Youth employment program changes lives

OPINION

Dear South African friend,

I was recently shown an inspiring and deeply touching post on a Facebook group for participants in the government’s school assistant scheme.

At the end of this month, the second cohort of 245,000 young people will complete their ten-month placement in schools. They will join the ranks of some 600,000 young South Africans who have taken part in the initiative since its launch in 2020.

To encourage those leaving the program, a young man from Modimolle in the North West wrote in the Facebook post: “Remember what you have done for teachers and learners. Don’t forget what you did for school. Remember the lives you have impacted. Remember the huge difference you have made. Most importantly, don’t forget about the skills and experience you learned in school.

The words of this young man capture the essence of this exceptional program. The School Assistant Program is part of the President’s Jobs Boost Campaign, the largest youth employment intervention in our nation’s history, which has reached nearly one million participants to date. .

School assistants either supported teachers in the classroom or provided school maintenance, security, vegetable garden production and other maintenance activities.

Updates sent by participants to the Department of Basic Education show the impact the initiative has had on more than 22,000 participating schools across the country. There are pictures of new bookcases and reading nooks. There are before and after photos of barren schoolyards now overflowing with cabbages and once dilapidated classrooms gleaming with new paint. There are videos of newly trained sports enrichment coaches conducting exercise classes and participants on laptops doing school administration.

There are the stories of young South Africans who struggled to find work and who have now been able to make modest additions to their homes, start small businesses or further their education. A young participant with a mild mental disability said he had survived on a disability allowance and never thought he would be considered for the programme.

Of approximately 60,000 teachers and principals surveyed, more than 95% say the program has greatly improved the learning environment in our schools and want it to continue. They say it has allowed them to devote more time to teaching.

Beyond the monthly stipend, the program provided young people with work experience and skills. They have received accredited training in several disciplines, ranging from digital literacy to basic accounting, from child and youth care to masonry, plastering and plumbing.

As one participant said, “My CV is no longer empty. Before this program he was a virgin, now he has five certificates.

After offering opportunities to these thousands of young people, we must now pave the way for them to formal employment, continuing education or entrepreneurship.

There are already many opportunities for people leaving the program. The Youth Employment Service aims to place many of these young people in work experience positions in companies and the National Youth Development Agency will help those with business ideas.

Participants receive information on scholarships and scholarships and organizations in the wider education sector seek to integrate participants into literacy and library programs.

I call on all our partners, especially businesses, to mobilize the energy, talent, skills and experience of these young people to grow our economy. The quality work experience and training offered by this program addresses the concerns of many companies that young candidates lack skills and experience.

We call on companies to participate in this process by taking advantage of the Tax Incentive for Employment to hire more young people and create apprenticeship places. They can use the SAYouth.mobi platform to publicize the opportunities that exist in their businesses. There are currently 2.9 million young people registered on SAYouth.mobi and many organizations, companies and departments use the platform to provide opportunities for young people.

The platform is part of the presidential intervention for youth employment, which brings together several government departments, the National Agency for Youth Development, the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, the Employment Fund , the Youth Employment Service, the National Business Initiative and the Confederation of Private Sector Employment Associations. , among other things, to create pathways for young people to income opportunities.

I have been greatly encouraged by the many online groups formed by former program participants where they share work, training and other opportunities with each other. Some of these young people would have liked to stay in the program longer. One person writes that they were grateful to have had this opportunity, but understands that others must have the same opportunity next school year.

As the young Modimolle wrote: “Some of you have had better opportunities. Some of you have chosen to continue your studies. Some of you have decided to come together to create businesses. Your minds are open right now.

As we build on the successes of this program and provide opportunities for more young South Africans, I call on all of society – whether it is businesses, community organizations or places of learning – to help build a new future for our young people. .

Let’s all do what we can to help these young people gain self-confidence, find decent work and bring dignity to their lives.

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