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Equipping Youth With Development Opportunities Is Key To Economic Growth According To Corporate SA!

  • 5 min read

World Youth Skills Day 2023

The potential of young people as catalysts for change cannot be underestimated and motivating and empowering the youth to transform their social impact ideas into actionable elements is integral to society’s development and driving sustainable economic growth. 

World Youth Skills Day, taking place on the 15th of July, is a strong reminder of the need to not only provide skills for the youth, but to open up access and opportunities as they transition into the workplace and their communities to drive a transformative future. Organisations doing exactly this, weigh in.

“The 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development places a strong emphasis on skills and jobs for young people but solving a problem of this scale requires coordinated efforts from all sectors,” says Andra Nel, Brand and Purpose Manager at KFC. “However, I do believe that together we can encourage youth participation and development and transform youth skills for the future. As a people first business, we are fortunate that our business gives us both a unique understanding of and opportunity to address the needs of young people in South Africa and through our sporting, education, feeding network and access initiatives we are proud to be able to provide a powerful vehicle that not only aims to equip youth to pursue their educational and professional aspirations, but also provide equal opportunities and necessary resources to level the playing field.”

One of the best ways to help youth and level the playing field is to give them access quality to educational support programmes aimed at filling the gaps deficit that are a result of challenged public education system, according to Setlogane Manchidi, Head of CSI at Investec. “Our belief is that the support of carefully considered educational initiatives, enables our youth to be better positioned to gain entry into opportunities that can help facilitate the development of much needed skills that leave them more empowered to change their lives for the better. Many beneficiaries have gone to qualify in areas they would not have otherwise qualified in had it not been for our efforts through initiatives such as the Investec’s partnership with the Kutlwanong Centre for Maths, Science and Technology (Investec Promaths) that seeks to drive change that will see a number of disadvantaged youth produce improved matric results, access tertiary education and pursue critical qualifications. 

And it starts from the ground-up. According to the 2023 Background Report for the 2030 Reading Panel, most children leave grade one without knowing the alphabet, while 82% of grade 4 children cannot read for meaning. “Reading and literacy is a critical pillar to a sound education,” says Esha Mansingh, Imperial & Motus Trust Board Member. “This in itself indicates a literacy crisis in the country which is concerning if we consider the direct impact on the lack of the country’s ability to equip young people with the most basic but fundamental skills. What’s worse, this directly impacts the development of employable youth or youth that are able to create their own entrepreneurship. It is therefore critical that as corporate South Africa we use our social purpose to develop such skills through comprehensive literacy intervention programmes that addresses grass root level skills and provides the necessary learning environment and tools to promote healthy educational development.”

“Currently there is no national reading plan, budget, or accurate reporting in place at government level and so investing in libraries and resource centres that encourage reading development and improve literacy are crucial to changing this agenda locally – a role that we can fulfil to a large extent, as corporate South Africa,” adds Mansingh.

And it’s not just about looking at this from a student perspective but rather addressing the full value chain that supports these children – the parents, communities and other stakeholders that influence the effectiveness and continuity of these skills.

Manchidi agrees. “We recognise that there needs to be a continuum of initiatives, starting from high school, moving to tertiary education and continuing through to young adult learning – a progressive pipeline, spanning three stages of learning and growth to create opportunities for young people to become active economic participants in society.”

“In addition to equipping the youth, we recognise and appreciate that the role that teachers, trainers and educators play in providing skills for youth is a critical one. Hence our commitment to the development of a new cohort on Maths and Science teachers through our teacher internship programme that ensures that   educators are able to provide high-impact learning experiences that support holistic growth for the workplace of the future.”

Strengthening youth participation enables us to grow skilled labour and an entrepreneurial pool in the industry, which is very much needed says Yongie Ntene, Chief People & Culture Officer at Liberty Two Degrees. “Take the property sector for example which requires a diversity of thinking especially if we consider that changes and trends driving the sector as well as the valuable role that communities play in building the spaces for generations to come. From providing study areas and access to Wi-Fi and electricity for students, from internship programmes to mentorships, and from supporting young entrepreneurs to providing platforms for the youth to freely express their voices – this is how we make a difference and drive strong active participation in the sector.”

Brina Biggs, senior manager at 1Life agrees, saying that it’s not only about active participation, but also about encouraging a view of the future, something that can be difficult when you young and have your whole life ahead of you.

“Skills development in financial independence and creating a mindset for the next generation is a critical skill set that we need to impart on our youth today. It is the access and opportunities that open doors, it’s the skills that help them succeed and it’s the commitment to financial freedom and the creation of generational wealth that protects their futures,” concludes Biggs.