Youth Development for the President’s YES Initiative by Amanda Pukwana

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President Cyril Ramaphosa has launched a joint initiative between government, business and labour with the objective of securing more than one million South African youth with paid work experience over the next three years.  The initiative is aimed at creating opportunities for youth who lack the required skills for formal employment required by companies.   Research has shown that with one year’s work experience, coupled with a CV and reference letter the likelihood of young people securing employment increases by three times. The government has launched the Youth Employment Service (YES) as a vehicle to give the youth that are overlooked by the current employment models an opportunity to gain work experience of a decent quality.


YES CEO Tashmia Ismail-Saville has called on small businesses to play their part as large businesses alone cannot absorb the number of youth that need assistance.  South Africa has a high unemployment rate of 27,7%, with 5,8 million out of a total of 15,5 million youth aged between 18-24 years being unemployed(Statistics SA).


In addition to this initiative, the Deputy President of South Africa, David Mabuza speaking at the third Human Resources Development Council Summit on 10 May 2018, introduced the HRD Strategy towards 2030.  He stressed the need for investing in quality training for children at the foundational level specifically in Maths and Science, as well as increasing the Technical Vocational Education and Training (TVET) and other vocational colleges, to deal with the challenge of youth unemployment.




Businesses as good corporate citizens are called upon to play a critical role to ensure that the youth is educated and skilled to play a meaningful role in the economy of the country. This is the first stepping stone in ensuring that the youth have the requisite skills that will prepare them for the world of work.  To this end, employers can assist by:

  • Increasing access to vocational training and tertiary institutions for the youth through the provision of bursaries and scholarships. Special emphasis should be to ensure that technical vocations in line with the skills requirements for the country as defined in the Skills Portal as well as subjects like Maths and Science are given priority.
  • Empowering the youth to gain critical skills required for the future through the provision of internships, in-service training, job shadowing etc in the workplace.
  • As part of Corporate Social Responsibility, companies can adopt schools and invest in the training of teachers specifically in Maths and Science. In addition, adopt a TVET college to ensure the curricula matches industry needs.
  • Providing mentorship programmes and training for the youth.
  • Absorption of the youth from internship programmes into gainful employment within corporate South Africa to alleviate unemployment. The spin-off will be extra points on the Skills Development element on the BBBEE scorecard which will improve business opportunities for organisations.
  • Partner with organisations that support youth development, e.g. Harambee (a youth employment accelerator organisation), the Youth Employment Service (YES) and support the President’s initiative in providing employment for the youth within the workplace. The government has provided companies, if they so wish, to claim the Employment Tax Incentive of R1000 per month if they employ South African youth (African, Coloured or Indian) between the ages of 18 and 29 years.  The cost will be approximately R55 000 per annum per individual, which consists of:
    • a monthly salary of R3 500 as per the National Minimum Wage
    • associated training and support

Companies will also qualify for a new Youth Employment Recognition on the BBBEE scorecard which will be gazetted shortly.


A skilled youth will ensure the industrialisation of the country going forward and to ensure that South Africa competes on the global stage with regards to technological advancements. In addition, this would have a positive impact on the economy and ensure that South Africa competes favourably on the global stage.  This will improve investments and reduce the unemployment rate in the country.


Amanda Pukwana is Interim Head: HR Standards & Projects at SABPP. You can reach Amanda by phone (010) 007 5906 or email  For daily updates on the HR Standards Project, you can follow SABPP on Twitter @SABPP1.  Articles and images are available on hashtag #HRStandards and on the SABPP website