President Cyril Ramaphosa launched the YES programme in 2018, which helps young people to gain skills and work experience.
President Cyril Ramaphosa launched the YES programme in 2018, which helps young people to gain skills and work experience.

Agriculture and tourism can offer the key for unemployed youth to gain access to the South African economy, says dr Tashmia Ismail-Saville, Chief Executive of the Youth Employment Service (YES).

While agriculture is a segment of the economy where Mzansi is internationally competitive, the barriers preventing the youth from entering the sector is relatively low, she says.

YES is a business-driven initiative and is tackling the youth employability challenge in collaboration with government and labour. This partnership aims to collectively build economic pathways for black youth. The initiative’s goal is to equip young people with the necessary skills and work experience to get them started in the job market.

The programme, which was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018, has already created over 15 000 work experiences over the past 3 months and on average they are creating over 800 per week. YES mainly provides opportunities to unemployed young black people, between 18 and 35 years old.

Ismail-Saville says the difficulty for youth to enter mainstream agriculture is much lower than in financial services, which is more highly regulated. “It is very difficult for a youth to come into Gauteng with minimal skills and social capital and expect to break into the world of banking. However, you could see a young South African learn basic skills in the world of tourism and then begin to specialise as they become more experienced.”

It is not easy for young South Africans who were brought up in a rural environment to try and break into the workforce in the country’s two main economic hubs, namely Gauteng and the Western Cape. These hubs attract many people with skills and social and economic capital, which creates a lot of competition for entry-level positions there.

YES Chief Executive, Dr Tashmia Ismail-Saville.
YES Chief Executive, Dr Tashmia Ismail-Saville.

This is where the YES programme fits in. They turn this situation around and create opportunities for young people to be sponsored by city-based corporates to be placed in agriculture, tourism and other small businesses in rural areas.

“If we create 1000 paid-for, 12-month work experiences for these youth, we can add R40 million or more to the local economy,” says Ismail-Saville.

The not-for-profit organisation is already involved in a number of placements in the agriculture and tourism sectors, where they have been injecting both skills and economic capital.

Youth unemployment is a major challenge across South Africa, with a number of traditional industries being disrupted through both technological advances and economic pressures, says Ismail-Saville.

The YES programme, in collaboration with the Department of Trade and Industry (dti) incentivises businesses to offer paid-for work experiences by making these count towards their B-BBEE scorecards.

When a YES youth is placed, they are equipped with a smartphone that comes with work readiness tools and apps to help them upskill themselves. Much of the data on these smartphones is “zero-rated” meaning that YES have opened up not only the world of work but also the world of knowledge to these youth.

The initiative also has a partnership with LinkedIn where they can help get these youth onboard into one of the world’s largest professional networks.

Ismail-Saville says their goal is to create 40 000 opportunities by the end of June 2019 and 100 000 by the end of the year.

You can get more information on the programme here.