Leading insurance company Hollard has called on the private and public sectors to work in concert to develop and implement more skills development and employment creation initiatives to proactively address the need for more work opportunities for South African youth.
Unemployment among young people – who constitute a third of the total population in South Africa, or over 17 million according to figures recently released by Stats SA – is spiralling and it needs to be urgently addressed.
June is Youth Month in South Africa and it commemorates the contributions that the youth of 1976 made in the fight against apartheid. This year, these celebrations take place against the backdrop of the highest unemployment rates recorded by Stats SA. In the first quarter of 2021, 63.3% of young people aged between 15 and 24 and 41.3% of those aged between 25 and 34 were unemployed.
“Youth unemployment remains one of the biggest challenges we face as a society today, and the ripple effects of unemployment include social ills such as crime, substance abuse and increased reliance on social grants,” says Willem Smith, Executive Head for Distribution at Hollard Life Solutions. “Our view is that corporate South Africa can contribute meaningfully to drive efforts to improve employment opportunities for unemployed young people. At Hollard Life Solutions, we are guided by our purpose of enabling more people to create and secure a better future.”.
Smith adds that, “While we are encouraged by the collective interventions that have been put in place thus far by government and the private sector to address unemployment, the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic has reversed some of the gains made and we need to step up to the plate to amplify our efforts to contain youth unemployment.”
The Hollard Insurance Group is one of the founding members of Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, a not-for-profit social enterprise that seeks to address youth unemployment in South Africa. Harambee creates job opportunities for unemployed youth through partnerships between government and the private sector.
Hollard currently has 29 Harambee recruits on a learnership programme. Over and above being part of the Harambee programme, Hollard also runs programmes for unemployed youth as part of a broader talent management strategy.
“We need to explore ways to replicate similar social development interventions that can address the current youth unemployment challenges at scale. More private players need to come on board in designing solutions to ensure that youth are equipped to apply the skills learnt in the classroom in their day-to-day jobs, so that we build a skilled and productive talent pool,” says Smith.
Hollard is also involved in the Slingshot to Success programme which is a two-year skills development initiative in the motor body-repair value chain. The programme includes a panel beating qualification, forklift certification, and workplace readiness skills programmes over a two-year period. Hollard plans to scale up this programme in the coming year with a bigger group of trainees and a more rigorous learning journey.
The insurer is also part of the Youth Employment Services (YES) initiative: a social contract between business, government, and labour aimed at creating one million youth work opportunities in South Africa. The Hollard Academy supported the YES initiative during the 2020 financial year by sponsoring 138 young people employed at Hollard.
Smith says Hollard has a target of ensuring that a minimum of 2% of its staff members are previously unemployed youth. This target has consistently been surpassed. Hollard currently hosts 70 unemployed learners and interns.
“The role of public private partnerships in supporting employment creation opportunities is immense,” Smith says. “It remains crucial for collectively harnessing our skills and resources as well as those of our partners, to actively engage in developing systemic social impact solutions that can significantly change the current narrative on youth unemployment. Our view is that, working together, we can make a significant impact in addressing youth unemployment.
“No stakeholder can do it alone, and we need to build on the solid foundations we have laid to accelerate efforts to upskill young people and empower them to be productive members of our society.”