CIARAN RYAN: The Youth Employment Service or YES is a South African non-profit organization [organisation], and it is making impressive progress in creating quality work opportunities for unemployed youth. It works with over 1,900 companies and has created over 79,000 job opportunities in three years, pumping R4.4 billion into the economy through youth wages – all without government funding.
YES breaks the experience trap that keeps young people from climbing the ladder of opportunity. In return, companies can receive up to two levels on their BEE [black economic empowerment] Scorecard.
To discuss this in more detail, we are joined by Leanne Emery Hunter, Director of Marketing and Customer Service at YES. Leanne, thank you for joining us. YES is making a difference among young people in South Africa, but for those who have never heard of it, just explain what it is and how the program works.
LEANNE EMERY HUNTER: The Youth Employment Service exists to try to break the unemployment trap that so many young South Africans face.
About 60% of young people in South Africa are currently unemployed, and what we need is to create that first job opportunity so you can break that trap where “I can’t get experience without a job , and I can’t get a job without living’.
We work with the private sector to create opportunities for young people. Companies can welcome young people into their own organizations as part of their normal pipeline management system, or they can sponsor jobs for young people in NPOs [non-profit organisations) in under-capacitated sectors.
In return for creating these vital opportunities for youth, a business can gain one or two levels up on their BEE scorecard, or they can really integrate this into some of their sustainability strategies. For example, in the mining industry in particular, we’ve seen that YES and our model where youth are placed in jobs in communities is a wonderful way to help mining organisations deliver on their social and labour plans.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay, you are offering something called the YES Turnkey Solution, and that integrates with companies’ environmental, social and governance – or ESG – strategies, as it’s called. That can also integrate with the sustainable development goals, the SDGs. But explain from a mining company’s point of view how this could be adapted and used to align with the Mining Charter.
LEANNE EMERY HUNTER: We’ve done a lot of work in the last three years on developing this turnkey solution. What this is, is for any business that is unable to host youth within its own organisation, we have 33 vetted host or implementation partners, and these implementation partners work in under-capacitated sectors. So, these are generally NPOs and SMEs, sectors like healthcare, education, conservation, digital SMME development.
Corporates are sponsoring jobs in these sectors and so not only are they creating opportunities for these young South Africans, but the jobs themselves have such an amazing impact within communities [where] we have seen clinic wait times go down, [and increased] access to HIV treatment.
How it works is that companies not only get the BEE benefit, but they are able to account for some of the impacts these jobs create.
And for the mining industry in particular, we have worked with mining companies to find out how to help them implement their social and workforce plans. So we were going into the communities, into the mining communities, with our corporate sponsors and helping them create opportunities for young people and, at the same time, building those communities around the mine. So, in trying to grow these thriving communities, the jobs we help them create are actually strengthening the communities and helping the SMEs in the communities by empowering them.
And it’s just a wonderful solution for mining organizations to be able to deliver their local economic development plans and really deliver on the promises of their social and labor plans.
CIARAN RYAN: When we previously spoke to YES, we heard of some interesting examples of young people working with doctors, for example, to make sure patients got to their next appointment… But can you give us some examples of companies participating in the YES turnkey solution and how it has benefited them?
LEANNE EMERY HUNTER: We have companies ranging from the financial sector to the mining sector [where] it can really fit into their environmental, social and governance strategies and sustainability goals.
For example, we may have a company that is really focused on creating green jobs, and in that case they would work with our conservation implementation partners and we would help them place young people in jobs in the conservation.
From the health sector, we have FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] companies, we have healthcare companies, [and] we have mining companies creating jobs in the health sector.
We have a program where more than 71 young people are employed in clinics in the health sector; these are HIV testers, community coordinators and general support staff. This provides young people with fantastic work experience and greatly improves HIV testing, testing and prevention awareness within these communities.
I think we’ve had over 24,000 HIV tests with 100% proficiency in just one of the NPs we work with – and NPs are implementing partners. So we really see that not only are these jobs creating that essential first chance for the young person who is employed, but also real and meaningful impacts in communities.
Another major challenge we face as South Africans is the issue of spatial inequality, that so many young South Africans have to travel long distances to reach urban areas in order to be employed.
But the wonderful thing about this model is that these young people are actually employed in the communities. It reduces their travel and they can have a really significant impact within their communities.
CIARAN RYAN: OK. Talk about young people for a minute. How do they benefit specifically? I imagine you’re talking about the rural communities there, the difficulties young people have in accessing the labor market. Has it had a transformative effect in some of these rural communities where you operate?
LEANNE EMERY HUNTER: Absolutely. Research shows that the best way to become employable is to get a job and gain work experience. What the youth employment service is really trying to do is break that experience trap and provide that first job opportunity for young people – and especially young people who are not in the center -city of Sandton and downtown Cape Town. This is how we provide these opportunities to young people.
On top of that, there really is a small gap between the jobs that are on offer and the skills that come out of them.
I think we know that jobs are created in the first economy. All of these industries create opportunities for skilled young people. But I think that according to the last statistics that I saw, less than 50% of young people entering the labor market have a diploma. There really is a lag. So what’s wonderful about this turnkey model is that young people can be placed in jobs in communities that don’t necessarily require a degree or a high level of qualification. So it really gives them that opportunity, and they can do some really impactful work.
We know that a job or [some] professional experience makes a young person three times more employable. For a young woman actually, oddly enough, a CV [and] a reference letter means they are doubly likely to win the job when interviewed. So it’s really about breaking that trap and to date we’re seeing around 40% of youth leaving the program getting full-time employment within the host where they’re placed. But, anyway, they are three times more employable when they re-enter the labor market.
CIARAN RYAN: A final question concerns the benefits for the country. What is the long-term vision of this program in terms of opportunities for job creation and economic growth? I mean, 79,000 job opportunities created over three years, R4.4 billion injected into the economy through wages and so on. – where do you see this in five or 10 years?
LEANNE EMERY HUNTER: We are sitting on the biggest crisis facing South Africa. If 60% of our young people are currently unemployed, what does that mean for the future of South Africa – not just for business, our economy, our nation. Thus, at the Youth Employment Service, we try to find increasingly innovative ways of working with companies in order to break this trap of experience, to insert young people into jobs so that they can quickly become economically active. and participate in the economy and become future customers. and future taxpayers.
You know, of our YES youth, 88% come from scholarship recipient households, and I think around 90% have dependents. Thus, the immediate effects of this wage on families and communities only ripple [out] immediately.
When the Youth Employment Service started, we were really focused on how we use this incentive that we have to get companies to join the Youth Employment Service.
But now, with our turnkey model, we see that beyond BEE, it is a real solution for businesses, especially when it comes to the mining industry. How to integrate professions beyond the BEE?
We find that our turnkey solution is a wonderful way for companies to create opportunities for young people who do not need to be placed in their own organizations.
These opportunities create uplifting and thriving communities and fit so seamlessly into companies’ ESG and SDG strategies.
CIARAN RYAN: This is one of the most inspiring stories we have heard in a long time and we certainly look forward to following the progress of the Youth Employment Service program in the years to come.
Leanne Emery Hunter, we’ll leave it at that. Thank you very much for joining us.
Presented by the Youth Employment Service.
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