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Unemployed youth given a helping hand

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“This is an opportunity that I’m hoping will take me far,” says Lebogang Sothoane.

Sothoane is among the 3 315 young people, who on Thursday were inducted into Nedbank’s workforce through the Youth Employment Service (YES) initiative.

This brought an end to the 27-year-old’s four-year journey to find employment.

Completing her matric in 2011, Sothoane registered for a degree but was forced to drop out due to financial constraints.

 “In 2014, I stayed at home, dropped out and in 2015, I did my Logistics degree through the National Student Financial Aid Scheme [NSFAS],” she said on Thursday.

Sothoane is among the inductees who will now work for Nedbank under the YES initiative that was launched by President Cyril Ramaphosa in 2018.

YES is a government initiative that was developed out of a partnership between business, labour and civil society to help young people gain access to employment opportunities. The initiative is led by the country’s President himself.

Sothoane, who shared the stage with the first citizen during a panel discussion together with two other YES inductees, did not hold back in telling the President the challenges they faced in getting a foot in the door of the workplace.

Among the challenges she highlighted were being denied access to entry level posts due to a lack of experience, as well as financial exclusion at tertiary institutions due to a lack of funds, and cases where one cannot graduate because their student fees are in arrears.

Nedbank Group Chief Executive Officer Mike Brown said the bank is taking on the youth as a way to make a dent in South Africa’s high unemployment figures.

“[We want] to go beyond business as usual and create meaningful job opportunities for our youth. Our hope is that by giving youth the opportunity of their first job, they will go on to become inspiring leaders and entrepreneurs, who will in turn create job opportunities for many other future South Africans,“ said Brown at the ceremony held at the bank’s Sandton premises.

The President listened intently to the concerns raised by the youth during the panel discussion.

“I am troubled by this,” said the President referring to the country’s unemployment figures and challenges faced by youth in obtaining employment.

In many ways, said the President, Nedbank and other companies who have taken on youth employees have gone beyond the call of duty.

“There are so many unemployed young people. I have interfaced with it at a close range,” President Ramaphosa said, adding that the prerequisite for experience for young employees has turned out to become a barrier.

YES to jobs

To date, the initiative has managed to secure 17 000 work opportunities for unemployed youth, said YES Chief Executive Officer Tashmia Ismail-Saville.

President Ramaphosa recalled how in his youth, he received a hand up from two Jewish women who granted him a bursary so he could obtain a higher education qualification.

He urged those who are part of the programme to not be fearful of their employment ending after 12 months.

“The YES programme… opens pathways and many doors,” said the President in response to one of the concerns raised by young people.

He said many countries around the world have programmes made to empower their youth.

The President also had a few words of advice for the new recruits, urging them to work hard to show off their abilities.

“Sometimes you [will] fail but you must always know that once you fall, you must rise and rise to greater heights,” he said.

Speaking to SAnews following her engagement with the President, Sothoane said she looks forward to giving her best in her new job at Nedbank, while also encouraging others to never give up.

“I advise others to go out and never tire. There are plenty of opportunities,” she said.

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