“When choosing a career, young people are often told to do something they love and then it will never feel like work. While this may sound like very good advice since people are expected to spend around 99 117 hours on average, at work during a life-time, it is probably the worst career advice that anyone can give you, as it does not take cognisance of employability,” says Head of ACCA SA, Nadine Kater.

Kater says young people should be told that while it is important to choose a career based on one’s interests and aptitude, it is equally important to ensure that one is employable after graduating. The only guarantee of employability is to ensure that these particular skills are in demand.

“South Africa has unacceptably high levels of unemployed graduates, estimated at around 580 000 currently. This situation would never have arisen if young people had been given good career advice before they commenced with their studies. High levels of graduate unemployment will persist unless young people are redirected from studies in the Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences, into disciplines, where there is a demand for skills,” Kater observes.

Fortunately, a great deal of information is available in the public domain regarding scarce and critical skills, enabling young South Africans to make informed career choices: “The Adcorp Employment Index is a very good source of information regarding skills shortages for highly skilled workers across a range of occupations. The Department of Labour has published a pamphlet entitled: ‘Scarce Skills’ and the Department of Higher Education has published the Scarce Skills List 2012/13. In addition, many SETA’s publish on annual basis, a scarce and critical skills list for their respective sector. Learners, undergraduates and graduates should study this information very carefully as it will enable them to make sound and informed career decisions. Having studied this information, they will hopefully be able to choose a career wisely, while at the same time ensuring very good odds for finding employment after graduating,” Kater explains.

Making good subject choices at school-level is also very important: “Choosing the right subjects at school is critical as it enables learners to access a wide range of careers. I cannot emphasise the importance of taking Pure Maths as a subject. Admittedly, a much more difficult option than Maths Literacy, Pure Maths, opens many doors: it is a requirement for around162 professions.”

In addition to choosing the more difficult subjects at school, Kater says learners should always try to do their best, striving always to achieve good marks: “How can learners possibly know whether they have an aptitude for a particular subject unless they have given it their all. Sadly, many learners never reach their full potential because they have not applied themselves at school-level. Poor performance at school often has dire consequences for future career prospects.”

Turning to specific careers, Kater concedes that as an accounting professional herself, she always recommends a career in accounting or finance: “A career in finance or accounting is clearly a very good option for those who have an aptitude for Pure Maths. Currently only 3 000 young people qualify in accounting, at third year level each year, compared to a current skills shortage in South Africa of around 22 000 accountants, across all areas of specialisation. The demand for these skills is expected to remain high as accounting skills are perfectly aligned to demand,” Kater concludes.

Article issued by ACCA South Africa