Partnering to improve youth employability in South Africa

Being a young South African right now isn’t easy: youth unemployment is at its highest ever at 58.2%, and more than 30% of people between 15 and 24 and 46% between 25 and 34 are not in any form of employment, education or training. Even worse is that it’s actually costing these young people money to try and change that: research by the University of Johannesburg shows that they spend nearly R1 000 a month looking for work.

The figures certainly paint a grim picture and they fail to describe the challenges that many of our young people face on their job searches. A large number of our youth do not have matric, or lack access to the resources needed to search for jobs such as internet or transport, or lack the vocational, computer/digital or soft skills essential to enter the workplace.

There is a clear mismatch between what our young people need to become a productive part of the workforce and the skills they are currently being equipped with.

This is what makes it so important to tackle, at macro and micro level and with interventions across the public and private sectors – and which is exactly why we decided to make it our core focus as the Momentum Metropolitan Foundation. It is also why our network of non-profit organisation (NPO) partners dedicate themselves to helping young South Africans find jobs and income-earning opportunities.

Since 2017 when we actively made youth employability our focus, we have together with our NPO partners helped train and place 669 people in jobs. Empowering young South Africans through access to employment opportunities has been successful in providing sustainable jobs and the resulting dignity for them and their families.

And although we are making progress, we are constantly looking to increase this impact with the help of our development partners including WeThinkCode, LifeChoices, the QuadPara Association of South Africa (QASA), Ubuntu Pathways, Sparrow FET College and Rhiza Babuyile. This is why we recently came together for a Partner Council, in order to find synergies between ourselves and the organisations we support. Added to this, each organisation brought and shared their own expertise and experience to the network and new ways to help our country’s youth on their employability journey.

The intention of the day was to share and fully exploit the best practices of each organisation to help others within our partner eco-system. An example of this cross-pollination was the interest shown in a monitoring tool that Ubuntu Pathways has developed in partnership with Apple. Monitoring and Evaluation is crucial in determining success in the CSI space and following the Partner Council two of our other partner organisations, Rhiza Babuyile and Sparrow will be speaking to Ubuntu about adapting and sharing this resource. The spirit of the Partner Council again struck when QASA found that they could tap into Ubuntu’s hub in Port Elizabeth to help some of their members find employment in this geographic region.

These organisations do incredible work in helping to equip young South Africans right across the country with the skills they need, as well as in finding them gainful employment. Below are just some of the stories of what three of these NPOs do, and what their successes have been:

  • WeThinkCode, for example, works to close the digital skills gap in South Africa by upskilling youth and collaborating with a network of partners to provide their students with a path to employment. The two-year intensive training programme covers software engineering and web development, among others, as well as internships at sponsor companies – the successful completion of which results in the students being hired full-time. Since the programme started in 2016, they have onboarded approximately 800 students, with a 98 percent successful placement rate at 45 partners.
  • WeThinkCode and the Momentum Metropolitan Foundation have partnered on their WomenThinkCode initiative to increase the participation of women in their programme. The challenge was to recruit more women, ensure retention over the two-year programme, and successfully have these women absorbed into the industry. We were a founding funder of this inclusion initiative, which kicked off in August 2019, and sponsored 15 students in 2019 and 15 in 2020 to complete the two-year training programme.
  • Life Choices works intensively with youth from the Cape Flats in the Western Cape, coaching them in areas such as household/family, health, education, employment/entrepreneurship and leadership.
  • As part of Life Choice’s initiatives, the Life Choices Academy provides courses in coding front-end, coding full stack and coding Java, as well as professional development and soft skills training to ensure that students are given the full set of skills they need to be placed in meaningful jobs. It is a 12-month programme featuring six months of learning and a six-month internship with partner companies, and of the 188 students that have been enrolled in the programme, there is an 82 percent successful placement rate, with students earning an average salary of R12 000.
  • The QuadPara Association of South Africa is dedicated to protecting and promoting the interests of people with mobility impairments as a result of spinal cord injuries.
  • Their work readiness programme, which the Momentum Metropolitan Foundation provides support to, offers holistic development through soft skills training as well as assisting with adapted vehicles to overcome the challenge of transport. Since the programme was introduced in April 2019 in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal, 54 people have been trained – 50 have been placed successfully in jobs, one has started their own business and three are studying further through QASA.

There can be little doubt that the youth are the foundation of our future success as a country – making it essential to equip them with the full range of skills that they need to be employable. This means continuously investing in their training and helping them on their journey to employment.

We have prioritised this, and working together with our partners, we are committed to empowering them and providing them with the training and tools they need to enter the workplace – and increasing that impact exponentially moving forward. We look forward to the Partner Council becoming an impactful annual event for the Momentum Metropolitan Foundation.

Charlene Lackay is the Group CSI Manager at Momentum Metropolitan Holdings.

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