Pretoria - The high numbers of unemployment, especially amongst the youth, must be top of the agenda, said Higher Education Minister Blade Nzimande.
South Africa, with a nearly 50 million-strong population, has an unemployment rate of 25 percent.
"The unacceptable wastage of talent and human capability with such high numbers of young people without employment and training opportunities must be addressed urgently.
"The skills shortage underpins many of the challenges government faces with regard to service delivery, the expansion of decent work and social justice," said Nzimande.
He was speaking at the unveiling of the Research into Education and Labour Market (REAL) Programme at the University of the Witwatersrand in Johannesburg on Thursday.
Nzimande said that REAL would help the education sector adequately prepare students for the eventualities of the job market.
"The programme seeks to pull together existing and ongoing research activities at universities throughout the country, to generate and maximise insights into the relationships between education and the labour market," said the minister.
He linked the problem of unemployment to the mismatch between the supply and demand for skills in the South African labour market.
He asserted that an expansion of the Further Education and Training College sector would be able to create opportunities for some of the unemployed youth.
"Directing our students to the colleges will help to reduce the burden currently placed on our universities by the increasing student demand for higher education," he said.
The minister said institutions of higher learning and universities played a critical role in analysis of education and the labour market, planning, policy making and review.