Youth unemployment poses significant risks to our economy. Photo: Supplied

JOHANNESBURG – June is Youth Month, and this is when we commemorate and celebrate the youth of our country. More than 5 million of our young people with no jobs and few prospects, however, might ask what there is to celebrate in 2019. 

Youth unemployment poses significant risks to our economy. This many economically inactive citizens who are not contributing to the fiscus and who have little to spend as consumers are an impediment to the growth of the country. 

We must reduce this figure as much as possible, as it is highly probable that with no skills or work experience, an entire generation of young people will never be absorbed into the workforce, which will have a direct impact on our goal of re-industrialisation.

There are a number of public, private and NPO initiatives working in the youth unemployment space if you are looking to improve this situation and hire young people for your business. 

Yes4Youth (YES) is a joint initiative between the government and the private sector, which was launched last year. 

Without the support of corporates their laudable intention of creating 1 million jobs will remain just that – well intentioned, but under-achieving in its goal. YES is a win-win for companies and candidates alike. The latter must be black, aged between 18 and 35 and committed to “putting their best foot forward”. 

Corporates pay a fee for finding and/or simply for the monitoring and evaluation of young employees. 

Companies must commit to creating new positions on a temporary or fixed-term 12-month contract, paying applicable minimum wages. 

In return, these companies receive a tax incentive as well as an increased B-BBEE score.  

Companies get a young, committed employee who will have undertaken a series of online work readiness training modules and who will be equipped with a smartphone where evaluation is ongoing via an app.

Instead of overly focusing on previous work experience, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator (which, incidentally, is a member of Proudly South African) assists with entry level experience, placing young people who have completed at least Grade 10 into jobs where they are most likely to succeed and where they have the potential to do the job properly. 

If you don’t have a job for a Harambee candidate, you can also contribute by helping, for example, to conduct mock interviews or by donating smart interview outfits. Visit their website for more information.

These kinds of initiatives are creating a pool of young people who have at least some experience under their belts, and whose real qualifications and experience can be captured and verified for their CVs. 

The obvious benefits for both youth and business will begin to accrue to the country as we equip more and more people to enter the economy.

Even better is equipping learners before they leave school with entrepreneurial skills they can call on to launch a business, or which they can apply in the workplace – how to manage budgets, or write a business plan or proposal for example, and teaching them about the importance of supporting the kind of local businesses which may be the very ones that give them a fighting chance at a job when they leave school. 

One such programme is Primestars’ Step Up 2, a start-up which builds entrepreneurial skills in schools, and rewards finalists selected for their innovative thinking and creativity with a boot camp, where their presentation skills are polished and honed. The gala dinner and prize-giving in December is an amazingly rewarding experience and bears testimony to the great work they do.

This is a call to action for all private businesses to do what they can to take in a young person and just give them a chance. 

For the next four weeks I am doing just that and handing over my column to four different young voices who will explore issues important to them. I’ll see you back here on July 2. 

Let us collectively do our bit too and aim to create jobs for the youth of our country. 

I strongly believe that “one day we will reach it” as Zonke says in her song, and that we will have a society where our young people will all be economically active.

Eustace Mashimbye is the chief executive of Proudly South African. The views expressed here are his.

BUSINESS REPORT