Graduates started a business to address skills gap challenge

South Africa’s young graduates are struggling to find jobs.

Grab A Grad
By Atlehang Ramathesele

South Africa’s young graduates are struggling to find jobs. According to Statistics South Africa, the youth unemployment rate, measuring jobseekers between 15 and 24 years old, fell to an over two-year low of 59.6% in the third quarter of 2022.  


Skills shortages are linked to the high unemployment rate because many job seekers lack experience and skills needed by the job sector.  Three proactive University of Cape Town graduates started a business to solve the graduates’ skills gap and to help their clients digitize their workflow. 


Unemployed graduates started a business 


In 2020, Thando Shabalala, Aleya Ramparsad Banwari and Devlin Sooful started a business called Grab A Grad; the business help graduates like themselves gain skills to help them get employed or start their own business.  


All three of the co-founders knew each other from university and their unemployment woes inspired them to start a business.  One was retrenched, the other one was freelancing and the other was looking for a job.   


The trio wanted to find solutions as a response to their unemployment woes as graduates, particularly during lockdown.  They started a business that provides training for graduates to turn their theoretical knowledge into practical skills needed by South Africa’s job market.  


Another major key focus for the business is digital consulting, Grab A Grad also specializes in business automation, web development, marketing, and design. “We build applications and processes that will bridge the skills gap,” explained Shabalala.  



Addressing skills gap challenge 


When they were looking for jobs, they realized they didn’t have practical skills needed by rapidly evolving workplace needs. Thousands of graduates face the same challenge and they decided to implement solutions to help themselves and other graduates.  


Their strategy is to leverage graduates’ knowledge earned in higher education institutions and to place them in an environment with real challenges. The key is for them to use their problem-solving skills to provide solutions in an African context. 


Through their business, they run a graduate focused consulting firm that empowers graduates with a variety of critical skills. 


Their business model is largely about empowering graduates and creating employment for young people.  They do this by filtering their graduate intakes to assess their abilities. “Our network of graduates is our co-operative arm, we train them, and some are now our core team members,” said Shabalala. 


Technological innovations in workplaces have led to the rapid evolution of skills needed in the workplace.  The co-founders have seen that less companies want to invest in training people. By having a trusted network of upskilled and well-trained graduates, the business empowers graduates and helps bridge the skills gap in the workplace.  


Long term solutions are needed 


The business hopes to continue empowering graduates with practical skills and to provide digital solutions for their clients.  Considering that tertiary institutions focus more on theoretical knowledge, the work done by Grab A Grad will ensure that graduates have practical skills to help them become employable.

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