President Cyril Ramaphosa on Tuesday launched the Youth Employment Service (Yes) initiative – a business-led partnership with government, labour and society, that aims to empower one-million young South Africans between the ages of 18 and 34 through paid work experiences over the next three years.
“One year of work experience, coupled with a curriculum vitae and reference letter, increases a young person’s chances of finding employment by three times,” said Yes CEO Tashmia Ismail-Saville.
At the launch, Ramaphosa was introduced to the first 100 young people who will be employed at Absa, Investec, Netcare, Sasol and Unilever, within the next few months.
Other confirmed companies who have joined the Yes initiative are First Rand Bank, Nedbank, Spar, Discovery, Woolworths and Exxaro.
Ramaphosa stressed the importance of job creation and ensuring that youth are included in the economic growth story in a sustainable manner.
He added that the country needed to bridge the gap between learning and earning, since the youth often remain unemployed even with matric certificates, owing to a lack of industry-specific skills or necessary work experience.
The launch was also attended by Finance Minister Nhlanhla Nene, Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies, Public Enterprises Minister Pravin Gordhan, Minister in the Presidency Dr Nkosazana Dlamini-Zuma and Small Business Development Minister Lindiwe Zulu.
Ismail-Saville explained that the Yes initiative is aimed at addressing the key challenges facing young people when seeking employment, especially in rural communities, where youth unemployment is at its highest. About 5.9-million youths in South Africa are unemployed.
The initiative offers three channels for work experience – corporate work experiences, where participating businesses create one-year paid positions; small, medium-sized and microenterprises (SMME) host placements, where businesses sponsor the salary for a one-year placement in an SMME, should they not have the capacity to place the employee in their own business; and SMME development, where young people can be empowered to start and grow their own business, with support from Yes.
Through these channels, the initiative expects to activate at least an additional R8.4-billion a year in personal income in the economy.
“In all development stories all over the world, SMMEs lead as major job creators and are often in a better position to do so than larger corporates, owing to a less complex process of skills transfer, with lower power and cultural differences,” noted Ismail-Saville.
Additionally, Yes is in the process of creating a number of community hubs at various locations in the country, which will provide the environment and services necessary for existing and aspiring business owners to elevate their business or ideas, through training, mentorship and securing necessary registrations and certificates.
“Yes is a practical partnership . . . that uses the funding, skills and organisation of businesses, the incentives and regulatory power of government, the cooperation of labour and the participation of communities to create a new set of opportunities for the youth to gain an opportunity for experience in the workforce,” said Yes co-convenors Colin Coleman and Stephen Koseff.
South African Youth Council member Thembinkosi Josopu said the initiative takes into account the youths’ specific concerns and needs, such as being placed in businesses close to where they live.
“Young people do not want favours, but opportunities; they do not want to be charity cases, but contributors that participate in their own right,” Josopu lamented.