CIARAN RYAN: The Youth Employment Service or YES is a South African not for profit [organisation], and it’s making impressive strides in creating quality work opportunities for unemployed youth. It’s working with more than 1 900 companies and has created more than 79 000 work opportunities in a period of three years, injecting R4.4 billion into the economy through youth salaries – all with no government funding.
YES breaks the experience trap that prevents young people from climbing up the ladder of opportunity. In return business can receive up to two levels up on their BEE [black economic empowerment] scorecard.
To discuss this further we are joined by Leanne Emery Hunter, chief marketing and client officer at YES. Leanne, thanks for joining us. YES is making a difference among the youth of South Africa, but for those who’ve never heard of it, just explain what it is and how the programme works.
LEANNE EMERY HUNTER: The Youth Employment Service is in existence to try and break the unemployment trap that so many young South Africans face.
Around 60% of youth in South Africa are currently unemployed, and what we need is to create that first work opportunity so you can break that trap where ‘I can’t get experience without a job, and I can’t get a job without experience’.
We work with the private sector to create opportunities for young people. Businesses can host youth in their own organisations as part of their normal pipeline management system, or they can sponsor youth jobs 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’ve seen queuing times in clinics decreasing, [and increased] access to HIV treatment.
How this is working is that businesses are not only getting the BEE benefit, but they are able to actually report on some of the impacts that these jobs are creating.
And for the mining industry specifically, we’ve been working with mining companies in terms of how to help them to deliver on their social and labour plans. So we would go into communities, into mining communities, with our corporate sponsors and help them to create opportunities for young people and, at the same time, build these communities around the mine. So, in trying to develop these thriving communities, the jobs that we are assisting them in creating are really building the communities and assisting SMEs in the communities by capacitating them.
And this is just a wonderful solution for mining organisations in order to be able to deliver on their local economic development plans and really deliver on the promises in their social and labour plans.
CIARAN RYAN: When we previously spoke to YES we heard about some interesting examples of youth who were working with doctors, for example, to make sure that patients attended their next appointment … But can you give us some examples of companies participating in the YES Turnkey Solution and how it benefitted them?
LEANNE EMERY HUNTER: We have businesses ranging from the financial sector to the mining sector [where] this is really able to integrate into their environmental, social and governance strategies and their 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 assist them in placing youth in jobs in conservation.
From the healthcare sector, we have FMCG [fast-moving consumer goods] companies, we have healthcare companies, [and] we have mining companies that are creating jobs in the healthcare sector.
We’ve got one programme where over 71 youth are employed in roles in clinics in the healthcare sector; these are HIV testers, community coordinators and general support staff. This provides youth with both fantastic work experience, and greatly improves HIV testing, tracing, and prevention-awareness within these communities.
I think we’ve had over 24 000 HIV tests with a 100% proficiency in just one of the IPs that we’re working with – and IPs are implementation partners. So we really see that not only are these jobs creating this critical first chance for the young person who’s being employed, but also real and meaningful impacts in the communities.
Another major challenge that we as South Africans face is the issue of spatial inequality, that so many young South Africans have to travel far in order to reach urban areas in order to be employed.
But what’s wonderful about this model is that these youth are actually employed in communities. It reduces their commute and they’re able to make a really meaningful impact within their communities.
CIARAN RYAN: Okay. Talk about the youth for a minute. How do they benefit specifically? I would imagine you’re talking about rural communities there, the difficulties that the youth have in accessing the marketplace for jobs. Has this had a transformative effect in some of these rural communities where you are operating?
LEANNE EMERY HUNTER: Absolutely. Research shows that the best way to become employable is to get a job and get work experience. Really what the Youth Employment Service is trying to do is to break that experience trap and provide that first work opportunity for young people – and particularly young people who are not in the Sandton CBD and Cape Town city centre. This is how are we providing these opportunities for youth.
In addition to that, there’s really a bit of a gap between the jobs that are being provided and the skills that are coming out.
I think we know jobs are being created in the first economy. All these industries are creating opportunities for skilled young people. But I think in the last stats that I’ve seen less than 50% of the young people entering the labour market have a matric. There’s really a mismatch. So the wonderful thing about this turnkey model is that young people can be placed in jobs in communities that don’t necessarily require a degree or any high level of qualification. So it’s really providing them with that opportunity, and they can do work that’s really making an impact.
We know that a job or [some] work experience makes a young person three times more employable. For a young woman actually, interestingly, a CV [and] a reference letter means that they are doubly likely to win the job when they’re in an interview. So it’s really about breaking this trap and to date we’re seeing that around 40% of youth exiting the programme are getting full-time employment within the host that they are placed at. But, either way, they’re three times more employable when they go back into the workforce.
CIARAN RYAN: A final question is about the benefit to the country. What’s the long-term vision for this programme in terms of job-creation opportunities and economic upliftment? I mean, 79 000 work opportunities created over three years, R4.4 billion injected into the economy through salaries and so on – where do you see this in five or 10 years?
LEANNE EMERY HUNTER: We are sitting on the biggest crisis that South Africa faces. 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. So, at the Youth Employment Service we are trying to find more and more innovative ways to work with businesses in order to break this experience trap, get youth 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 grant-recipient households, and I think about 90% have dependants. So the immediate effects of that salary on families and communities just ripples [out] immediately.
When the Youth Employment Service started, we were really focused on how we use this incentive that we have to get corporates to join the Youth Employment Service.
But now with our turnkey model we are seeing that, beyond BEE, this is a real solution for businesses, particularly now looking at the mining industry. How do we integrate jobs beyond BEE?
We’re finding that our turnkey solution is a wonderful way for businesses to create opportunities for youth who don’t have to be placed in their own organisations.
These opportunities are building uplifting, thriving communities, and integrating so seamlessly with businesses’ ESG and SDG strategies.
CIARAN RYAN: That’s one of the most inspiring stories we’ve heard in a long while and we are certainly looking forward to tracking the progress of the Youth Employment Service programme in the coming years.
Leanne Emery Hunter, we are going to leave it there. Thanks very much for joining us.
Brought to you by the Youth Employment Service.
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