Corporates should take a leading role in creating job opportunities for young people

Nkosinathi Mahlangu, Youth Employment Portfolio Head at Momentum Metropolitan

A recent report by Statistics South Africa shows that in the first quarter of 2022, unemployment among graduates between the age of 15 and 24 declined from 40,3% to 32,6%, while it increased by 6,9% to 22,4% for youth aged between 25 and 34. 

Even as the decrease in graduate unemployment serves as a green shoot, levels of youth unemployment remain extremely high and serve as a call for businesses and training institutions to collaborate and be at the forefront in creating employment opportunities and training for graduates and young people in the country.

Businesses can work in partnerships with institutions of higher learning to share critical and scarce skills information through schools to help and encourage learners to enroll for courses that will pave sustainable career paths. 

Momentum Metropolitan, for instance, supports skills development programmes aimed at upskilling the youth to access employment opportunities. We do this by focusing on socio-economic development and youth employment. Most of the participants are still undergoing training and workplace experience or internship training, which is part of the employability journey. 

Our partners have recruited a total of 595 youth to participate in the company’s Socio-Economic Development (SED) programmes this year. The foundation’s programmes are focused on IT/digital skills, entrepreneurship and vocational skills.

We have invested R13.6 million in this financial year, and we are continuously looking for ways to align with business needs and bridge the skills gap in the country through our programmes. So far, our programmes have provided IT, coding and administrative skills sets for many businesses and we will be looking at implementing programmes that will cater for the financial services sector at large, which requires a specialised skill set.

Investing in skills development for business and industry success

As a case in point: through our partnership with WeThinkCode, we have helped develop a mentorship programme for all students that are associated with Momentum Metropolitan Foundation. This mentorship happens pre-, during and post- the internship phase of the programme. We absorbed 13 young people from our coding programme in 2021 and hosted nine interns in 2022.

However, the Covid-19 pandemic has been disruptive as it halted the face-to-face delivery of our programmes and this resulted in adapting an online or remote delivery of all our programmes. This also compelled us to look for ways to make our programmes accessible virtually and provide adequate resources for participants. Our partners have provided psychosocial support to all participants, but work experience opportunities were disrupted as most employers were also working remotely.

Despite this disruption, spending on skills development learning programmes and training continues to be a priority for us and has, in fact, risen. Initiatives in specialised areas of study within the insurance industry to key groups like youth, women and people with disabilities are adding significant value and creating a talent pool for the industry – helping increase youth employment and diversifying both the company’s and the sector’s workforce. 

As part of these initiatives, we absorb our trainees once the employability process is complete and we work with a variety of employment partners that are aligned with our programme. We have 177 placements across our programmes this year alone.

Post-placement support is also an important part of our programmes. We help our young recruits to adapt and adjust to the work environment through regular check-in sessions and work together with the respective business unit to create an enabling and healthy environment that also encourages them to upskill and grow in their careers. We additionally provide financial literacy programmes that also help with basic money management skills for that much anticipated pay cheque. 

We believe businesses can continue to play an active role by exposing unemployed youth to more work experience opportunities through internships and putting in place a long-term plan to absorb the talent they are helping to groom. It would be great to see companies striving to embody what diversity in the workplace can achieve in terms of contributing to business success and also to building an equal society. 

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