President Cyril Ramaphosa officially launched the Youth Employment Service (YES) today, an initiative that aims to see more than one million young South Africans being offered paid work experience over the next three years.
Ramaphosa said 330 000 jobs would be created a year for young people as a way to address youth unemployment in the country.
“If we, in the next year, could create half a million jobs for young people, we could make a serious dent on youth unemployment,” he said.
He said the programme would spread throughout the country, and would not be confined to urban areas.
“It is the young people who must daily grapple with the misery and indignity of poverty and unemployment,” he said.
Said millions of young people do not complete schools and the skills of the many that do are not needed by the country’s economy.
“Without access to networks, without information about opportunities, without exposure to the world of work, even those with further education often struggle to bridge the gap between learning and earning,” he said.
The president said young people lived far from areas that offered employment opportunities, which escalates their travelling costs.
Ramaphosa said the decision by Moody’s not to further downgrade the country was a welcome positive, and added the biggest challenge was to make the country attractive to foreign and local investors.
“The US has reached almost full employment. They have been creating jobs because they have been successful at attracting investments globally and for local companies to invest in their local economy,” he said.
He said the government was working to improve the quality and value of learning in early childhood development in the country’s basic education system.
“Access to higher education and training has expanded dramatically over the last two decades, significantly increasing the number of people in the workforce who hold degrees and diplomas,” he said.
The president said though the number of young people that entered the country’s schooling system had increased, efforts were still being made to ensure that all learners who entered the school system remained in school until they complete Grade 12.
“We are investing, for example, more effort and more resources into TVET colleges, which have the potential to produce on a significant scale the technical skills that will underpin the industrialisation of our economy. By partnering with the private sector, we are seeking to ensure that training in TVET colleges is suited to the requirements of the companies that seek these skills and that TVET college graduates are more easily able to find positions in these companies,” he said.
Gauteng Premier David Makhura welcomed the decision to use the province as the testing ground for the initiative.
He said YES would partner with the provincial government’s Tshepo 1 million initiative, which has given opportunities to youth in the province by providing training in areas demanding specific jobs.
The service’s CEO, Tashmia Ismail-Saville, called on small, medium and large companies to offer work experience even if it is for one young person or a thousand of them.
She said through the initiative, small black-owned entities would be given access to labour that is paid for by bigger companies and that young people would be offered the work in their communities so that they do not have to spend on travelling costs.
She added that several businesses have made pledges to actively take part in the initiative.
Ismail-Saville said through YES, people with technical skills will transfer those skills to young members of their communities on a one on one basis.
“We have to go to get better at linking the informal and formal sectors of business in our country,” Saville said.
Thembinkosi Josopu from the South African Youth Council (SAYC) said in the past five years the council has been raising the issue of businesses in the country creating jobs for young people and so welcomes the initiative.
The initiative takes the form of a partnership – led by President Cyril Ramaphosa – between government, business, labour and civil society.
The programme has three channels through which employment opportunities can occur:
• Corporate work experiences: businesses that participate in the programme create one-year paid positions for youth aged between 18 and 35, in addition to these organisations’ current employment numbers, YES is additive;
• SMME host placements: businesses that do not have the capacity to place more people in their organisations have the option of sponsoring the salary for a one-year placement in small and medium enterprises (in year one for 7 to 10 months); and
• SMME development: young people are empowered to start and grow their own businesses, with support from YES in the form of training, seed funding and value-chain integration.