JOHANNESBURG - A recent impact report of the Youth Entrepreneurship Programme (YEP), run by the Innovator Trust in partnership with Vodacom Foundation, shows the progress the programme has made in its mission to alleviate youth unemployment in South Africa. At just over 51%, South Africa has the second highest youth unemployment rate as of 2022. Not only does youth unemployment have a negative humanitarian impact, perpetuating cycles of generational poverty and impacting quality of life, the economic implications are also significant. The report shows growth for the programme and the positive impact it makes in terms of equipping youth with holistic entrepreneurial skills and experience.
“Youth unemployment has several negative implications, not least of which include social exclusion and unrest. The magnitude of this problem in South Africa makes it a top concern for both Vodacom, and the Innovators Trust,” says Taki Netshitenzhe, External Affairs Director at Vodacom South Africa. “The best way to combat this problem is through providing our youth with education and training opportunities to help them gain access to employment. What makes this programme stand out is our holistic approach which not only provides training but also offers youth paid internships to gain real work experience.”
The programme has a strong focus on practical experience, combatting the rising graduate unemployment rates by ensuring young beneficiaries gain actual work experience. This is done through the Innovator Trust internship programme. This started in 2017 with youth being placed in Innovator Trust Enterprise Development (ED) SMMEs. To date, 141 unemployed youth have been given the opportunity to experience the realities of what it takes to run a small business in the ICT space through internships at these organisations. In 2022/2023, 45 of the 50 youth were supported through this programme, by finding internships at ED SMMEs.
Seeing the positive response received from current beneficiaries, Vodacom expanded their support by offering internships through Vodacom’s Supplier Development (SD) initiative in addition to the provision of laptops for the third successive year. The supplier development programme supported over 140 SD SMMEs in the 2022/2023 financial year through the provision of infrastructure, soft skills, training, and equipment. In its first year as part of YEP, at least 17 young unemployed youth were placed within SD businesses. This significantly increased the programme’s capacity and helped extend support to more unemployed youth.
Tashline Jooste, the Chief Executive Officer for the Innovator Trust commented: “This arrangement offers a remarkable advantage by establishing a mutually beneficial scenario in which the SMMEs have access to additional junior resources without incurring resource costs to their business. Simultaneously it contributes to job creation and aids in mitigating the effects of increasing youth unemployment. Moreover, it provides the youth with the valuable opportunity to get practical experience in an SMME environment. For many the ultimate aspiration is to establish their own businesses. This programme gives them the practical experience and networking opportunities they need to transform their training into tangible skills.”
According to Jooste, in this fiscal year more than half of the beneficiaries were women, positively contributing to female empowerment in business. Two previous top achievers from Thaba Nchu, a township neighbouring Bloemfontein had the opportunity to work at Echo Multimedia Solutions. Both women are now set on furthering their education in their field of interest, technology and look forward to one day starting their own businesses and positively contributing to their communities and families.
“It is incredible to see the positive impact this programme is having on the lives of unemployed youth in South Africa. Without participation from our youth, we face an uncertain economic and social future. Having graduates express ambitions to continue the cycle of positivity and seek out ways to empower themselves and those in their communities is exactly what this programme is about,” concluded Netshitenzhe.