A clarion call to ‘corporate heroes’ to create work opportunities for SA’s youth

‘When corporates invest in creating jobs for young people, we give young people a chance to succeed, to gain skills, to enhance their employability’: Farai Mubaiwa, Yes4Youth.

CIARAN RYAN: The Youth Employment Service or YES, a South African not for profit [organisation] or NPO, is making impressive strides in creating quality work opportunities for unemployed black youth. Yes4Youth is working with more than 1 900 companies, and has created more than 72 000 work opportunities in a period of three years. These work engagements last 12 months.

Yes4Youth breaks the experience trap that prevents young people from climbing up the ladder of opportunity. In return businesses can receive up to two ‘levels up’ on their BEE scorecard

To discuss this further, we are joined by Farai Mubaiwa, chief partnerships officer at Yes4Youth. Farai, thanks very much for joining us. Please explain briefly what the Yes4Youth programme is, and why companies should be looking at it as a way to boost their BEE scorecards, and at the same time help unemployed black youth gain quality work experience.

FARAI MUBAIWA: Thank you so much for having me on this platform to be able to talk about YES. The YES programme aims to break the experience trap for unemployed young people, and the experience trap is that [situation] where you can’t get a job without work experience, and you can’t get work experience without a job.

We give … unemployed black youth a 12-month opportunity to gain work experience on the ground. At the end of the programme [the] youth emerge with a CV, a reference letter, and a completion certificate.

Research shows us that experience on a reference letter triples the likelihood of a call-back within three months of the job search and, for young women like myself, a reference letter doubles your chances of employment.

Now, when we’re looking at YES from the perspective of companies, what is superb about the way we are funded is that corporates who invest in YES to create youth jobs are able to [get] their BEE levels up. This makes YES unique from a policy perspective in the fact that YES, in collaboration with the dtic [Department of Trade, Industry and Competition], has got a specialised gazette, which incentivises businesses to create 12 months’ work-experience opportunities. As you mentioned, in turn businesses are rewarded with one or two BEE levels up on the scorecard.

Of course, beyond BEE and compliance, which is important, these corporates are able to [have] an impact [on] the unemployment crisis that we face in our country.

CIARAN RYAN: I think companies will be impressed with the fact that they can improve their BEE scorecard, but they might also want to know, can this – or does this – integrate with ESG or social development goals? By ESG I mean environmental, social and governance standards.

FARAI MUBAIWA: Absolutely….one of the models that we have as YES is called the ‘implementation partner model’. The other name for it is the ‘turnkey solution’. The turnkey solution allows your businesses who either don’t have the capacity to house the youth internally or whose target to create these jobs is way too high, to host and place their youth through one of YES’s 33 vetted implementation partners. Most of these partners are NGOs and SMMEs who work in a wide range of high-impact sectors, which include healthcare, conservation, agriculture, education, ECD [early childhood development] and your digital and the ICT space.

What this means for corporates is that they have a YES programme that is run for them through a trusted partner while they’re able to obtain their BEE level up.

The beauty of this model – which is why it’s one of my favourite models at YES – is that these young people are situated within communities. So a young person does not have to move from Ratlou to come to Sandton to gain work experience. They can stay within Ratlou, they can contribute to the community working as an ECD practitioner or an entry-level healthcare worker, and they can gain work experience – which enhances their employability. The corporate is still able to get the BEE level up.

Now, when we’re looking at the ESG and the SDG [sustainable development goals] perspective, it is this turnkey solution which allows corporates to go beyond BEE and to align with the impact from a social environmental and economic perspective. This means they can use the implementation-partner model to achieve their ESG and the SDG goals, and we are working really hard with our partners to measure this impact.

I think just one exciting example to share is that one of our healthcare partners, Youth Health Africa, places youth into…clinics, and these youth would do health-systems strengthening and support, which means they work as lay counsellors, as your HIV self-screeners [and] as your contact traces.

One of the metrics we have looked at is that young people [being] placed within the clinics reduces the waiting time of your patients from 15 minutes to one minute.

That is an incredible impact measure to look at how we are aligning SDGs and the work which young people are doing at the community level.

CIARAN RYAN: It’s quite fascinating that a programme like this can produce that kind of operational benefit to the companies you just mentioned. I guess other companies would want to know how this turnkey solution you mentioned benefits them – and are there some examples that you can share?

FARAI MUBAIWA: The benefit of this model to corporates is that corporates get to have an impact, while being able to attain their BEE levels up. They can place their youth with trusted YES partners, who are able to execute a YES programme for them. These partners have got experience in terms of recruiting the youth, uploading their documentation so that once the corporate has to undergo verification, they’re able to get their BEE levels up with all of the documentation required. These partners would also pay the youth each month, supervise the youth, provide them with quality work experience, do regular reporting, and, at the end of the programme, facilitate absorption on behalf of the client, whether it’s a 2.5% absorption rate or a 5% absorption rate. That is so fantastic, because the corporate can participate in YES, can get their level up while making [an] impact within the community.

I think [as] some examples of this, we have a number of corporates who choose this model. One of them would be VW SA. They have placed a number of youth into the automotive sector. They have youth within the education field as well. More corporates like this would include Ford, who also have a number of youth in the automotive sector, the ECD space as well as the healthcare space and conservation. So it’s been really exciting that with corporates who choose this model, they’re able to look and [ask]: “How do we align this model with what our community focus areas are?”

