The future of South Africa’s youth relies heavily on young people’s readiness to enter the job market. The Artisan Training Institute (ATI) takes a critical look at the need for quality skills to ensure the success of Cyril Ramaphosa’s new Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative.

The Oxford Dictionary gave life to an old phrase when it announced its 2017 word of the year: youthquake. Flamboyant Vogue editor Diana Vreeland first coined the phrase in 1965 during the rise of counterculture in a time that the marginalised were claiming back their voices. Oxford defines the phrase as, ‘a significant cultural, political, or social change arising from the actions or influence of young people’.

In staying with the Zeitgeist, President Cyril Ramaphosa, took quick action to address one of South Africa’s most pressing socio-economic challenges shortly after he took the reins – the issue of youth unemployment.

The launch of the Youth Employment Service (YES) in March 2018, signifies major progress towards helping South Africa’s youth obtain work placement. The revolutionary YES campaign promises to create between 300,000 and half a million jobs for young people each year.

YES – an incentive for the private sector to place youth. According to Sean Jones, managing director of the Artisan Training Institute (ATI), YES is one of the first employment programmes in South Africa to proactively incentivise businesses to employ young people. The youth are the most vulnerable in the skills economy. Most are willing to work, but their opportunities for employment are limited. Basic education does not adequately prepare young people for workplaces. Employers need fundamental skills that bring about workplace readiness. The YES initiative creates opportunities for businesses to respond to this challenge through a programme that has been smartly designed to everyone’s advantage.

One of the most encouraging elements of the YES initiative is the possibility of partnership, says Jones. It calls for government, labour, civil society and young people to work together to fight South Africa’s unemployment crisis. The initiative introduces new youth employment B-BBEE recognition and allows businesses that meet YES targets to improve their B-BBEE scorecard. To encourage the demand-side of job creation, companies qualify for tax incentives when they employ black youth aged 18-29.

Businesses that participate in the project should establish one-year paid positions for youngsters. Those businesses that cannot employ young people internally, have the option of sponsoring their salary for a year in a small- to medium enterprise.

A young person increases his or her chance of future employment threefold with only one year of work experience, a CV and an employment letter, says Tashmia Ismail-Saville, CEO of YES. Therefore, the private sector can contribute significantly to the South African economy by placing youth through the YES programme. However, companies do take a risk when they employ a young person without any previous work experience or skills. Having workplace exposure coupled with quality technical training reduces this exposure for companies.

According to Linda Kromjong, the secretary general of the International Organisation of Employers (IOE), degree apprenticeships, a new education approach, are becoming increasingly relevant in dealing with youth unemployment, combining skills development with job placement.

Jones reiterates that Degree programmes are becoming apprenticeship-based. The status quo is no longer that your kids rush to university and simply step into a job. Practical skills are critical in ensuring job readiness. Degree apprenticeships are making waves in the United Kingdom. Employers, universities and professional bodies work together to ensure the youth’s employability through a programme that combine university studies with part-time employment.

Although degree apprenticeships have not reached the South African shores, the YES initiative offers a similar opportunity albeit at a more basic level. In a time of a bellowing youthquake in South Africa, businesses are being offered a chance to make a difference. Training our youth and providing them with on-the-job experience to increase their employability makes commercial sense and will lead to positive social change for South Africa.

Sean Jones is the managing director of the Artisan Training Institute (ATI), a leading technical skills training provider investing in the development of artisans in Southern Africa. 

comments