As any economist will tell you, or anyone who reads the news for that matter, we have a youth unemployment problem in South Africa. That number could be as high as 3.5 million youth who are not in employment, education or training. *Saying there is room for improvement is an understatement.
In the past, President Ramaphosa committed to taking a different direction in relation to issues faced by the youth and acknowledged that “…Our young people need to be given a real head start in the world of work. They should not face barriers and hindrances as they seek to find work.” This direction includes “proper” economic stimulus and job creation through a variety of initiatives.
With the youth unemployment rate sitting around 56%, it makes sense to think big and Youth Employment Service (YES) is a business-led collaboration with government and labour fits the bill. The goal of the initiative is to create 1 million work opportunities for youth in South Africa. YES aims to help young people get jobs through closer co-operation and collaboration between government and the private sector.
Tarsus Technology Group (TTG) were one of the first South African companies to opt into President Ramaphosa’s YES initiative in February 2019. Our first intake of qualified and non-qualified youth, 30 in total, were placed in various departments across the businesses.
TTG Group CEO Miles Crisp said “Other industries are structured with in-house learning as part of their qualification process. Its baked into their very DNA and they’re able to accommodate initiatives like YES with no real effort. Industries like accounting or law, as an example, require qualified students to gain work-experience before becoming industry-body certified. The IT industry on the other hand, does not work that way, this process is not a natural one for us.”
“At TTG, we’ve had a functional and transactional culture where, in the past, you were here to get the job done. That meant that our abilities in the learnership space were not as well developed as we would have liked. In the discovery phase of our journey over the past year, we asked ourselves tough questions such as why we do what we do, and what we need to do in order to make the necessary shifts towards more inclusive skills development programme.”
“We have learnt much over the past 3 years in terms of how we would like the culture of our businesses to be focused on lifelong learning for employees as well as re-skilling where needed. Our culture has shifted toward this desired culture. We have been people at all levels of the organisation and the introduction of a cohort of youth has been a wonderful injection of energy. It has helped us to focus our initiatives and the outcomes that we are aiming for, on a consistent basis. After all, today’s world is not job-driven, its outcomes and solutions driven and skills and capabilities need to be developed on an ongoing basis,” he says.
The YES initiative allows all South African companies the opportunity to work more closely with government to have a direct impact on not only the youth, but on the family and friend-groups that surround them. With recent economic data showing that growth rates exceeding 1% over the next 3 years is unlikely, it is incumbent on all organisations to look at ways of contributing to make South Africa a better employment space for youth.
TTG recently held a graduation ceremony for its first group of YES students. Out of the initial 30 students, 26 were permanently employed within the Group and the remaining students are being actively assisted in finding placements.
In South Africa, living can feel like a tightrope. It’s difficult to get on properly with all the challenges that we face. TTG is playing a part, albeit a small one, to provide guidance, support and mentorship.
TTG extends a challenge to IT industry players to step forward and play an active role in the future of South Africa by joining the YES initiative. We can and should make a difference, wherever we are able to. Investing in the future of our country, the youth, should not be optional.