State targets youth unemployment

Musa Mkalipi

Nomvula Mokonyane, premier of Gauteng; Ibrahim Patel, minister of economic development; Kgalema Motlanthe, deputy president of South Africa; and Johannesburg mayor Parks Tau all signed the accord.

Blade Nzimande, minister of higher education and training, signs the accord .
(Images: Musa Mkalipi)

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Unemployment is probably South Africa’s most pressing problem, particularly among the youth, where two out of every three people under the age of 24 are unable to find and sustain a job, according to Harambee, a private sector group that finds work for underprivileged youth.

Driven by these shocking statistics, the Youth Employment Accord was signed on 18 April at Hector Pieterson Memorial in Orlando West, Soweto, by several cabinet ministers, the South African Youth Council, student bodies, unions and others. The accord, signed in front of an audience of young people, brings a vast range of organisations to develop programmes such as internships, learnerships and workshops to upgrade skills, so making these young people more employable.

“The benefits will reach many more people through sustainable, decent opportunities and in this way we will avoid youth unemployment schemes that simply displace older workers,” Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe said at the signing.

The accord makes commitments to improve education and the skilling of young people. It also aims to help them find jobs and start their own businesses. It had six commitments, Motlanthe said:

  • The first is on education and training. It commits to improve education and training opportunities for the gap group between school-leaving and first employment.
  • Commitment to work exposure, to connect young people with employment opportunities through the support for job placement schemes and work readiness promotion programmes.
  • To strengthen measures that increase the number of young people employed in the public sector, through co-ordinating and scaling up existing programmes under a “youth brigade” programme.
  • Targets for new jobs in areas such as infrastructure, business process services sector and the green economy.
  • Public agencies such as the Small Enterprise Finance Agency, Small Enterprise Development Agency and Jobs Fund are encouraged to develop and strengthen dedicated programmes of support for youth enterprises and youth co-operatives.
  • Develop private sector measures to expand the intake of young people.

More jobs needed

Motlanthe said the approach to youth employment was based on the common recognition of the government’s social partners that more jobs needed to be created to ensure that the total number of South Africans employed was increased.

Companies involved in Harambee will implement aspects of the accord through the placement of 3 000 young people in entry level jobs by the middle of this year, and 10 000 by the end of 2014. Motlanthe said that in the accord, social partners recalled the commitment they had made to work with the government to achieve five million jobs by 2020.

Its benefits should reach youth in all corners of the country. “The Industrial Development Corporation [IDC] has agreed to set aside R1-billion of its Gro-E funding scheme to make low interest rate loans available to youth-owned or youth-focused enterprises over the next three years,” said Motlanthe.

The IDC would also provide technical support to young people to help them access these funds, and would refer them to other support available from the state.

A financial commitment was also made by the Motsepe Family Foundation. “I am pleased to note the commitment by the Motsepe Family Foundation to make R100-million (US$11-million) available over the next three to five years for youth co-operatives and enterprises.” It would give a further R100-million ($11-million) for education in attempts to bring young people into the economic mainstream. Youth co-operatives and youth entrepreneurship should be promoted. Public agencies such as Small Enterprise Finance Agency, Small Enterprise Development Agency and Jobs fund would be asked to develop youth enterprises and youth co-operatives.

Work streams

Three work streams are proposed in the Youth Employment Accord:

  • Identifying areas of immediate action that need to be implemented from 2013;
  • Using the lessons learned in the first phase as well as the trust that develops through practical measures, to identify possible actions on youth employment; and
  • Starting discussions on constraints in the economy that hinder job creation and growth.

The government plan calls on the private sector to play an active role in creating new jobs for young people. It will also increase the intake of interns as this will lead to job experience, which is often a requirement for employment in both the public and private sectors.

Economic development minister Ibrahim Patel said: “We wanted to sign the youth accord in Soweto; we wanted to sign it in the presence of young people; we wanted to sign it with the premier of the province and the executive mayor of the city here today with us.”

This is the fifth accord introduced by Patel. Others include the Green Economy Accord, National Skills Accord, Local Government Accord, and partnerships between the Department of Basic Education and schools.

Harambee helps

Harambee has been working to pair work seekers with jobs since 2011. It is “a business initiative that seeks to address youth unemployment through partnerships with many of South Africa’s top brands”, according to its website.

The Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator was founded by Yellowwoods, the holding company of brands such as Hollard, Clientele, Telesure, Direct Axis, and Nando’s. The project prepares first-time employees for work. It partners with the country’s top brands and private corporations, and then finds people sustainable jobs for young, unemployed people by matching them with the relevant employment.

It has already placed 790 adults into permanent employment. Candidates are interviewed and assessed. If successful, they either go through a bridging programme or are placed directly into a job that matches their qualification and skills.

Harambee caters for South African citizens between the ages of 18 and 29 who have a matric certificate and who are unemployed. Job seekers should also have no criminal record and must have not been permanently employed for more than 12 months.

Harambee prepares young adults for the job world to improve their chances for a fruitful and successful career. Candidates who are interested in getting employment can go to the Harambee website to register. They will then be contacted should they meet the criteria.