Is education blithely producing unemployed graduates? A reflection based on a review of environmental skills initiatives (2016-2021)

Keywords: Unemployed graduates, Green skills, Economics education, Sustainability, Meta-review


A statement from the president of the Black Business Council (BBC) that “our education system continues to produce the unemployed graduates” (NewZRoomAfrika Business@Prime, 2021) because “the courses they are doing are not required by industry” reflects the perennial perception that South Africa’s education system is a cause of unemployment. This paper explores aspects of this perception, through a meta-review of skills related initiatives in the environmental field. The review spans a five year period, from the South African Green Economy Learning Assessment (2016) to the Mid-Term Review of the Biodiversity Human Capital Development Strategy (2021). Data used in these studies include graduation trends based on higher education data, employer surveys, analyses of current and future skills needs in the workplace compared with inventories of courses offered, and case examples of career guidance, internships and teacher development. The findings are related, using an ecological-systems model, in a layered critical realist analysis, to national policies and the socio-cultural milieu in South Africa. The conception of relevant graduate education evident in the BBC’s statement is challenged.

Research Articles