CSIR, YES partner to upskill youth

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 28 Apr 2020

The Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) and the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative have partnered, to equip young South Africans with critical ICT skills for a digital future.

South Africa struggles with high unemployment levels, especially among young people. The situation is bound to get worse amid the coronavirus pandemic, with president Cyril Ramaphosa noting on Freedom Day that efforts to address unemployment will be set back by many years.

Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey for the fourth quarter of 2019 shows that of the 20.4 million young people aged 15 to 34 years, 40.1% (about eight million) were not in employment, education or training.

Furthermore, the 10 edition of the South African ICT Skills Survey highlights the chronic shortage of all types of ICT skills required to help local organisations succeed in the digital economy.

Through their partnership, the CSIR and YES initiative are looking to address some of these challenges, preparing young people for employment by providing them with ICT skills and relevant work opportunities.

The organisations have signed a sponsored host placement agreement, which will see some of the youth based at the CSIR and some hosted through Youth@Work, a vetted YES implementation partner.

These youth will be employed in various roles, including mathematics and science teaching assistants, IT assistants in digital learning laboratories, computer coding facilitators, and digital learning facilitators at schools and municipal institutions, such as local libraries.

CSIR CEO Dr Thulani Dlamini explains: “It is in the CSIR's best interest that we invest in the development of the youth in our society. Unfortunately, South Africa has a very high level of unemployed youth, which does not bode well for the future of our country.

“Young people are the future. Therefore, we need to ensure they are given opportunities to make a meaningful contribution to society and commerce.”

The YES initiative was launched by Ramaphosa in March 2018 as a joint initiative between government, business, labour and civil society, to collectively tackle youth unemployment and build economic pathways for the youth.

According to the CSIR, the partnership with YES is in addition to its human capital development initiatives. It will run for one year and see the creation of 66 job opportunities by the CSIR for youth.

In addition, YES and the CSIR believe the collaboration will accelerate SA’s transition to a knowledge-based economy.

“What is particularly exciting about these jobs is that they dovetail perfectly with our goal of preparing South Africa for the fourth industrial revolution,” says YES CEO Dr Tashmia Ismail-Saville.

“We appreciate the CSIR being the first major state-owned enterprise to take the leap and commit to YES, and we look forward to engaging other SOEs and helping to create the jobs of tomorrow,” she adds.

YES generated over R1.4 billion in youth salaries across 35 000 jobs in its first year of operation.

Since its inception, the non-profit organisation has been supported by over 1 010 businesses.

“It is a real privilege to be able to assist another group of young South Africans as they enter the workforce, especially in these uncertain times. We look forward to sharing the stories of change and impact over the next 12 months,” states Erica Kempken from Youth@Work.