Many readers will know about YES (Youth Employment Service), a South African organisation that has a mission, over the next three years, to work with the private sector to create one million employment opportunities for South Africa’s youth. The initiative is in response to South Africa’s increasing unemployment rate, which is most evident in the youth category (estimated at 55%).
As we join YES in counting up to one million, we want to celebrate each and every success.
Like Akani Mbondzisa.
Living in rural Mpumalanga, 26-year-old Akani had no post-school qualifications and no work experience on his résumé. In fact, he didn’t have a résumé. He did what many of Hazyview’s youths are doing and applied to Good Work Foundation’s (GWF) one-year Bridging Academy, an Absa-sponsored programme that focuses on developing digital and English skills to connect youth (mostly 18 – 34 year-olds) to the opportunities of a 21st-Century world. He then successfully completed another full year at a GWF digital learning campus, this time in the IT Academy, where he passed a number of internationally-recognised CompTIA IT qualifications.
“I felt privileged to be part of GWF because they offered me quality education that I didn’t think was possible in a rural place,” says Akani. “I experienced many things at GWF, both theoretically and practically, for example, the International Computer Driving Licence (ICDL), Absa’s ReadytoWork programme, and the Lobster Ink Front Office hospitality training.”
As part of his studies at GWF, and supported by Absa’s hugely effective ReadyToWork online platform, Akani also created a professional résumé and prepared for interview scenarios. And so in 2018 when YES job placements became available at the world-famous Sabi Sand Game Reserve (known as the Sabi Sand Wildtuin), Akani already had intermediate IT skills, improved English skills, hospitality skills and work readiness, including people skills. All of this in two years.
“Gay Sibuyi, GWF’s Group Data Manager, encouraged me to send my résumé to the Sabi Sand Wildtuin for an internship opportunity that was part of the YES programme in partnership with Investec” recalls Akani. “I passed the interviews, I was appointed, and I realised that this was a huge opportunity. I was privileged enough to be part of the first group of YES candidates and was included in the YES launch in Johannesburg where we met President Cyril Ramophosa.”
Akani is now working as an administration assistant and coordinator, responsible (although still supervised) for: Timesheets, logbooks, stocktakes, email back-ups, basic IT assistance, office and project administration and – as if that wasn’t enough – assisting with the reserve’s Natural Resource Management team’s project coordination.
According to the reserve’s Human Resource Officer, Andrea Uys: “Akani is a hardworking and focused individual. His reliable and get-it-done personality has made it easy to mentor him. He has shown a lot of potential and we are excited to see what his future holds with further training and development.”
So not only is Akani receiving invaluable practical work experience in one of our country’s top tourism destinations (supervised by a nurturing individual committed to the process of youth employment in South Africa) but he is also gathering references like Andrea.
Try to compute the value of those two things – work experience and a résumé reference – which many people would take for granted, on Akani’s future employment prospects.
At the end of this one-year work placement, a previously unemployed youth may become employed (best case scenario) or may walk away with a résumé that is now marketable and the confidence to apply for jobs with the knowledge that he has experience and a reference who will vouch for him (worst case scenario).
This is a South African success story that is built on focus, collaboration and belief. Focus on education and youth employment. Collaboration between NGOs, business, and government, and belief in our country’s youth thanks to the “big guns” like Investec and President Ramaphosa, but also the “little guns” like GWF’s Gay Sibuyi and the Sabi Sand’s Andrea Uys.
Here are some final words, for this article, from Akani:
“My advice to other young adults is to grab all the opportunities that come, do not only focus on where you will earn money, but target where you will gain qualifications and experience every year. I would like to say thanks to the Sabi Sand Wildtuin, YES and Investec for giving me this opportunity to gain more experience and thanks to GWF and Absa for assisting me to build my future through giving me the opportunity to study with them!
If you’re not yet a believer in the huge potential of South Africa’s youth, become one now!