“Limited opportunities,” “Empty promises by government,” “lack of funding and support,” “being exploited as graduates,”‘ “ideas being stolen”… These were some of the frustrations expressed by unemployed youth at the inaugural Ekurhuleni Youth Summit on Unemployment in Kempton Park.
Against the backdrop of South Africa’s youth unemployment rate declared a “national crisis” by President Cyril Ramaphosa, the City of Ekurhuleni in partnership with K&K Media, convened the gathering which saw local government, the private sector and the city’s youth engaged in a conversation, seeking sustainable solutions and chart a way forward.
Ekurhuleni In An Economic Context
Ekurhuleni the fourth largest contributor among the metros in South Africa, contributes approximately 8.8% to the country’s national economy.
In the context of Gauteng, it contributes 23.4% to the total provincial economy. Around 26.4% of the City’s economic capacity is produced in the Kempton Park areas, followed by Alberton (19.3%), Edenvale (15.2%), and Benoni (14.7%).
Ekurhuleni Human Settlements MMC, Lesiba Mpya said the City of Ekurhuleni seeks to position itself as more than just economic and industrial powerhouse, but also a place where people are encouraged to live, play and invest.
To this end,Mpya said, “Ekurhuleni prides itself in the relations it has with all its stakeholders. We seek to continue to strengthen such relations, particularly with the private sector. One of the ways we aim to achieve these strengthened relations is by entering into various social compacts that deal with youth unemployment, inequality and poverty.”
He added that said this youth summit was critical to youth development because it served as a “platform on which to engage young people and expose them to captains of industry, the private sector and government in an effort to realise the innovations of tomorrow, which depend on the opportunities made available and accessible for young people today.”
Big Business Stepping Up
Dr Haiyan Song, CEO of Aberdare Cables reaffirmed his company’s commitment to South Africa and creating jobs and opportunities.
Dr Song said its parent company, Hengtong, has recently invested R250 million in SA and the Ekurhuleni region.
He further pointed out that Aberdare contributes 100% tuition fees for its bursary programme.
Joseph Mudau, Head of Training at the Gibela Rail Consortium which earned a mention in Ramaphosa’s SONA debate reply, said his company has committed huge resources to address the much lamented skills development gap.
Maudau pointed to Gibela’s apprentice and artsian programmes and its bursary scheme as concrete examples of how it is helping to dent unemployment.
He added that their apprentice and artisan programmes are structured in a such a way as to absorb these people into formal employment.
During a panel discussion between five young unemployed people, the youth were urged to “seize the moment,” “take charge of their future,” be “proactive,” and not wait on “government to do everything.”
Panelist, Lerato Mokoenyane said if young people have the drive and the determination, they will succeed no matter what the obstacles.
Kolobe Mamabolo suggested that big business be part of the curriculum development in higher education so that students are trained in line with the demands and requirements of the workplace.
This, he said, will go a long way in clearing the backlog of graduates who spend years at tertiary institutions only to discover their knowledge and skills are not what is needed or required.
Chaile Makaleng, the interim CEO of SAA Technical, moved by the desperate experiences shared, promptly announced that he is extending the deadline for bursary applications by one week, and instructed staff to ferry 100 applications to the summit venue.
The youth were advised to take up any volunteer and internship opportunities as this would help offset the lack of experience on their CVs.
Sakhile Siwela, founder of Spartan-based Flolite, announced that his lighting company is planning to offer 200 learnerships at his firm and called on potential partners to step up.
Siwela believes that expanding South Africa’s local manufacturing base will help dent the high unemployment rate and also promote the ‘Buy SA Campaign.’
The Nigel Youth Development Foundation (NYDF), a small start-up focused on the so called Fourth Industrial Revolution, said it’s high time government looks beyond the big tertiary institutions and support interventions such as theirs.
Tebogo Maselesele said the NYDF’s efforts need to be recognized as they are skilling people, and with no funding, to meet the demands of our future world.
Mpya said the City of Ekurhuleni has structured budget to put youth development at the centre of its efforts to tackle youth unemployment.
The MMC added that should not descend into just another talk shop; and industry and Ekurhuleni should leave with “firm commitments and a review in 5 months to evaluate commitments made.”