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Updated: Jul 4, 2023

As June’s Youth month ends, South Africa is still grappling with effective ways to unlock this vital cohort’s potential for driving significant change and there is a now growing urgency to adopt a new approach to tackling unemployment Current data paints a stark picture of the jobs landscape for young people. Overall, the country continues to shed jobs with only 9.97 million employed and close on five million people aged between 15 and 34 out of work. These alarming figures underscore the urgent need for collaborative efforts to address youth unemployment in the country. Erica Kempken Director at the non-profit youth@WorK which focusses on placement and internship and learnership programmes says a better enabling environment through focussed collaboration has now become crucial to generate more job opportunities. She says while some alliances among key players exist more cohesion needs to happen. “Collaboration among key South African stakeholders is not merely an option; anymore it is now a necessity in the quest for youth employment. By aligning efforts, pooling resources, and sharing expertise, stakeholders can create an enabling environment that nurtures the talents and aspirations of the country's youth.” Kempken says a broad collaborative strategy is essential to align educational institutions with the evolving demands of the job market. By establishing partnerships between schools, colleges, and employers, youth can receive relevant training and acquire the skills necessary to meet industry needs. This collaborative effort will bridge the gap between education and employment, providing young people with better opportunities to secure gainful employment. She adds that collaboration between government bodies, private organizations, and civil society can help foster an environment conducive to entrepreneurship. “By creating mentorship programs, providing access to capital, and offering business development support, stakeholders can empower young entrepreneurs to create their ventures, generating employment opportunities for themselves and others.” Kempken says collaboration between the public and private sectors is also crucial in addressing youth unemployment. “By pooling resources and expertise, governments and businesses can invest in youth-focused initiatives, such as vocational training programs, apprenticeships, and internship opportunities. This partnership will create a pathway for young individuals to gain practical experience, increase their employability, and contribute meaningfully to the economy.” Kempken says collaboration between educational institutions and technology companies has become crucial in equipping youth with digital literacy skills. “By integrating technology into the education system and providing training opportunities, stakeholders can prepare young people for the digital economy.

This collaboration will expand their employment prospects in industries such as IT, e-commerce, and digital marketing.” She also says collaboration among seasoned professionals, businesses, and youth organizations can facilitate mentorship and guidance programs. By connecting experienced individuals with young job seekers, stakeholders can provide valuable insights, career advice, and networking opportunities. This collaborative effort will empower the youth, helping them navigate the job market with confidence and increasing their chances of securing employment. Kempken says youth@WORK provides unemployed young South Africans with a 12-month quality work experience program through partnerships with various stakeholders. By harnessing collaborative efforts, the organisation secures funding for youth salaries, places them in host organizations that offer valuable work experience, facilitates online learning, and enhances their work-readiness skills. The impact of the youth@WORK program is impressive, with 49% of program alumni currently employed (either permanently or through part-time contracts). This absorption rate is 41.4% higher than the national labour market average of 7.6%. Furthermore, 46.2% of the alumni indicated that they obtained employment immediately after completing the 12-month program. Kempken says a key factor in the success of the program is the increased confidence and professionalism observed among the youth participants. Many alumni credit their newfound confidence with enabling them to start their own small businesses, leveraging the skills acquired through specific learning courses provided via designated apps and online platforms.

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