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Government uses online arsenal to fight youth joblessness

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The South African National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) says it is on track to help provide job opportunities for three million youth, within the next five years, through its SA Youth jobs portal.

The jobs portal was first piloted in October 2020, as SA’s national online network for young people to access learning and earning opportunities, as part of government’s Presidential Youth Employment Intervention (PYEI), which brings together many partners to create a single network that allows young people to access a wider selection of opportunities.

Young people are able to register on the platform, highlighting their education and work experience, and organisations are able to connect with the individuals who possess the skills they require.

The zero-rated portal forms part of the PYEI, which outlines key job-creation interventions over five years, as a direct response to the challenge that too many young people are not transitioning from learning to earning.

The most recent figures from Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey show the rate of unemployment in SA increased from 32.5% in the fourth quarter of 2020 to 32.6% in the first quarter of 2021 – its highest level in over a decade. More concerning, the rate of unemployment for those aged between 15 and 24 now stands at 74.7%, based on the expanded definition, which includes discouraged job-seekers.

In a telephonic interview with ITWeb, NYDA CEO Waseem Carrim pointed out that the online portal − run in collaboration with youth employment accelerator Harambee − is now live, with over 1.2 million registered youth.

Together, the organisations have set a target to connect 600 000 youth with job opportunities annually, with a long-term goal of linking three million with jobs, five years from inception.

“Youth unemployment is a national crisis that demands urgent, innovative and coordinated solutions.

“Of the 1.2 million young people entering the labour market each year, more than 65% remain outside of employment, education and training. The platform was introduced as part of the employment stimulus response to COVID-19, with the aim to facilitate the placement of young people and available opportunities.

“For the first time, government has created a platform that aggregates information about all types of opportunities for youth, including job opportunities, educational opportunities and various initiatives,” said Carrim.

Jobless generation fears

During his State of the Nation Address in 2020, president Cyril Ramaphosa announced government would be implementing the PYEI programme, billed as the most comprehensive plan in SA’s democratic history to address youth unemployment. He said it will focus on key youth empowerment areas, which include creating pathways for young people to be party to the country’s economic growth.

With the youth unemployment crisis posing a great threat to SA’s economic growth, the NYDA and stakeholders have introduced multiple initiatives to stimulate job creation among SA’s youth, including the Market Linkages Programme, National Youth Service Programme and 1 000 Youth-Owned Enterprises in 100 Days campaign to support young entrepreneurs with funding.

According to Carrim, over 300 000 youths have already been connected to job opportunities on the SA Youth portal, which lists a wide range of organisations within all three tiers of government and private sector organisations across all industries.

“The idea of this platform is that it can’t only be focused on the supply aspect, so it’s got to also aggregate the demand opportunities from organisations looking for skills.

“One of the challenges that South African businesses grapple with, is that they don’t always have the available skills pool which they require, and we are saying to them, here is a pool of talent that you can access and it comes at no cost to business,” he pointed out.

National Youth Development Agency CEO Waseem Carrim.
National Youth Development Agency CEO Waseem Carrim.

With SA’s youth unemployment crisis threatening a generation of joblessness, government is betting on significantly increasing investment in skills training and enterprise-focused job creation programmes, as a means to reduce unemployment.

Participating in the debate during the Presidency Budget Vote this week, deputy president David Mabuza said the main priority for government is to reskill, retrain and support approximately 3.5 million young people who are not in employment, education or training, to address the emergent skills mismatch.

“According to the StatsSA Quarterly Labour Force Survey [results] released yesterday, youth aged 15-24 and 25-34 years recorded the highest unemployment rate of 63.3% and 41.3%, respectively. This is a cause for genuine alarm.”

The deputy president added the reality has further been made more urgent by the COVID-19 pandemic, wherein certain industries have been completely redefined.

“That is why at the level of the Human Resources Development Council, we are recalibrating the focus of our Human Resource Development Strategy towards developing skills and training that is innovation-led, entrepreneurial-focused and technologically advanced. Such focus would complement the implementation of a mixture of interventions under the Presidential Employment Stimulus package,” he said.

As youth unemployment figures continue to rise, government has indicated that more action needs to be taken, particularly in the ICT sector, as a key part of assisting in creating mechanisms that support job creation within the sector.

The NYDA, in collaboration with the Small Business Development Department, has been tasked with the responsibility of supporting at least 15 000 tech start-up businesses with funding and mentorship by 2024.

Khumbudzo Ntshavheni, small business development minister and acting minister in the presidency, has challenged the NYDA to achieve this goal.

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