Youth unemployment raises one of the country’s greatest challenges. Youth Employment Service (YES) aims to be a part of the solution.
With the perpetual national scourge of youth unemployment in South Africa continuing to rise, YES has come up with a working formula to see that youth are placed in workplaces. The non-profit organisation has created more than 29,000 jobs in 2019 alone and plan to double this figure in 2020.
Destiny Careers speak to the CEO of YES, Dr Tashmia Ismail-Saville to hear more about the programmes
DC: Where did the idea of the organisation start?
Y4Y: This is a non-profit organisation. We were formed out of a collaboration between business, government and labour, to come up a plan to build economic pathways for black youth.
We worked on a policy change for a year and half, which allowed us to reward companies who invest in youth jobs a level one or two on the B-BBEE score card.
DC: When was the programme rolled out?
Y4Y: We were able to operationally role out this job creation entity in November 2018 when after many months of negotiations, all the legislation was finalised.
We have created over 29,000 brand new jobs across the country and continue to try to get thousands of black youth into one-year work opportunities.
Once placed in jobs they are given smart phones with a pre-loaded Yes apps, that gives us the ability to do training, monitoring and evaluation over the year that they are in the job.
We build CVs and app linked profiles for them from the data that comes through the phone.
We know that just getting a youth into a job changes their prospect dramatically for the next job. It benefits them to gain experience and makes them three times more likely to get a call back and be given permanent employment.
DC: How does the organisation work, in a nutshell?
Y4Y: It’s about using cooperate resources and money to push salaries into communities which are disadvantaged and to try to get economic participation running in those areas. It’s all about seeding economic pathways into the local economies. We aim to focus on township and rural development in the process, and spread the wealth, to not just urban communities.
DC: What are your biggest challenges?
Y4Y: We had to work with quite a large number of multi stakeholders to be able to get this legislation change. It took time.
Also, we are in a country where business confidence is low, growth is low and economy stagnant. So, trying to create jobs in this kind of environment is extremely difficult.
But that makes our 29,000 number powerful because it was created off a zero base.
Being a job creation entity in this environment is not easy. Every job counts.
DC: What has been the secret behind your success?
Y4Y: I think you have to really persevere and be very good in not giving up.
You have to look ahead and make a hard argument for businesses to understand the numbers and the costs of not employing people.
But most importantly, make them understand how they can create these jobs with you in a way that is strategically important for their business.
From a hard side you have to appeal to people’s senses, that this is not a fair country. We have a lot of issues that lock people out of the economy, and this is one of the key things that we need to resolve.
You just have to give people a fair chance and the empathy for understanding what it takes for people to get into the job market.
You have to be very clear in both your economic argument and in your country building argument. If you sew those two together, a lot of people will respond.
Creating jobs is quite a big commitment, but we do try and make it easy for companies by helping them out with the administration.
DC: What types of businesses are you targeting?
Y4Y: It’s across all sectors. We have 490 companies that are partners already.
The very big numbers of employment come from financial services, through clients like Absa and Nedbank.
DC: What type of qualities do you look for in people for job placement?
Y4Y: We place across the board, from entry level jobs, of people in restaurants, game parks, recycling and all the way through to sophisticated actuarial jobs.
If the company is willing to pay a salary and put a youth into a job, we will make that happen. It doesn’t matter where or what type of job it is.
DC: Do you look into sensible working hours and fair salaries when placing people?
Y4Y: There is no such thing as a fair salary. As long as the company conforms to labour laws around a minimum wage of R20 an hour and there is a fixed labour contract in place for that one year, we are satisfied.
There is no salary bracket. As I mentioned, we have young people working in all sorts of jobs. Some of our highest paid youth earn up to R55,000 a month.
DC: How do people get involved in the program?
Y4Y: We know that there are a lot of agencies in the country that specialise in youth databases.
It’s not difficult to get youth into a database. The difficulty in our country is finding the jobs to put the youth into.
So we spend a lot of time focusing our attention on getting companies and individuals to invest in infrastructure and programmes that create new jobs. The benefit for companies is that they are then able to take advantage of potentially levelling up on the B-BBEE scorecard – more than 60 already have.
We then bring in partners who have databases of youth and training programmes.
We are also building a hub infrastructure in townships and low income communities and close to job opportunities like the Kruger National Park. We bring lots of technology and programmes into the community and that is the second way which we are creating jobs for small businesses.
DC: What are your future plans?
Y4Y: Our future plans are to build more jobs. We want to create 500,000 jobs in five years’ time.
In the first year of policy change we had to iron out a lot of wrinkles. So, it was difficult to set targets, but I think now given our numbers we want to at least get 70,000 jobs in 2020.
DC: Message to businesses?
Y4Y: Corporate SA needs to invest in youth employment if they want this country to work. We have left more than half of the people behind without jobs, it’s very difficult to have growth in the country.
We appeal to companies to join and create these jobs because its only through collaboration with the private sector that we will be able to get jobs for the youth. Doing so will help drive this national unemployment scourge away.