Just one more corporate to share – Nedbank has 1 905 youth [of whom] a number are housed within the corporate itself, so that these youth can gain skills within the bank. But there’s a significant amount of these youth who are housed within one of the partners, which is WildTrust, and those youth are involved in agriculture and conservation. There are a number of youth as well who are involved within education. Some of the youth are involved within the ICT [information communications technology] and the digital space, and all of these sectors, these partners involved, allow Nedbank to align with what their CSI [corporate social investment] objectives are.

So the model really does work for corporates who don’t only want to participate in YES, but who want to ensure that they’re having an impact at a socioeconomic level to really combat this crisis.

CIARAN RYAN: What about the youth? Are there any examples you can share where their career path has been accelerated by participating in the YES programme?

FARAI MUBAIWA: Thanks so much for the question. This is one of my favourite questions, and there are so many examples I can give you, but I’ll just leave it to two examples at the moment.

There’s one youth – her name is Pretty Sibanyone. She was a YES youth placed with one of the implementation partners, Youth Health Africa. She now works on their management team and has been such a critical player within the team because of her contributions. She has an incredible understanding of the healthcare sector. She does lots of work in terms of how we incentivise young people to enter this sector because, unfortunately, a sector like healthcare is not the most attractive one to young people – and yet we’ve got a shortage of 29 000 nurses. We’ve got a shortage of 23 000 entry-level healthcare workers in clinics, and a shortage of 5 000 community assistant pharmacists. So we really, really appreciate her in the space and the work she does because the more role models young people see like Pretty – who had no idea that she wanted to venture into healthcare but, because of the YES programme [she] gained skills, gained knowledge and became employable – the more examples young people can see of this, the more we can incentivise young people to enter a critical space.

One other example I can give you of the impact of the YES programme on the lives of young people would be one of my colleagues, Tapela Madhlala, who was a YES youth sponsored by Toyota after the programme, because of how great he was at ICT and digital. We absorbed him into the business. He moved from being app-engagement support for the Yes4Youth apps to being a partner technician to our 33 implementation partners, and he received a promotion as a junior product owner, which means that he is responsible for three of the critical products that we use as YES to engage with clients.

That growth in such a short amount of time really shows the impact of the YES programme. It really shows that when corporates invest in creating jobs for young people, we give young people a chance to succeed, we give young people a chance to gain skills, we give young people a chance to enhance their employability. When we do that we are really ensuring that our nation and the young people in our country can be economically active.

What research shows us is that once a young person is economically active after that first chance, they continue to be active – but they need opportunities to do so.

So I hope those two stories of Tapela and Pretty really move you to understand the depth and the impact that the YES programme can make, or has made, because of partnerships with corporates, with governments, with NGOs and, of course, ourselves as YES.

CIARAN RYAN: Oh, absolutely. We mentioned in the intro that there are more than 1 900 companies creating more than 72 000 work opportunities under the YES programme. So clearly the benefit to the country is there, but where do you see this going, where would you want those numbers to be at the end of this year or, let’s say, in three or five years’ time?

FARAI MUBAIWA: The reality is that South Africa is in the thick of a youth-unemployment crisis. We have over 77% of young people between 15 [and] 24 who are unemployed. This is as per the expanded definition of unemployment, which means that three in every four young people in our country, in this age group, are not in employment. That has to change. We have to change this because we cannot continue as a country to have such a high rate of unemployment and to still do well from an economic perspective, from a social perspective, and also from a political perspective.

What we need at this stage is for all of us to realise that we are in the thick of an unemployment crisis and the only way we can emerge out of this crisis is through collaboration and partnership. A programme like YES is a collaboration between the dtic, government, private sector and young people, where we are actively working together to say: ‘Let us get [the] private sector to fund these youth jobs at scale, let us employ young people so we enhance their employability and they gain skills, and let’s place these young people into various partners which include NGOs and SMMEs, for them to really strengthen on-the-ground resources for NGOs, and to also capacitate the SMME sector.’

The more we collaborate, the more of an impact we can make. Our goal as YES is to get even more corporates to sign up with us. Be part of the 1 900 corporates that have partnered with YES, so that your company is active in making a change within our country. What’s really important for corporates to realise is that they can sign up with YES for BEE and also for non-BEE reasons.

You can link your signup with YES to impact the SDGs, the ESGs, whatever your driver is.

Here is an organisation that is excited to partner with you so that we can combat the unemployment crisis that we face.

Of course we do understand that Covid has had a significant impact on the ability of businesses to actually absorb youth and to create opportunities for young people, but our hope is that, as the economy reopens, we can actively work [on] achieving this target and ensuring that unemployment is something of the past in our country.

CIARAN RYAN: Fantastic. Farai, how do people get involved, and how can they reach you?

FARAI MUBAIWA: Young people, please sign up for YES on SA Youth. You can find learning and earning opportunities across the board, so not only YES opportunities. It’s such a fantastic zero-rated platform that is centralised, was launched by government, and YES is a strong supporter of corporates. Please reach out to us, check out our website, which is yes4youth.co.za, and reach out to us to really start your YES journey with us, to sign up to be part of a movement where we can create jobs for young people at scale, led by the private sector.

CIARAN RYAN: Farai Mubaiwa, chief partnerships officer at Yes4Youth, we’re going to leave it there. Thank you so much for joining us.

Brought to you by Yes4Youth. 

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