Letter: Need bold action on unemployment

On September 11 2015 I joined Deputy Finance Minister Mcebisi Jonas to open Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator’s office in Port Elizabeth as we work to grow the public and private partnerships needed to solve South Africa’s jobs crisis.

The youth unemployment crisis in the country – and especially in the Eastern Cape – needs bold action and innovative solutions.

One out of every two youth in Nelson Mandela Bay is unemployed.

They lack the information, access and skills needed to find their way to the economy, and to changing their futures.

The municipality’s commitment to a youth jobs desk should be lauded (“Bold plan to create jobs for Bay youth”, March 9).

It has chosen a highly credible partner in Harambee, an NGO that has been supported by National Treasury’s Jobs Fund as well as more than 300 corporate and social partners.

Harambee has delivered jobs to more than 30 000 excluded youth through these partnerships and has also assisted 300 000 youth in their own journey to employment.

Harambee works only in partnership models because it knows that the scale of the youth unemployment crisis requires action by many.

In its partnership with Nelson Mandela Bay Municipality, Harambee and its private sector partners will be bringing R16-million to match the R10-million being proposed by the municipality.

This will assist more than 20 000 youth with opportunities ranging from formal jobs to learning.

While the financing of the youth jobs desk is important, it is not sufficient for the challenge we face.

We also need the private sector to make commitments that can grow job opportunities for youth.

We need to support this partnership with significant investments that can grow our economy. I look forward to lending my support and ask others in our community to do the same.

At Harambee’s launch, Jonas and I met Eden George, a young woman who comes from Bloemendal in the northern areas and had struggled to find work for many years.

She registered with Harambee, completed its programme and was interviewed for a job at Discovery in 2013. Four years later, she has been promoted four times, and has been able to buy her first car and provide for her family now that she is employed.

Another young man, Nande Qutywa, comes from a family of five living in Walmer Township.

He spoke about how long he struggled to find work and that Harambee had helped him understand that he could take charge of his own journey. He joined the programme in 2014 and found employment at Builders Warehouse, where he is now able to grow his skills.

These stories remind us that there is great potential in our young people and their capabilities.

Many employers use numeracy and literacy tests that measure the quality of a young person’s past schooling, not their future potential and abilities.

In conducting more than one million assessments, Harambee has advocated for assessing potential to do the job, not just looking at matric marks for youth who are being failed by our education systems. This is how it also actively partners with the government and business to share research and advocate for policies that will benefit the youth who are simply locked out of the economy.

There are many more stories like George’s and Qutywa’s – young people who changed their own paths to employment through Harambee’s support. But not nearly enough.

In a country where we know that sustainable employment will overcome the social and economic challenges we see in so many of our communities, we must support credible, scalable programmes that can deliver for our youth. They deserve bold action and real solutions.

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