A youth development programme has been launched by SAPICS, the professional body for supply chain management, that aims to address youth unemployment in South Africa, the skills deficit in the supply chain field, and to ensure that young professionals are industry-ready for job opportunities in the dynamic and increasingly critical supply chain management field.

According to Stats SA, there is a staggering unemployment rate of 63,2% among young South Africans. The Covid-19 crisis has highlighted the importance of supply chain management, and the need to build a pipeline of talent in this skills-strapped field. Many graduates lack the skills, resources and experience, however, to capitalise on opportunities in the profession.

“South Africa is currently facing a youth unemployment crisis, while at the same time experiencing a deepening supply chain skills shortage across many sectors,” comments Kholofelo Mabila, who is heading up the SAPICS Young Professional Committee that is driving the programme.

Mabila is a third-year student at UNISA.

“Since I joined SAPICS last year, I have gained access to local and international expertise and insights that have not only helped me to expand my knowledge, but also to map out my potential career path. I also got involved in the SAPICS Youth Programme because I saw it as a unique opportunity to connect and network with other like-minded university students pursuing a career in the field.”

Despite all the media coverage and attention focused on the supply chain profession as a result of the Covid-19 crisis, Mabila asserts that it is still not getting the interest that it deserves from school leavers and graduates. “This is one of the main reasons for the SAPICS Youth Programme; to ignite interest in the profession among the youth,” he states.

“The aim of the programme is to connect with university students, graduates and young professionals by inviting them to join a community that will help shape and align their career values with what the industry expects from supply chain professionals. Our goal is to establish a flourishing community of accomplished young professionals that will hopefully become the next generation of seasoned industry professionals, leaders and mentors at SAPICS.

“I think the programme is important because it affords university students the rare opportunity to be a part of the industry before even graduating and officially entering the workplace. It offers them valuable exposure to a community of experts and professionals in the industry working in diverse areas and different levels of the supply chain profession.”

Mabila says he would recommend supply chain management as a career for other young people because it offers a diverse career path with many specialisations that can cater to most people’s interests, desires and goals. “As someone with a lifelong learning mind-set, it is a perfect fit for me because it offers many options and directions that a practitioner can pursue, even as one’s interests and goals change over time,” he enthuses.

Through the SAPICS Youth Programme, scholars, graduates and young professionals can join the association for just R250 for 12 months. They will regularly receive articles and information pertinent to them and enjoy other membership benefits, including free attendance of SAPICS webinars and the annual SAPICS Young Professional Conference. They will be able to attend SAPICS partner events at a discounted rate. They will also have access to the SAPICS career portal, through which youth members can upload their CVs and pursue advertised job opportunities at no cost to them.

A series of webinars has been arranged for SAPICS’s 2021 Youth Programme. The topics that will be covered are CV writing, interview techniques, life and personal skills, workplace skills, up-managing, project writing skills and using social media as a tool. The topics will be linked to the supply chain industry.

Mentoring is an important element of the SAPICS Youth Programme. Several mentors from the SAPICS community have been identified and will work with the association’s young professionals.

The 2021 SAPICS Young Professional and Student Conference will be a virtual event on 26 August 2021. It will be held alongside the 43rd annual SAPICS Conference, which is Africa’s leading event for supply chain professionals.