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Government pilots new youth digital skills, jobs model

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President Cyril Ramaphosa.
President Cyril Ramaphosa.

The South African government is piloting a new skills development model that will, in its first phase, create training and job opportunities for young people in digital skills and global business services.

So said president Cyril Ramaphosa, speaking during a virtual address on the occasion of Youth Day yesterday.

Much like 2020, this year’s Youth Day commemoration was marked under a dark cloud, as the COVID-19 third wave wreaks havoc in some provinces, which has resulted in Ramaphosa moving the country into stricter lockdown regulations.

Added to that, the country continues to face the rising challenge of unemployment, particularly among its youth.

Statistics SA (Stats SA) data on the latest unemployment figures shows the country’s official unemployment rate is 32.6%. The rate among young people (15-34 years) is 46.3%, which, according to Stats SA, implies almost one in every two young people in the labour force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2021.

To turn SA’s misfortunes around, public and private sector initiatives are being rolled out to improve the chances of youth finding employment opportunities in the digital economy.

At yesterday’s virtual briefing, Ramaphosa revealed government is establishing a Presidential Youth Service, to “create opportunities for young people to meaningfully contribute to their communities and develop critical skills to participate effectively in the economy”.

The president noted the new model of skills development is where training is linked directly to employment in key growth sectors of the economy.

In addition, such programmes create real opportunities for young people to grow their skills and earn an income. “Our goal is to become a country where every young person has a place to go – whether in further education and training, in skills development, in work experience, in entrepreneurship, in youth service or in formal employment.”

Ramaphosa pointed out that the challenge of youth unemployment seems insurmountable; however, lots can be done to address it.

“We know that by providing young people with opportunities for work experience, by supporting them to start and grow their own businesses, by fixing our skills development system and by creating opportunities for work that serves the common good, we can make inroads into this challenge.”

Getting youth to work

Ramphosa detailed some of the youth empowerment programmes that have been put in place, including the SA Youth jobs portal.

The National Youth Development Agency partnered with the Presidency – through the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention – to launch SA Youth, which is a zero-rated portal that offers young South Africans free access to learning and earning opportunities.

Piloted in October 2020, SA Youth allows young people free access to online work-seeker support resources, including preparation for the world of work learnerships, volunteering and further studies resources, and organisations are able to connect with the individuals who possess the skills they require.

While SA Youth currently supports over 1.4 million young people, the president said the aim is to add another three million youth to the portal within the next three years.

“This ambition represents the scale and impact that we can achieve through effective public-private partnerships.”

Meanwhile, the KwaZulu-Natal provincial government has set up a database aimed at helping unemployed graduates.

The Provincial Unemployed Graduates Database, which was launched this week, aims to help recruit youth for internships and learnerships, as well as establish youth trends which can help to inform policy.

Through its youth chief directorate and ICT unit, the provincial government devised a template to collect and collate integrated, up-to-date data on unemployed graduates in the province.

“The aim of the online database − which will be accessible to government departments, municipalities, government agencies and the private sector − is to help recruit youth for internships and learnerships, as well as establish youth trends which can help to inform policy.

“The Provincial Unemployed Graduates Database will also be accessible to national programmes, such as infrastructure strategic projects for unemployed youth that seek job training opportunities in various sectors,” says the provincial government.

It notes unemployment among graduates is a major concern, adding that it wants to eradicate and lessen the triple challenges of unemployment, poverty and inequality through the establishment of the database.

Registration to the database is accessible on the KwaZulu-Natal online Web site and will be continuous, without a closing date.

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