Private sector ‘key’ to youth jobs plan

7 May 2013

The National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) has called on employers to support the Youth Employment Accord, a government-led multi-partner initiative aimed at tackling the economic challenges facing young South Africans.

The pact, signed by the government, labour, business and other civil society representatives in April, commits the partners in particular to improve education and training opportunities for youngsters between school-leaving and first employment.

Another commitment is to improve work exposure by connecting young people with employment opportunities through support for job placement and work-readiness schemes.

The government is confident that all the preparatory work for implementing the accord will be completed between May and June, with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe saying that all the signatories have already starting taking steps to honour their commitments.

Companies ‘must absorb more young people’

Yershen Pillay, the newly appointed chairperson of the NYDA, told SAnews this week that employers would need to throw their weight behind the plan by absorbing more young people into companies.

“We need to see more of the private sector employers’ involvement in issues facing the young people of this country, not only in terms of financial support but also absorbing young people into companies – whether through internships or employment,” Pillay said.

“Generally, the commitment has not been satisfactory, but we do believe that the private sector will come to the party through the Youth Employment Accord.”

He also said that the accord would not succeed if it failed to get support from the very people it was seeking to help. “If young people have no idea what the accord seeks to achieve, then we will have a problem,” Pillay said.

Critics of the plan have questioned its viability, saying the ideas are good but questioning if the necessary financial muscle would be there to implement them.

IDC, Patrice Motsepe pledge funding

The state-owned Industrial Development Cooperation (IDC) has been one of the first to give the plan financial backing, pledging to set aside R1-billion from its “Gro-E” funding scheme to provide low-interest rate loans to youth-owned or youth-related enterprises over the next three years.

The IDC will also provide technical support to young people to assist in accessing these funds, and will refer them to other support available in the state.

Business mogul Patrice Motsepe has also come forward with hard funds, committing, through the Motsepe Family Foundation, R100-million over the next three years for youth co-operatives and enterprises.

“That is what we want to see more of from the private sector,” Pillay said. “We call on more companies to come to the party. We will do our part and as the NYDA, we would also like to exercise some kind of oversight or monitoring of the implementation of the actual accord to see whether certain targets are being met.”

The 2011 Census results put South Africa’s overall unemployment rate at near 25%, with unemployment at 33.7% among those aged 25-29 and at 27.4% among those aged 30-34.

More youth jobs in public sector

For its part, government has committed to increasing the number of young people employed in the public sector, and to ensuring that departments introduce focused internship programmes aimed, over a period of time, at interns making up 5% of the total departmentel employment.

The government’s Green Paper on Higher Education and Skills Development has also set ambitious targets for expanding higher education and training in the country. By 2030, according to the paper’s proposals, university enrolments should have increased to 1.5-million, or 23% of people in the relevant age group – up from 900 000 today, which is only a 16% participation rate.

Pillay said that based on its staff complement, the NYDA would lead by example by providing 15 young people with internships, and hoped that other state entities follow suit. The agency employs about 300 people.

“That’s realistic,” he said. “It’s achievable, and … it’s things like this that we need to do to make this work.”