For many young people, getting a job without experience can prove to be tough. Many young people find themselves between a rock and a hard place: you need experience to get a job and a job to get experience.
It’s a dilemma faced by many people across the country, including graduates. But government wants to change this through the new Youth Employment Service (YES) launched recently by President Cyril Ramaphosa. It’s a first of several long term strategies aimed at addressing the country’s youth unemployment.
For 26 year-old Akani Mbondzisa of Mpumalanga, securing a year’s worth of work experience with the YES programme is a shot at getting employed and providing for his four-year old child.
Akani’s parents, a primary school general worker and a miner, worked hard to give their child a chance to a better life.
But a series of personal problems meant that Akani would not perform at his best at school and as a result, he battled with his grades and failed his matric. It was at this point where his future became uncertain as his dream of obtaining a matric certificate dwindled along with that of potentially securing a job in the future.
“I passed all the other Grades and when I got to Grade 12, I failed and then I said: I give up.”
It was at this stage that Akani’s parents sought to intervene and took him to an organisation called Good Work Foundation (GWF).
It’s a non-profit organisation which helps equip students who lack basic opportunities to become proficient in English and digital skills.
It was at GWF where Akani improved his English and obtained an Information Communication Technology certificate. With few opportunities, Akani did odd jobs, including working as a volunteer at a home-based care centre, but nothing came out of it and 2017 remained grim for the youngster with few prospects of securing a proper job.
But, with determination and tenacity to find the right opportunities, Akani’s day finally came, when he was chosen as part of the Top 20 students selected for the first cohort of the YES initiative.
The YES is a government initiative that was developed out of a partnership between business, labour and civil society to help young people gain access to employment opportunities. The initiative is led by the country’s president himself.
It seeks to wrestle with the 27.7% unemployment rate in the country by targeting the six million unemployed youth in the country and offer them a chance to become economically active through a year’s worth of paid work experience.
The idea is based on research which found that one year of work experience, coupled with a CV and a reference letter, increases by three times, a young person’s chances of finding employment.
Government seeks to do this by introducing a new Youth Employment Broad-Based Black Economic Empowerment recognition, which allows a business that meets YES targets and complies with registration criteria to move up a level on their current B-BBEE scorecard.
YES Chief Executive Officer Tashmia Ismail-Saville says the initiative particularly aims to create opportunities for those who lack the necessary skills required by companies for formal employment.
“YES aims to give that portion of our youth, which are largely overlooked by the country’s current employment models, a crucial first chance to gain a paid work experience of a decent quality. This significantly increases their chances of securing permanent employment after the one year,” he says.
In addition, the initiative aims to cut through the socio-economic challenges which stifle youth from accessing jobs such as apartheid spatial planning which often demands that young employees travel far to their places of work.
It does this by aiming to place young people closer to their jobs, ensuring that they save on exorbitant transport costs.
Although government is working closely with the YES, it is envisaged that the private sector is where the majority of jobs would be created. Both small and big businesses will be critical for the success of the programme.
For businesses that need the labour but cannot afford to pay their employees, the initiative offers an opportunity for companies to form a social compact. One as the provider of skills and the other of resources.
This allows small businesses the opportunity to gain access to labour while transferring skills to the youth.
An example is a case of two organisations participating in the programme are Sabi Sands and Investec. Sabi Sands will serve as the training arm of the social compact but the 20 students will receive their stipend from Investec’s payroll.
The stipend is expected to be set at the national minimum wage level of R3, 500 per month, and includes associated training and support which on average will bring the cost to R55, 000 per annum.
Companies employing black youth between the ages of 18 and 29 will qualify for the Employment Tax Incentive.
Furthermore, the YES initiative empowers young people to start and grow their own businesses, with support in the form of training, seed funding and value-chain integration.
Young people interested in joining the YES must be in the ages of between 18 and 34, be unemployed for more than six months and are black African, Coloured or Indian.
Government says it is through initiatives such as the YES programme that young people with difficult experiences like that of Akani can regain their confidence and gain access to work experience and possibly realise their dreams.
“This will change my life because I will have an opportunity to improve my CV and to get experience,” says Akani.
Businesses interested in the Yes programme can visit www.yes4youth.co.za to sign up for the youth job creation initiative.