The Youth Employment Service (YES), which aims to create work experience for one-million young South Africans in the coming three years, is beginning to take shape.
Conceived in January 2016 by the CEO Initiative, a partnership created between government, labour and business, the programme was officially launched as part of President Cyril Ramaphosa’s ‘New Dawn’ in March as a way of addressing the country’s youth unemployment crisis. It is estimated that there are six-million unemployed youths in South Africa, 60% of whom reside in townships and rural areas.
The CEO Initiative has been tasked with establishing an environment that is conducive to inclusive and sustainable economic growth, while also addressing the increasing challenge of unemployment beyond urban confines reaching deep into rural areas and townships.
In response to this challenge, the YES initia- tive was launched to contribute to creating a more equal economy. It also aims to change companies’ mindsets when it comes to broad-based black economic empowerment (BBBEE) and social development funds.
YES CEO Tashmia Ismail-Saville argues that BBBEE funds should rather be considered as innovation funds, where a true impact can be made on not only communities within which there are high unemployment rates but also the country’s economy.
YES comprises three programme channels:
- corporate work experience, where businesses can create one-year paid work positions for youth aged between 18 and 35;
- small, medium-sized and microenterprise (SMME) host placements, where businesses that do not have capacity to employ YES candidates can sponsor the salary for a one-year placement in an SMME; and
- SMME development, enabling young people to start and develop their own businesses, with support from YES through training, seed funding and value-chain integration.
In return, South African corporates will be able to earn recognition for their YES participation, which will be made possible through revisions being made to the BBBEE Codes of Good Practice. Initial concerns relating to an onerous bursary target set as a precondition for any firms seeking to receive empowerment credits for their participation in YES initiatives have been alleviated by the intervention of Trade and Industry Minister Dr Rob Davies.
Leading up to the drafting of the latest BBBEE codes, which will be gazetted by the Department of Trade and Industry, several leading companies are collaborating with YES in business design workshops that seek to unpack additive value chains.
During the workshops, the targets that companies have in mind and ways of making their social contributions count, while giving benefits back to the company through its value chain, will be discussed, Ismail-Saville explains to Engineering News.
“We hope to [help ensure] that BBBEE spend happens in a targeted fashion.”
There are currently 35 companies on the database that are ready to participate – by either employing YES youths or sponsoring a salary through an SMME.
YES has also initiated value-chain mapping, through which the characteristics of impoverished regions are analysed to understand the characteristics of communities and identify their natural assets and limitations, as well as the economic value that can be derived from the region through value-chain development.
“A good example of effective value-chain mapping in Africa is Ethiopia, whose leather market has developed into a major industry. Potential was identified through residents having cattle and curing leather themselves informally, which has now escalated into the country producing high-quality leather shoes and handbags that are exported,” Ismail-Saville points out.
Locally, however, YES value-chain mapping in Mpumalanga has identified the tourism sector as a big opportunity. These value-chain-mapping opportunities include small businesses or farmers practising hydroponics and aquaponics, which can be developed to supply home-grown produce to the nature reserves that are prominent in the province.
Communities bordering the reserves can also be trained in digital skills to help develop applications and websites that can enrich a tourist experience online and, ultimately, attract investment.
There is a challenging factor for tourists when entering a country where a foreign language – let alone a few – is spoken; therefore, tourists seek online experiences to provide an overview of the destination, Ismail-Saville explains.
Tourism can attract a massive influx of people by improving digital experiences, she points out.
“Once you start to add value using digital experiences, it will snowball into eventually increasing competition in the region, which, in turn, will spark even more value-add, richer and wider than before. Ultimately, this will improve the service level in the entire region and encourage tourists to stay longer and spend more money.”
YES is establishing hubs in rural areas and townships where unemployment is most severe and, in so doing, taking the work experience to the people.
These hubs are smart infrastructure solutions, equipped with modern technology and skilled staff, which brings both learning and opportunities to the doorsteps of underserved communities.
They are also designed as inclusive and engaging platforms through which existing and aspiring small businesses can elevate their businesses or ideas. The youth can also access training at the hubs, which positions them for the modern economy.
However, in terms of financing, a hub costs, on average, about R5.5-million to set up and equip. The financing will come from a collaboration of corporate partners that are participating in the hub’s activities, says Ismail-Saville.
She highlights that each hub will be unique, designed with the community in mind and aligned to the local economic environment of the area.
YES launched its first hub in Tembisa last month and plans to initially launch 100 hubs across South Africa and eventually 1 000. The main corporate partners for the first hub are Unilever, Sanlam and Investec, as well as Pepsico and Microsoft.
Training in these hubs spans across digital skills, hospitality, agriculture and even financial literacy, which are the relevant skills required for the local economy around the hub to thrive and, eventually, the greater surrounding area.
Unilever has built a kitchen that will offer community members training in cooking and nutrition, Microsoft will offer office-software skills and computer training, while Investec and Sanlam will provide financial and mathematics literacy training.
Unilever CEO Luc-Oliver Marquet says, as a big, fast-moving consumer goods multi- national, the company aims to be profit-driven and to create opportunities and relationships in communities, which could add value to the company in the longer term.
“There are micro entrepreneurs in townships who could potentially be using more Unilever products the more their businesses develop. These small businesses can be hawkers that resell Unilever products or restaurants that use Unilever products.”
Marquet adds that all brands are not solely about selling a product, but also about developing the ecosystem and surrounding communities.
Food, snack and beverage corporation Pepsico South Africa social responsibility manager Jarred Arendse comments that the company is sponsoring a Safe-Hub at the YES hub in Tembisa, which is a warehouse-type setup where Pepsico will present its hawker training programme to equip local entrepreneurs with distribution and sales know-how and opportunities to be incorporated into company supply chains.
Moreover, YES plans to have a ‘builder’s box’ at each hub to expose and develop artisanal skills, such as construction, installation, maintenance and repair, which can be used across professions, including mechanical work, plastering, painting and plumbing.
“We are teaching young people to make a pathway for themselves while equipping and empowering them to control their own future,” says Ismail-Saville.
YES has signed a memorandum of understanding with the Gauteng provincial government to collaborate on youth employment. In Gauteng, YES runs simultaneously with government’s Tshepo 1 Million programme, which has the mandate to break down barriers faced by young people seeking skills development, employment or business opportunities.
Tshepo 1 Million chief director Jak Koseff says there are 2.5-million young people in Gauteng that are not currently involved in economic activity or receiving training that is likely to lead them into a job.
There are about 4 000 small firms in Tembisa alone that could potentially be empowered, including hair salons, spaza shops, small transport companies and small manufacturers, he says.
These SMMEs can employ more people, should the business grow, with the YES hubs providing these firms with skilled YES participants to be employed, or entry into the market, which incorporates more than just the community.
Therefore, Tshepo 1Million will help to link its participants with YES opportunities and partners.
“The hubs are catalytic and will spark the kind of economy that each area needs to employ more people,” Koseff avers.
Further, YES has partnered with Broll Property Group to provide security for the hub on the same level as for major shopping malls in Gauteng, thereby ensuring that it is a safe space for community members.
Ismail-Saville states that there seems to be a common realisation among South African businesses that it will not be possible to build a country that works for all if entities operate as islands.
“A thriving economy needs a thriving community,” she concludes. This can only be enabled through civil society, government and business partnerships.
“Participating in YES is as important as your vote.”