130306 - Cape Town - Western Cape Minister of Finance Alan Winde tabled the Western Cape's 2013/2014 budget. PICTURE: WILLEM LAW

Cape Town - The provincial government has launched a new bid to help young people find jobs, making it the top priority in next year’s budget.

Finance MEC Alan Winde said on Wednesday the Western Cape would “prioritise initiatives to advance the life chances of our youth because we believe that our youth are our future”.

Among core focus areas for the budget were economic growth.

“We will do this through infrastructure investment, growing the green economy, increasing the value of our agriculture sector and improving our competitiveness. These steps will create an enabling environment for small and large business,” Winde said.

“The second is to increase employment and decrease unemployment. We will achieve this through skills development, public employment programmes and initiatives that assist our entrepreneurs.

“The third is to improve the quality of public education and health care; and the fourth is to reduce poverty, crime and other social ills. We will do this through focused socio-economic projects, social inclusion and development programmes, and through increasing safety.”

The budget includes spending of more than R150 billion over the next three years to achieve these goals.

Winde said he was “deeply concerned about youth unemployment”, adding:

“Our children deserve education and health care that will allow them to compete internationally.”

The first step in the jobs plan was building new education facilities “where they are needed most”.

“In 2014/15, we will build 52 Grade R classrooms, complete 23 schools and start to construct 11 replacement schools, predominantly in our poorer areas. Planning for a further 11 schools will be finalised.”

Second was public employment programmes, entrepreneurship and skills development. “According to the latest Stats SA figures, 2.2 million residents in our province have jobs. For these residents, the door to a better future is open if they are willing to work hard,” Winde said.

“For 593 000 others, however, the hope of a better life is still a distant dream. This is especially so amongst our youth….

“In the years ahead, we will intensify our efforts to raise the number and percentage of employed people in our province.”

To do this, it was essential to give young people “the tools they need to become active players in our economy”.

“Over the next three years we plan to invest over R300 million into skills development programmes to help our young people improve their chances.

“To date, we have given over 5 500 unemployed youths the opportunity to develop skills that will grow their employability through our flagship initiatives.

“At present, the average age of Western Cape artisans is 55. This presents a particular challenge in light of the specialised skills we require in our emerging oil and gas, renewable energy and ship-building sectors.

“Through our ground-breaking artisan development programme, we plan to offer a further 1 000 young, unemployed residents the in-service training they need to obtain their official qualifications.”

Cape Argus