Project is creating jobs, providing experience, fighting virus

1,000 youth employed in EPWP Covid-19 programme

GRATEFUL: Some of the beneficiaries of the expanded public works youth brigade programme.
GRATEFUL: Some of the beneficiaries of the expanded public works youth brigade programme.

With unemployment at an all-time high in the Eastern Cape, the expanded public works programme (EPWP) is slowly chipping away at the 40.5% statistic.

This has seen A total of 1,000 youth roped in to be part of benefiting from the EPWP Covid-19 intervention programme.

The placement of the previously unemployed people in the Covid-19 youth brigades programme will go a long way in addressing the high rate of unemployment — albeit on a short-term basis — while giving the 1,000 beneficiaries valuable work experience.

This means, after completing the programme, they will be more employable.

Department of public works & infrastructure (DPWI) MEC Babalo Madikizela launched the programme to much fanfare in Komani earlier in September.

The Covid-19 youth brigades programme participants will play a key role in helping the provincial government curb the spread of the deadly coronavirus.

DPWI provincial spokesperson Vuyokazi Mbanjwa said programme participants had been divided into occupational health and safety officer representatives — whose have had to ensure compliance with Covid-19 regulations.

Monitors were tasked with screening and recording government employees and everyone entering government buildings and project sites; while cleaners were responsible for the maintenance of hygiene in state buildings.

Cleaners have to ensure that government buildings are disinfected, fumigated and fogged as and when required, Mbanjwa said.

She said the programme’s participants will be registered with the unemployment insurance fund (UIF) and compensation for occupational injuries and disease (Coida).

This, she said was to ensure the participants were not exploited and that the DPWI respectes labour laws.

“The department will register the participants for UIF, the department pays 1% of the stipend and the participants pay 1% and then the 2% is paid or transferred to the department of labour.

“It is the responsibility of the department to ensure that the UIF is collected and paid.

“The department will also register all Covid-19 youth brigades programme participants with the existing contract for Coida, and they can claim from the department of labour in case of injury,” she said.

Programme participants reported for duty at the beginning of September and will continue being in the frontlines against the spread of Covid-19 until February 2021, when their six-months contracts end.

While the national coronavirus command council eased lockdown restrictions to alert level 1 in September, President Cyril Ramaphosa, health minister Dr Zweli Mkhize and experts have warned of a possible second wave in infections.

This, Mbanjwa said, was the reason the DPWI had embarked on the programme, as the war against the vicious invisible enemy had not been won yet.

She said the programme had two aims: fighting the spread of Covid-19 and creating employment.

Mbanjwa said preference was being given to local communities where the programme was taking place, which is in line with EPWP recruitment guidelines.

“The targeted participants were unemployed women, youth and people with disabilities.

“Unemployed people between the ages of 35 and 40 were also considered,” she said.

This article was paid for by the Department of Public Works and Infrastructure

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