Pursuing careers in arts and culture can help fight youth unemployment in SA

Johannesburg- As one of the key drivers that contribute to economic growth and job creation in the country, the art, culture and heritage sectors are committed to driving substantial job creation.

To fight youth unemployment in South Africa, the National Arts Council of South Africa (NAC) has embarked on a campaign to raise awareness about various career opportunities in the art industry.

The NAC’s campaign provides guidelines on ways the youth can view art as a viable and sustainable career.

Herein, the NAC has been focusing on providing information that may be useful and shape the negative perception of career opportunities in the art community.

This campaign will lead towards a virtual Career Fair event on Thursday, 18 November 2021.

Key messaging will be disseminated on the NAC’s social media platforms and website, respectively.

“The arts careers are valuable in building a new socio-cultural order. The NAC Career Fair will be presented by various industry experts from various disciplines in the art, culture and heritage sectors, who will address NAC’s funding opportunities, including its upcoming call for Local Bursaries, as well as the ways that art can help fight unemployment. This is a great motivation behind the NAC promotion of art education to the youth.”

“With the significant developments in the industry over the years, the youth should be mindful that art is a vast field comprising multiple disciplines that are not just limited to music and acting. The disciplines range from Fine Art, Graphic Design, Fashion Design, Art Administration, Curating, and Photography just to mention a few,” said Julie Diphofa, Acting Chief Executive Officer of the NAC.

According to Statistics South Africa (Stats SA), the official unemployment rate among young people has increased by 46,3% in the first quarter of 2021.

As a result of the high level of youth unemployment in the country, the arts industry is positioned to play a significant role in job creation. By identifying the gap in youth unemployment, the NAC is working towards educating people about careers in the art sector.

“Through investing in scholarships, bursaries and training programmes, there will be growth and development for a new generation of artists. The programmes are introduced to ensure that artists are nurtured in a way that people who recognize the value of art are able to value their art crafts,” added Diphofa.

In both the opportunities and challenges facing artists as they pursue their careers and advance their crafts, the NAC believes that artists need to master navigating across specialist and generalist skills, social engagement, self-directed entrepreneurialism, precarious employment and large metro centers and regional art markets.

The NAC also states that youth following a career in the arts need to work beyond existing markets and create entirely new opportunities for themselves and others. By doing so, they will be working to reduce the high unemployment rate amongst youth in South Africa.

“Educating the youth about different careers within the art community is by far one of the most impactful ways to fight unemployment in South Africa. Young people need to realize that there are various careers to choose from within the art industry. By participating in the NAC campaign, the youth will be better-informed about career opportunities in the art industry so they can become world-class artists,” concluded Diphofa.

In light of the challenges brought by the limited information available to the youth about the plethora of career opportunities that are available in the arts, below are five ways that art can be used to help fight youth unemployment in South Africa:

  • Think about taking some courses in the art field: The art industry offers many different career paths to choose from to prepare for employment. Developing your skills by enrolling in any art programme will help you gain a foundation of information on which you can build your knowledge. Various organisations, both within and outside the art sectors offer scholarship and bursary opportunities. For example, The NAC makes Local and International Bursary Calls available to the sector, each year.

Additionally, bursary and scholarship opportunities are available from various organisations such as the National Film and Video Foundation (NFVF); The South African Reserve Bank (SARB); The Arts and Culture Trust (ACT). At the moment, beneficiaries should take note of open opportunities offered by The Loeries, the City of Johannesburg (CoJ) and Netflix’s Postgraduate Scholarship Programme.

  • Take part in art competitions: Entering art competitions is an easy way to showcase your talent if you are an artist who is trying to kick-start a career or an artist working in various art spaces and looking to make a living. You will gain exposure and expand your network in the sector. For artists looking to showcase their work, the Visual Arts Network of South Africa (VANSA), Sasol New Signature Awards and ABSA’s Latelier competitions are a great starting point.
  • Establish a network within the art industry: Networking plays a key role in the success of an artist. Making yourself known to people who are working in the art, culture and heritage sectors might help you get job opportunities. Networking can also help you grow and create contacts within the industry for employment opportunities. Creatives have access to various federations in the arts, such as the Creative and Cultural Industries Federation of South Africa (CCIFSA) or the South African United Cultural and Creative Industries Federation (SAUCIFF).
  • Participate in training programmes to prepare for employment:

There are various training programmes in the art industry that can help to equip individuals with the skills they need to grow their creative talents, including the training resources offered by VANSA and Business and Arts South Africa (BASA). Training young people so they can secure jobs in the industry can reduce the country’s high unemployment rate.

  • Self-employment and entrepreneurship:

The art sector can help provide skills that can equip people to start their own businesses and entrepreneurial endeavours, which will in turn, create more employment opportunities for others. Our economy will also be stabilized if we encourage entrepreneurship as a means of fighting unemployment.

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