Young mining potential

POSITIVE OUTLOOK The Youth Employment Programme offers youth training and job opportunities in a tough and often daunting environment

RAVI NAIDOO Many mining companies use the YES programme as part of their social and labour plans, and to contribute towards their employment equity plans

26th January 2024

By: Halima Frost

Senior Writer


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To ignite conversations about the ballooning youth unemployment rate in South Africa, private-sector-funded initiative Youth Employment Services (YES) programme CEO Ravi Naidoo unpacks the topic with Mining Weekly.

He offers an informative progress report on the YES initiative, details its successes and highlights the programme’s long-term goals.

Naidoo says many mining companies use the YES programme as part of their social and labour plans, and to contribute towards their employment equity plans.

“YES has met many goals and targets and continues to grow at an exponential rate,” he enthuses.

The YES programme is the biggest 12-month youth employment programme in South Africa, creating over 32 000 jobs a year.

“It is a business and moral imperative for companies to be active and intentional about their contribution to youth employment,” adds Naidoo.

For business, YES is a key pipeline through which a company can select, develop and derisk undiscovered, standout talent that was previously locked out of the economy.

“We provide businesses with a route to sustainability and long-term value, and YES can improve broad-based black economic-empowerment scorecards by up to two levels,” he says.

YES-affiliated businesses can also use the initiative’s impact scorecard as part of an environmental, social and governance strategy, thereby offering twice the benefits.

Its career paths also fit into typical five-year plans for businesses to increase junior management capacities.

Naidoo says the 1 612 companies that sponsor YES youth enrollments typically find value propositions that are material to their business requirements and operating environments.

The programme’s impact showcases the improved employability of the youth who have successfully completed the YES programme, as 45% are finding permanent employment or securing fixed-term contracts.

Further, 15% of all YES enrollments are engaging in entrepreneurial activities, in addition to their day jobs – almost double the national average of 7% who run their own business.

“This, again, confirms the potential of many YES youth to be future game changers for the country,” Naidoo maintains.

Further, the formal work experience and social networks established after having completed the one-year YES programme result in most youth being “much better placed to find their own jobs, undertake temporary work, or even establish their own formal small businesses”.

The initiative also works with partners to provide more training and support for youth in its programmes, including the recently launched Artificial Intelligence (AI) Skills Hub with software developer Microsoft, through which 300 000 youth will access training on AI platforms at various levels, from novice to expert, over the next three years.


YES programme-related jobs increased from 25 288 in 2022 to 32 578 in 2023 – an increase of 29% year-on-year.

“In the beginning of 2023, YES reached the momentous milestone of creating 100 000 game-changing jobs,” he adds.

Subsequent to celebrating this milestone, the number of programme-related jobs has increased – reaching 129 252-plus positions in the private sector and accounting for as much as R6.8-billion worth of youth salaries.

However, while YES is having a positive impact on youth unemployment, the ultimate answer is significantly elevated levels of national economic growth, while the education system also requires efforts to ensure higher levels of functioning.

“Under low growth conditions, YES is playing a role in terms of social mobility and empowering youth to be game-changers to grow the economy,” Naidoo concludes.

Edited by Donna Slater
Features Deputy Editor and Chief Photographer





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