Tertiary students look to entrepreneurship or greener pastures elsewhere


A growing number of South African tertiary students are venturing into entrepreneurship, with many lacking confidence in SA’s future due to high levels of unemployment, corruption and Covid-19-induced economic challenges.

This is according to the 2021 Student Confidence Index (SCI) survey conducted by the Professional Provident Society (PPS).

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The survey reveals that students are taking full advantage of the rise in the freelance and side-hustle economy where people have multiple income streams.

One in three students has a side hustle, with 31% saying they intend to grow these once employed.

One participant said they have three side-hustles: selling supplement products as a ‘fitness bunny’, buying and selling clothes in their Pretoria-based community, and knitting and selling scarves.

Read: The rise of the ‘side hustle’

More than a third (39%) of respondents say they are planning to move to greener pastures outside the country. Some feel that broadening their horizons by working overseas will give them a better chance of succeeding in their careers.

“I am exposing myself to work that I can do, not just in South Africa,” said one student during a focus-group session.

“I am trying not to limit myself so that should anything happen here in South Africa I can still be an asset elsewhere.”

PPS said students responded to the survey through online questionnaires and virtual focus groups.

The ‘worry list’

“Of the respondents, 51% are more anxious when compared to 2020 about the future impact of Covid-19. Regarding their feelings about the country’s future over the next five years, 39% are not positive while 41% say they are uncertain,” said Motshabi Nomvethe, head of technical marketing at PPS.

“This is because of a confluence of problems such as comparatively low standards of education, crime and a lack of political will to solve them. For 88% of the students, the debilitating unemployment, and for 77% the rampant corruption, sit aloft their worry list.”

Consequently, 55% of respondents are somewhat or completely not confident that they will get a job after obtaining their qualification.

Read: SA unemployment is far worse than a bloodbath

Students also expressed challenges with e-learning, saying they battled with no contact during the Covid-19 hard lockdown.

“Generally, the transition to e-learning was a challenge for many students, especially those from historically challenged backgrounds. While 26% of the students said mobile data was expensive, things are improving, and 48% say they prefer a hybrid learning approach,” Nomvethe explains.

“For employers, the survey implies that human resources policies must be adjusted to allow for globally mobile and entrepreneurial graduates. Also, future job seekers will be better prepared for the hybrid world of work, where some work online and others physically in the office.”

The survey revealed that the 30% of respondents who indicated that they want to remain in SA said they want to assist in growing the economy, as they believe the country requires critical skills.

The annual survey involved 3 304 undergraduate and postgraduate students from a public university or university of technology studying towards a profession-specific degree such as engineering, medicine, law or accounting.

Listen to Gareth Collier of Crue Invest in this Money Savvy podcast (or read the transcript here):

Palesa Mofokeng is a Moneyweb intern.

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