Cape Town – The statistics for youth unemployment are at an all-time high and the question is, are taxpayer-funded agencies such as the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) doing enough?
As part of IOL’s youth focus for June, we speak to the NYDA’s Micarlo Malan, who is an official based in the Western Cape, to find out what is being done.
The NYDA was created from the statute by the National Youth Development Agency Act 54 of 2008. The agency was established with the sole purpose to address the socio-economic challenges faced by youth in South Africa.
According to Malan, the Western Cape provincial manager for the NYDA, the work done by the agency in addressing youth challenges should be implemented at a national, provincial and local level.
He said the agency should be seen and known to the broad spectrum of the South African youth.
The NYDA offers a national youth service programme, a government initiative that seeks to engage and strengthen activities that aim to advance service delivery in communities.
“This is done through the promotion of social cohesion and affording youth with the necessary skills to access opportunities that will develop and sustain their livelihoods,” Malan said.
He said the agency also offers an educational and skills programme that is aimed at giving young people the needed capacity training in areas such as life skills and job preparedness.
“These trainings are mainly aimed at empowering youth to make informed decisions in the changing society we live in,” Malan said.
A grant programme is offered by the agency which is aimed at funding the start-up or business owned by youth, in providing financial and non-financial support.
Non-financial services include mentorship, business consultancy services, market linkages and business management training.
The financial support fund movable or immovable property, bridging financial support, the renovation of a business serve as an example.
According to Malan, one of the main problems youth face is that they are not prepared for the working world.
“It is for this reason that we find that young people in some instances are underpaid and/or exploited.
“However, this stems from the very same social challenge that is before every young person’s doorstep. Either I go and study and we continue to live in poverty, or I go and work so as to ensure that I provide.
“The unprepared yet determined youth is not aware of the demands of the working world. They have little knowledge of relevant questions that they have a right to ask, nor do they know that within the workplace there are skills development initiatives in place to help that develop.
“It is for this reason that the NYDA believes in the job preparedness programme that prepares the youth for the working world out there.
“This will take the vulnerable young person who has no knowledge and place them in a better position to understand and appreciate the challenges of the working world,” Malan said.
The NYDA faces challenges when it comes to assisting youth, and one of those challenges includes access to the internet and technology, these challenges have been reported in the rural areas of the Western Cape.
Malan said it was for this reason the NYDA in the Western Cape has taken an approach to engage and link up with local municipal offices through its community development workers.
“This gives us access to the challenged/vulnerable youth. Among other challenges we face when assisting youth, is their eagerness to get access to grant funding without realising the importance of the skills development programmes that would broaden their skill of thought and ability to run that initiative or business in mind.
“There are not many challenges that one can speak of arising between the engagements between the agency and the youth, what comes to the fore, are the challenges that they face and how we have the important duty of ensuring that we provide the needed service that will uplift their lives,” Malan said.
He said the missing link for youth finding jobs, is access to information and awareness.
Malan said there is an inability of municipalities to provide facilities where youth may be able to access the internet for job opportunities.
“The mere access to a facility to upload a CV. It is this grey area that we as the NYDA are always eager to close.
“A simple engagement where young people are informed of the opportunities that exist for them in jobs or leadership would prepare them for a value chain of development and upskilling.
“Where there is an inability for youth to access information, we ought to bring it to them,” Malan said.
When asked if government funding is enough, Malan said no funding is less or more, it is subject to the impact made at a provincial and local level.
“The NYDA like any other government agency has the prerogative of partnering up with relevant partners who share the same vision of youth development.
“These partnerships also provide the opportunity to co-fund initiatives and programmes. There is truly no conclusive as to whether funding can be enough or not, this is all dependent on yearly programme impact and demand,” he said.
The NYDA receives its budget allocation from the National Treasury.
The budget used by the agency is to ensure the agency meets its goals and effects change by having the requisite funding to implement programmes for youth.
Malan, who has been with the agency for a year, said one of the key strategies he has implemented is aimed that the Western Cape office not only to meet its yearly targets but establish relations with communities, municipalities and youth structures that would make youth aware of the agency and its opportunities.
“What we have seen through this strategy is the agency becoming a buzz among youth. Therein after, we find that young people partake in our programmes, and this positively sees reaching our targets and by reaching those targets we can indicate that the budget as allocated, has been put to the use it was sought to serve.
“My position is that the adequacy of a budget lies in the impact of the programme for the budget is generated in line with implementation goals or targets. Confidently, I can say that the office has for the past year positively impacted society with more to do. That positive impact has given young people access to their budget and in turn, allowing the office to put it to good use,” Malan said.
In the last financial year, the NYDA in the Western Cape assisted 5 105 youth.
Malan attributes this success to the agency going out to communities and engaging with youth on its services and products.
He said his office intends to go above the 7 000 mark in impactful programmes with youth in the new financial year.
He has rated the success of the Western Cape office as satisfactory.
“I use the word ‘satisfactory’ as there are more areas in the Western Cape that we may not be aware of where young people need our services. It is this reason that we strive to go out and do the best that we can to inform our youth of our productive and services.
“However, the NYDA Western Cape has an excellent story to tell on the impact and livelihoods of young people that are altered,” Malan said.
One of the stories is of a young woman who started her own nail and beauty business. Another example is a young man who started a sneaker cleaning business. He attended the educational skills programme and with funding has set up a sneaker laundry, which is in demand.
Malan said these are but a few success stories and these speak of the youth grabbing opportunities provided by the NYDA.
“If stories of these young persons were a success rate then I would surely put it to you that the NYDA Western Cape Office and its staff have an excellent story to tell,” Malan said.
He, however, believes there is light at the end of the tunnel and Malan said the NYDA will continue doing the best to take the agency to youth.
But, it is up to the youth to ensure they take opportunities that are free with no attachments to them from the NYDA for them to succeed and develop themselves, Malan said.
“I have witnessed great potential and innovative thinkers in our youth. What we need is to bring these young people together to ensure that they are aware of the impact their innovation or skill can have on the needs for their country or society.
“While we are unaware of the great potential that exists there will always be little done to cultivate the potential skills out there. I believe that institutions of higher learning are doing their best and can only achieve more if we interact and make youth aware of what the needs (of skills) there may be,” Malan said.
The NYDA has branches across the country and more information can be found via their website at www.nyda.gov.za. Those within the Western Cape can head to their local ward councillors, municipal officers and local Thusong Service Centres to gain access to its platforms.