absorbing more new entrants.

Arjun Khoosal of and Jess Roussos of BluLever Education, both co-founders of businesses that work to help tradespeople find work, discuss what is needed to set young apprentices up for success and how they can turn this into sustainable employment once their training is completed.

In a joint statement released, Khoosal and Roussos agreed that apprenticeships are a particularly attractive model as it allows youth to ‘earn as they learn’. However, this requires apprentices who are adequately prepared to enter the workforce and businesses that are capable of taking on apprentices.

“This sector is dominated by SMMEs,” Khoosal says.

Khoosal is the Co-Founder of, a leading online marketplace for home services in South Africa.

“By helping these small service businesses to succeed, we can create more economic and employment opportunities, including for young people.”

Roussos, Co-Founder of BluLever Education, a company focused on vocational education and training for artisans, says the country has a quantity and quality gap when it comes to artisan education.

“To be a successful apprentice, you need self-awareness, the ability to work in a team, and some understanding of what will be expected of you in a workplace.”

Set apprentices up for success

“If you ask any artisan what makes the best person in their team the best, they will tell you about their teamwork and communication skills,” adds Roussos.

“Technical skills are just the base of what's needed, and yet they're all that's usually taught. This is why the foundation of our apprenticeship programme is an intense two-month life-skills and work-readiness programme called Leadership Base Camp.”

Roussos adds that the other aspect that ensures the success of the programme is the close collaboration with industry and partnership with employers. “The truth is that there is a hesitancy in the industry around apprenticeships. However, so far, every one of our employer partners has asked to take on more of our apprentices after their first experience.”

Enabling artisan-led SMMEs

A stable and growing business creates a conducive learning environment.

“Artisan-based businesses have different development needs, an important one being access to market,” says Khoosal.

“Trades are one of the easiest entry points to self-employment and can provide a good income.

“However, tradespeople cannot rely on their artisanal skills alone if they want to build a stable business. Business skills, soft skills and management tools that are fit for purpose are part of the equation.”

An attractive career path in a sector with stable demand

In the context of South Africa’s unemployment rate, each of these jobs and each of these businesses represents not only an individual income but often a family’s survival.

“The demand for qualified artisans will only continue to grow,” concludes Roussos.

“We need to change the narrative that these fields are ones that you enter out of necessity. With the right support, today’s apprentice can not only be tomorrow’s plumber, but a manager of a team, or a founder of a plumbing company.”

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