Momentum Metropolitan Foundation (MMF) recently facilitated a council session with its partners in the youth unemployment space to engage in a dialogue surrounding challenges, success, and room for improvement. The aim was to spark critical conversations, create much-needed synergy and forge possible new partnerships in an effort to combat South Africa’s rising youth unemployment.
To motivate why they persist with challenging work, Gcobani Zonke from Ubuntu Pathway made reference to an original story by Loren Eisley about a boy who was seen picking up starfishes on a beach one by one and gently throwing them back into the sea. A man saw this and asked what he was doing, to which the boy replied, “Throwing starfish back into the ocean. The surf is up and the tide is going out. If I don’t throw them back, they will die”. The man said, “Don’t you realise there are miles and miles of beach and hundreds of starfish? You can’t make a difference. After listening politely, the boy bent down, picked up another starfish and threw it back into the surf. He looked at the man and said, “I made a difference for that one”
Regarding the forum, Nkosinathi Mahlangu, Youth Employment Portfolio head at Momentum Metropolitan said, “This session gave our six partners in the youth development and employment space a forum to learn, share ideas and strategies. It also became a safe space to share best practices and understand how each of us play our part in creating sustainable jobs for our country’s youth.”
In South Africa, youth between the age of 15 and 24 years are considered the most vulnerable with the unemployment rate among this group sitting at 58.2%. Through its partners, Momentum strives to make a significant impact and turn the tides on youth unemployment in South Africa.
During the council session, many of the challenges that arose were indicative of the current economic divide which has proven a massive barrier that continues to restrict youth in almost every area of their lives. The sad reality is that a student in the suburbs is more likely to succeed than from the township, which purely comes down to lack of services and ease of access to tools such as the internet.
One of MMF’s partners from Quadpara Association of South Africa (QASA) spoke about challenges that restricted them from being able to provide services effectively. QASA’s candidates are wheelchair bound and have found that most of them drop out of school due to issues ranging from disability unfriendly facilities and financial challenges. QASA has found this challenging because most of its programmes require a matric certificate, leaving many disabled youth unable to find path to financial success.
MMF believes that corporate South Africa needs to play a vital role in helping NPOs achieve their goals. For MMF’s partners, this means placing people in jobs after completing their training even if they don’t have a matric certificate.
Beyond matric certificates, NPOs on the day highlighted that many candidates are nowhere ready to access the opportunities and ride the challenges inherent to the Fourth Industrial Revolution. They maintained that digital skills should have been enforced at a foundational school level. At least then, when candidates arrive at upskilling facilities, they are on a basic level of understanding. Right now, too many candidates enter the programmes with zero understanding of the digital world. Many are even afraid to switch on a computer.
Below is a recap on the MMF partner successes outlined on the day:
- Life Choices, an organisation that works with youth from the Cape Flats communities in 2019 enrolled 188 candidates, of which 82% of those are now employed and earning about R12 000 pm.
- We Think Code, started in 2016 and specialises in closing the digital skills gap in Africa. In 2019, it registered 800 candidates, 450 of which are active on the programme, and 220 have graduated with 98% of the 450 having secured full-time employment. The first group of fifteen interns started their first work spurt at Momentum Metropolitan on 3 February 2020.
- Ubuntu Pathway, which operates in East Cape, enrolled 292 candidates in their skills development programme and have a 60% retention rate on the job.
- Sparrow FET college, Rhiza Babuyile and Quadpara also shared their successes on the day.
NPOs in the room called for mentors to play a part in equipping youth with the right mindset to play a positive role in the economy. Schools were also urged to introduce vocational skills training to empower drop outs to manage and cope when attending NPO skills development programmes.
Rashuping Morake from Rhiza Babuyile said that NPOs don’t talk about the fact that they are each other’s competitors for funding. That is why it is significant that Momentum has made the effort to bring everyone together as partners, not competitors.
“We have a common goal through these partnerships,” says Mahlangu. “It is imperative that we start working closer together as a collective so we can fast track economic upliftment among our youth. Our collaborative approach and our partner’s efforts will be the catalyst for our country’s journey to success,” concludes Mahlangu.