Social entrepreneur Kgotso Kobo’s SkillsRus is a recruitment portal that connects graduates with employers, opening up job, internship and bursary opportunities
The high unemployment rate in South Africa has prompted former investment banker to leave his corporate job to help graduates access employment opportunities.
Kobo believes that social entrepreneurs are individuals with innovative solutions to society’s most pressing social problems. “They are ambitious and persistent, tackling major social issues and offering new ideas for wide-scale change – this is me,” he says.
It all started the day when Kobo used an Uber to travel to a work event. The driver showed him a master’s qualification that belonged to his younger brother, who had given up on finding a job.
He resolved to do something about joblessness and resigned from his post and invested his savings in a new entrepreneurial venture.
“I used everything, from provident funds to my cash savings, and I downgraded my car. It was tough, as money vanishes during the start-up phase. Luckily, we soon attracted investors, who assisted us from a technical perspective,” he recalls.
The 34-year-old from Soshanguve, Pretoria, spent a few years in Germany and while studying and working, learnt about that country’s employment strategy.
When he returned home, he hoped to execute a similar strategy, but found that he needed to work. “I worked for the Chamber of Commerce as a trade adviser and a large private bank as an investment banker,” he says.
However, the business didn’t go as smoothly as expected. in the beginning, it took few trials and errors for the concept to take shape. He designed an app that didn’t take off, then a website portal idea was born, as it was easier to get traction.
It was during this time, six months after launch, that angel investors came onboard. “The financial boost made everything a reality. Now we also employ graduates of our own,” he says. SkillsRus currently has 1 280 graduates from different backgrounds registered on site.
“We have so far assisted more than 127 graduates with jobs.”
Social media platforms, such as Facebook and Twitter, have also helped Kobo reach out to graduates and employers.
He says that annually, South Africa produces thousands of graduates from different institutions who are looking for jobs to empower themselves and their families. “The unemployment rate of youth between 18-24 years is over 60%. So we saw an opportunity in the market. We need to access the right pool of skills for companies,” says Kobo.
SkillsRus has tailored a way of bringing employers and graduates together and matching their respective needs.
Kobo says his entrepreneurial journey has been a rollercoaster. However, the uptake has been overwhelming. “Like any other start-up, we’ve had our challenges and one needs to dig deep when things are not going well,” he says.
Kobo strives to learn from people who he believes are better than him and offer a different perspective. “It’s tough and lonely road for us entrepreneurs and a support structure is needed,” he says.
He tells DESTINY MAN that convincing corporates that have been recruiting graduates in a traditional way to use the platform remains a huge challenge. Kobo wants to ensure that his platform is accessible to rural people and previously disadvantaged communities.
“Naturally, as a start-up, we do have challenges of cash flow, but with planning and a good strategic direction, we overcome them. We would like more marketing funds to create a blueprint across universities and TVET colleges.
“People mostly know about profit-driven commercial entrepreneurship – impact is not the vision. For me, helping graduates and making them employable serves my purpose and this is why I wake up in the morning. If I help one graduate and prosper in the working world and they are then able to assist other family members, this creates a positive spill-over effect,” he says.