President details rigorous plan to cut youth unemployment

Thursday, February 13, 2020

President Cyril Ramaphosa says government is now commencing with the implementation of the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, which sets out five priority actions for the next five years.

Addressing a pre-State of the Nation Address (SONA) youth dialogue in Cape Town on Wednesday, the President said youth unemployment remains government’s main challenge. 

To remove the burden of alarming joblessness among young people, the President said, interventions will be driven by a specialised Project Management Office in The Presidency.

“[The aim of the office] is to increase levels of alignment and focus across government, and begin to tackle youth unemployment at scale,” he said. 

Addressing youth formations, the President said to tackle youth challenges, government must accelerate the growth of competitive, export-oriented and labour-intensive industries, where the rate of youth labour absorption is high.

Government must ensure that the most marginalised young people have the support they need to access opportunities, said the President. 

“Our first priority is to create a National Pathway Management Network for young work-seekers to view and access learning and work opportunities, to receive a basic package of support and work readiness training, and to be matched to employment and other economic opportunities.

“This is especially important for those young people who are marginalised and excluded from the economy.”

Through this platform, young people will receive support in person and online to create their CV and to develop their job search and interview skills.

The second priority is to ensure that young people have the skills they need to access opportunities in key growth sectors such as global business services, digital and technology, tourism, agriculture, and social services.

“Our skills development system must be more responsive to demand in the immediate term as well as the long-term.

“We are working with these sectors, together with the Department of Higher Education and Training and the various SETAs [Sector Education and Training Authorities], to create opportunities for young people to undertake shorter courses in specific skills that employers require – either to help them transition into their first job or to top-up some training that they have already received,” President Ramaphosa said.

Innovative ways to create youth employment 

The President said, meanwhile, that government needs to find new and innovative ways to support youth entrepreneurship and self-employment.

He said this can be done by removing regulatory obstacles to small enterprise, as well as creating public spaces that allow businesses to thrive in townships, villages and urban centres. 

“We are focusing on both the enablers that must be in place to support young entrepreneurs, such as connectivity and affordable data, and the opportunity areas that are ripe for innovation, such as the food economy, green economy, and the waste economy.”

Experience for young people 

The President said it is also government’s priority to help young people to get work experience, so that they can gain a foothold in the labour market.

“We are scaling up the Youth Employment Service and working with TVET [Technical and Vocational Education and Training] colleges to ensure that more learners receive practical experience to complete their theoretical training.” 

The President said it is important to develop a Presidential Youth Service programme that will provide opportunities for young people to give back to their communities and contribute to nation building, while improving their employability.

“We are developing a model that will allow a national youth service to achieve scale and prominence in activities such as sports, arts and culture, rejuvenating public infrastructure and working on community-driven projects.

“These five actions represent an ambitious and unprecedented new agenda for youth employment, working both to create more opportunities for young people, and to unlock the energy and potential that young people have to offer.

“What makes the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention different is that it brings together The Presidency, the NYDA [National Youth Development Agency], the Departments of Employment and Labour, Higher Education and Training, and Small Business Development, and public-private partnerships such as the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and the YES [Youth Employment Service] programme.

“We will only tackle this crisis if we are willing to change the way that we work, and do things differently.” –