Maimane: Youth Employment Service not part of problem - YES

Organisation says it is private sector-led, not-for-profit, not a wholly state-run project

YES is part of the solution, not part of the problem, Mr Maimane 

4 June 2018

On Wednesday 30 May, DA leader Mmusi Maimane visited the defunct Johannesburg Labour Centre. Unfortunately, negative publicity drawn to this visit was aimed at the Youth Employment Service (YES). Maimane, announced via a media statement that “the President’s target of one million jobs in three years through the YES will not be achieved,” and seemed to believe that this was a DoL programme.

Regrettably, Mr Maimane seems to have confused the launch of YES, which was undertaken by the president – in much the same way that a government official might open a new factory or speak at a conference – with the concept that this is a wholly state-run project.

To the contrary, YES is a private-sector led, not-for-profit organisation, built in collaboration with government and labour, which aims to create job opportunities for one million youth over the next three years. Two years ago, in 2016, the CEO Initiative, under the guidance of Jabu Mabuza, committed that business would work with government to address specific areas of concern in the SA economy. Colin Coleman and Stephen Koseff were appointed Co-Convenors of YES, appointing Tashmia Ismail-Saville as CEO of YES. The initiative was launched on 27 March 2018 and has been building a team and putting in place a carefully crafted strategy with partners. In addition, YES has also been engaged in negotiations on the drafting of the dti Gazette on the codes of good practice, forging national and international partnerships and developing internal infrastructure, since the launch two months ago.

YES is not a part of government, though they are an important piece of the puzzle required to help solve South Africa’s youth unemployment crisis. There are also numerous other partners in the initiative, including Labour, the National Business Initiative (NBI), the country’s listed companies, unlisted firms of all sizes, the World Bank, Harambee and every one of the organisations which has already (in just eight weeks) signed up to partner with us.  YES are agnostic about the channels and partners with which it engages in the effort to solve the youth unemployment challenge. One of the greatest sources of pride for YES is having business, government and labour, collaborating constructively for our country’s youth. We live by the African proverb “If you want to go fast, go alone. If you want to go far, go together”.

Youth unemployment keeps us up at night and we spend our days obsessing over ways to create new work experiences for young people. YES is not just thinking about jobs, we are thinking about where jobs need to happen, about how jobs can be reshaped to keep mothers close to their children, about keeping jobs in communities and about how we can contribute to the development of business and enterprise in township economies. In this way, our work is also about more than jobs – it is about fostering the value chains that drive jobs, and it is about developing the skills, partnerships, digital platforms and infrastructure needed to catalyse jobs in places as diverse and different Tembisa, Bushbuckridge and Umtata.

YES may have been quiet, but make no mistake, we are building. Loud proclamations and overpromising will be a distraction from the real work which must happen. We must not only build new models and methods, we must also reimagine the old and use every available asset and resource at our disposal. YES will partner with the Department of Labour, in the same way that we partner with any entity which serves some purpose towards employment. Mr Maimane is right in noting that the Department of Labour has a footprint of Labour Centres which, where functional, offer a place for WiFi access, assessment and acceptance into the YES programme. In fact, there are many functional Department of Labour centres which are often the only access for marginalised youth to systems, databases and precious opportunities are. Both digital channels and bricks and mortar centres are all points on our pathway.

The welcome, and significant, broad-based transformation move by the dti, to Gazette the new Youth Employment B-BBEE recognition (which allows businesses that meet YES targets and comply with YES registration criteria to move up a level on their current B-BBEE scorecard) is an important commitment and contribution by government towards addressing unemployment. Let us applaud this positive step. In addition, to encourage demand-side job creation, companies employing black youth between 18 and 29 years old will qualify for the Employment Tax Incentive – a rebate of around R1,000 per month per employee.

YES facilitates the incentivising of businesses to employ young people and is holding business model workshops with large corporates to promote inclusive business and commitment to meaningful year-long experiences which take economic opportunities to SMMEs, townships and rural communities. These workshops are being held with ABSA, Nedbank, Woolworths, Shoprite, Sasol, Investec, Old Mutual, Standard Bank, Afgri, Sanlam, MTN and Barloworld amongst others.

We believe that YES represents a benchmark in fresh, bold responses to our country’s unemployment crisis. As evidence of our success, in just the two months since our launch, we have already received commitment for over 24,000 jobs and R105m for Community YES hubs which act as nodes for economic, skills and business development activity. All this, and the Gazette has not even been finalised. This points to buy-in and trust from business.

Will it be easy to create the jobs? In short, no. This is a demanding challenge given South Africa’s entrenched unemployment problem. For this initiative to succeed, it will take patience, hard work, determination and dedication. YES has this in droves. In squaring up to South Africa’s distressing socio-economic challenge of youth unemployment, we welcome guidance and collaboration, including constructive and informed criticism that helps us to be more effective.

YES appeals to political parties to refrain from using YES as a political football, the youth cannot afford any more distraction from the purposeful work of job creation, it is in the collective interest that YES succeed.

We have invited Mr Maimane to visit our nerve centre and we look forward to welcoming him to see up close our aims, to make a positive, real difference to the future of South Africa and the prosperity of its people.

Issued by Tashimia Ismail-Saville, CEO, Youth Employment Service (YES), 4 June 2018