Capabilities That Will Help Youth Thrive

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Youth Day (June 16) is a day to reflect on the potential of the South African youth and to envision a better future for all. If you, like nearly all young people, have had your education and personal life disrupted by COVID-19, it might seem hard to look beyond the lockdown, the fear of the virus, and the economic troubles to dream of a brighter future.

The coronavirus, after all, arrived at a time when inequality, joblessness, and poverty were already high in South Africa. But don’t be despondent – it’s within your power to work on personal mastery and on skills that will equip you for tomorrow’s high-tech workplace.

A good place to start is by thinking about some of the key qualities and skills of tomorrow’s leaders. Some examples include:

Lifelong learning

Even before the pandemic, automation and digital technologies were changing how organizations operate. But COVID-19 has accelerated the speed at which companies are evolving. Old skills are falling by the wayside and new skills and jobs are coming into existence.

According to the World Economic Forum, in just five years, 35 percent of the skills deemed essential today will change. There’s only one way to remain relevant in this reality: commit to a lifetime of learning. The good news is that improving your skills has never been easier.

You don’t necessarily need to study for years or take big loans to build the qualifications needed for the roles of the future. Instead, you need to be committed to growing and adding skills all the time, using resources such as free and open online courses (MOOCs).

Creativity & critical thinking

The coronavirus has made many existing human problems worse and added new ones into the mix. We’ll need creativity and innovation to dream up new products and ways of working to navigate to a brighter future. Getting in touch with your creativity will help you thrive in the future workplace.

And we need to think critically about our governments, the structure of our society, the information that floods us via social media, and the businesses we deal with every day. When you analyse the world through this lens you can be a change agent, and start thinking about how you can address the needs you see in your community or market.


In a world where human capability is augmented by machines and where social distancing and home working might continue for the foreseeable future, leadership is key. People who can lead and inspire diverse and virtual teams spanning home-based workers, office workers, gig economy workers, and inculcate a culture of collaboration will be in great demand.

Emotional intelligence

Emotional Intelligence (EQ) is the ability to be aware of, express, and control our emotions, and to be aware of others’ emotions. At a time when people might feel uncertain about their jobs and the future of the business, it is key to connect on an emotional level. Individuals with strong EQ will be sought by organisations of all sizes and in all industries.


The pandemic has taught us not to get too comfortable because change happens. If things don’t work out, you need the resilience to reinvent yourself or pivot into a new career, for example.

Community-based entrepreneurship

It’s clear that government and big business cannot meet the need for jobs in our country on their own. That’s why we believe the future lies in the community and finding ways to make life better for the people you share your immediate world with.

While you look for a job, you could start a business. Assess the needs of your community, nothing is too small or too big. Start vegetable gardens for sustainability, run a garden service, set up a laundry service – there are many opportunities to start a business that bring in revenue while you seek a job and in the end, you may find you no longer need a job because you are creating jobs for others. 


Whichever career path you follow, understanding technology will be critical to your future. Digital literacy is as essential as literacy and numeracy.

It’s a journey, not a destination.

Peter Senge says: “People with a high level of personal mastery live in a continual learning mode. They never ‘arrive’.” These are the words every young person should live by in a world of accelerated change. Choose your vision, work towards it, and be ready for reality to change around you in ways that can be both scary and exciting.

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