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South Africa is faced with a crisis of high and rising youth unemployment. Throughout the country, only 1 in 3 young people of working age is employed. This distressing statistic not only plays out through the limited earnings potential and future prospects of these youth, but also emerges within stymied business growth and unsustainable pressure on governmental social programs. The solution will take action from a variety of sectors and actors in order to turn the tide.

This report, funded by The Rockefeller Foundation, highlights two cross-sectoral partnerships—the EOH Youth Job Creation Initiative and the Mentec Foundation—that have seen success in placing these disadvantaged youth in jobs throughout South Africa. The report concludes with a table of recommendations for employers, training providers, philanthropic funders, and government officials to begin growing and replicating these efforts.

Top Takeaways

  1. Throughout their lives, youth within South Africa are put at an employment disadvantage due to inadequate education and recruiting systems. Despite an estimated 500,000 entry-level vacancies throughout the country, young people often lack the necessary problem-solving skills, business acumen, technological savvy, and communication skills needed for the workplace, and structures that would enable this on-the-job learning (training, mentoring, and coaching) are not standard practice for most workplaces.
  2. In order to place more youth in jobs, sectors can bring their unique skills to bear while complementing one another’s efforts: government incentives can encourage employers to take calculated risks and reform HR practices; training providers can focus more on skills, including job-readiness skills, that are directly demanded by employers and work with these employers for placement; and funders can strategically deploy grants to such programs and collaboratives.
  3. Youth who participate in demand-driven training programs and are then hired into jobs become valuable staff in short order: the youth were more motivated to perform well and assimilated quickly to the work environment.
​By expanding and replicating such partnerships to entrench and extend early impact, the ‘Rainbow Nation’ could show the way again in stamping out youth unemployment.