The National Youth Development Agency has called on employers across all industries in South Africa to support the recently released Youth Employment Accord, a government-led initiative aimed at tackling economic challenges facing the youth.

The multibillion rand pact, signed by government, labour, business and other civil society representatives in April, commits in particular to improve education and training opportunities for the group that is between school-leaving and first employment.

Another commitment is to work exposure which will connect young people with employment opportunities through support for job placement schemes and work-readiness. Government is confident all preparatory work will be done between May and June, with Deputy President Kgalema Motlanthe saying all signatories have already commenced actions and commitments.

Yershen Pillay is the newly appointed Chairperson of the NYDA and told SAnews in an interview that the proposal may not succeed if it doesn’t receive support from the very same people it seeks to help.  He says employers will also need to throw their weight behind the plan by absorbing more young people into companies.

“The accord is what one may refer to as an outcome of a broad consensus between all social partners but at the end of the day, it needs the support of all young people in this country and our role as the NYDA will be to ensure that young people know that it exists. If young people have no idea what the accord seeks to achieve, then we will have a problem.

“We need to see more of the private sector employers’ involvement in issues facing the young people of this country, not only in terms of financial support but also absorbing young people into companies – whether through internships or employment. Generally, the commitment has not been satisfactory but we do believe that the private sector will come to the party through the Youth Employment Accord”.

Critics of the plan have questioned its viability, saying the ideas were brilliant but doubt if the necessary financial muscle would be there to implement them.

However, the Industrial Development Cooperation has been one of the entities to come forward promising to set aside R1 billion from its ‘Gro-E’ funding scheme to provide low-interest rate loans to youth-owned or youth-related enterprises over the next three years.

The IDC will also provide technical support to young people to assist in accessing these funds and will refer them to other support available in the state. Through his charity organisation, the Motsepe Family Foundation, business mogul Patrice Motsepe, will avail R100 million over the next three years for youth co-operatives and enterprises, a commendable move, says the NYDA.

“We commend the likes of the Motsepe Foundation. That is what we want to see more from the private sector. We call on more companies to come to the party. We will do our part and as the NYDA, we would also like to exercise some kind of oversight or monitoring of the implementation of the actual accord to see whether certain targets are being met.

“The accord also provides for certain measures to be implemented during Youth Month in June and as the NYDA, we will lead that process to see what sort of measures will be taken and how they will be implemented.”

The Youth Employment Accord document now recommends that clear targets be set for new jobs in areas such as infrastructure, the business process services sector and the green economy, particularly the manufacture, installation and maintenance of solar water heaters. All these services should target young people.

For its part, government commits to increase the number of young people employed in the public sector. The accord sets a number of numerical targets for specific sectors, with officials saying infrastructure programmes will aim to absorb at least 60% youth.

Government also commits to ensure that departments introduce a focused internship programme, aiming at employing interns over a period of time equal to 5% of the total employment of the departments.

The Green Paper on Higher Education and Skills Development also sets ambitious targets for expanding Further Education Training and Higher Education Training attendance. By 2030, university enrollments should have increased to 1.5 million, or 23% of people in the relevant ages — up from 900 000 today, which is only a 16% participation rate.

Pillay said based on its staff complement, the NYDA could lead by example by providing 15 young people with internships, and hoped that other state entities follow suit. The agency employs about 300 people.

“That’s realistic. It’s achievable and can be done using ourselves as an example. We can lead by example and if we create opportunities for 15 people through internships based on our staff complement, we would reach the target as stated in the accord. It’s things like that, that we need to do, to make this work”.

Article source: SAnews.gov.za