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Salmah Brown | 4 October 2023

The Youth Employment Service is making huge strides in bringing down SA’s unemployment rate.

The Youth Employment Service (YES) is a private sector-funded talent pipeline for youth from disadvantaged households.

Their focus is to enable talented young people to become the next generation of professionals and entrepreneurs, who will not just develop their own careers, but go on to develop their communities and transform the country as a whole.

Ravi Naidoo, the CEO of YES, explains: “YES is a non-profit organisation that receives no government funding. We work with leading businesses in various sectors to provide 12-month quality work experiences for unemployed young people to gain the critical experience, social networks, and skills that they need to develop their careers and become future leaders.”

The YES impact

YES is the highest impact private sector youth employment programme in South Africa. In the four years since it was established, YES has signed on over 1 500 sponsoring businesses to create more than 118 000 work experiences–with 61% of these youth coming from grant-recipient households. Research conducted by YES shows that 42% of YES alumni are employed soon after they complete the programme, while 15% of all alumni are involved in entrepreneurial activity, from side hustles to running fully-fledged businesses. In a major win for women empowerment, 57% of YES youth are women.

“Beyond the direct jobs created, YES also has a catalytic impact on the economy through channelling youth talent into future-facing sectors such as tourism, global business services, technology, and the green economy, which in turn lays the basis for future economic development,” Naidoo states. An example of YES’s impact is 31-year-old Mawanda Faniso, who formed part of the first YES Drone Academy programme at the Genesis Hub in Saldanha in 2021. He left the academy with a remote pilot’s licence (RPL), which allows him to fly, fix, and work on drones. Mawanda is now an employed drone pilot working in the security sector.

You can get involved

Given that supporting youth employment is hugely beneficial to social mobility and economic transformation, businesses receive one or two levels up on their B-BBEE scorecard. In addition, many businesses join to integrate YES into their ESG strategies, while mining companies, for example, can use YES for their Social and Labour Plans. Naidoo expands: “Companies also join YES to bring on young talent, test for fit, and then employ a de-risked pipeline of youth as part of a five-year strategy to achieve employment equity targets. While these are all clear value propositions for companies, businesses that join YES have the underlying understanding that broad-based transformation fosters national socio-economic stability and prosperity, and want to be a part of creating a better legacy.

The future of YES

With its focus on monitoring and evaluation, YES conducts the biggest youth survey in the country. The survey, which involves roughly 38 000 youths every quarter, helps YES to understand how to better curate successful programmes that ensure they develop successful careers. “Thousands of YES youth are being placed in future-facing positions such as data capturers, business process outsourcing roles, cybersecurity agents, digital artisans, drone pilots, content creators, and software developers. Many of them will become professionals in these sectors and help SA emerge as a leading nation,” Naidoo explains.

“Also critical is the need to support and expand the informal economy and small businesses. While township economies are largely informal, they’re also far bigger than many people realise. Starting a micro-business can be the first step to getting into the mainstream economy.”

The effects of creating youth jobs ripple more broadly than we realise. About 62% of all YES youths have children or family that depend on them financially–the average number of dependents per YES youth is two, and more than 60% come from grant-recipient households. “Every youth job we can create today uplifts a family and a community in some way. It is more important now than ever to create opportunities for young people who have the potential to forge successful careers and advance socio-economic development, start businesses and fill the socio-economic gaps in communities, Naidoo concludes.

‘Disclaimer - The views expressed here are not necessarily those of the BEE CHAMBER’.


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