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Elections and youth unemployment - we are sick and tired of recycled empty promises!

Categories: HEADLINES, Civil Action/Philanthropy, Advocacy , Education, Employment, Youth
It is that time again! Calls for our votes, empty promises by political parties, many recycled from the not too distant past. The unemployed are promised jobs, and millions of it! These promises were made before. They will be made again. Few people are aware that South Africa is one of the worst in the world when it comes to youth unemployment.

For those between the ages of 14-35 years it is estimated that 72% of youth are unemployed. Even a war ravaged country like Sudan is doing better than SA. During the worst time of the Great Depression in the 1920’s unemployment was 24.9%. South Africa’s unemployed youth are facing almost 3 Great Depressions every day! And then we wonder why they seek refuge in drugs? The abnormal has been normalised!

Even finance minister, Pravan Gordhan, warned that South Africa had "some of the highest rates of unemployment" in the world. "The incidence of unemployment is highest among young people. This means [they] are denied the opportunity to gain skills and experience that will enable them to build future careers." About 94 percent of unemployed young people did not have further or tertiary education, and about 80 percent had never worked, or had been employed for longer than a year. "These are alarming indicators…” (Times Live, 24 Oct, 2013)

As the politicians continue to entertain us with their recycled promises, there is a group of unemployed youth who decided enough is enough! They are sick and tired of being sick and tired! They decided to make things happen for themselves. Their approach is simple. That unemployed youth must be directly involved in the solution of their own challenges. They must take charge of their own lives and destinies. YoungPeople@Work is a manifestation of this thinking!

The organization is the brainchild of Frank Julie and Marileze Johannes. Both were part of the first generation members of the Resource Action Group (RAG), a non-profit youth development agency established in 1992. Frank Julie was the founder and executive director of RAG for 10 years before departing in 2003 to pursue a career as fulltime development consultant. He authored a book (sold out twice) on leadership and management as well as a study on the Roots of the NGO crisis in SA – a look beyond the surface. He obtained his MPhil in Adult Education and Development from UCT.

In 2007 RAG collapsed due to a lack of funding.  In 2010 the first generation of RAG volunteers and staff regrouped and decided to re-launch the organisation under a new name – YoungPeople@Work. YP@W was launched in March 2012. Many of the professional volunteers supporting YP@W today have their roots in RAG where they were trained and graduated and now give back to the community.

Like RAG, YP@W is a new generation organization for unemployed young people by previously unemployed young people. We regard working on oneself as the most productive work! In a rapidly changing economy with constantly new demands for being adaptive, working on yourself is vital. In YP@W youth are not just recipients of predesigned programs, but active participants in the design themselves. We regard youth as assets not liabilities. They have inherent talents, strengths and positive energy that must be harnessed to facilitate their holistic development to their fullest potential. For example our management team meetings are based on a rotational chair because we train leaders not followers! We train leaders by allowing our members to ACT as leaders! Our approach is hands-on and not just chalk-and-talk!

We believe youth can be leaders today and not just tomorrow! In YP@W we redefine the concept of work as not just an economic activity to live and survive, but also as a social function that allow youth opportunities to grow! Hence our motto: We live to work, we don’t work to live!

In pursuance of our objectives, we operate various programs such a Computer Training and Life Skills Academy, free Online Job Search Training in partnership with seven community libraries, Job Shadowing, Training of Trainers, Community Information Sessions, Youth Empowerment Weeks reaching out to unemployed youth in various communities, Rural Outreach Program and a Leader to Leader program where young community leaders are mentored.

A CV Bank captures and stores CVs of unemployed youth downloaded freely by prospective employers or employment agencies. An SMS Alert Service and Facebook page regularly notifies unemployed youth of current available job and training opportunities. 5 principles are embedded in our program planning namely, accessibility, affordability, relevancy, quality and after care.

For two years YP@W survived without any major funding. Generous donations from professionals as well as the sheer passion, commitment and dedication of our volunteers to make a difference, sustained the organization. Our strategic partnerships with various stakeholders such as Adonai Life in Bishop Lavis (offering free training and office space), community libraries (offering free access to computers) and various service providers amongst youth added much needed value to our youth intervention!

This is what one participant had to say:

“Hi Frank

I don't know if my wording is going to be right. You would not know what fantastic news I have. I have received a call today that I'm starting on Monday at The Foschini Group (TFG) do you know why? Because I did my training through you. I have aced my assessment 96% for vocal and my typing. Thank you for making a difference and changing lives.”
Nazeema Mohammed

This is what the Department of Social Development (DSD) had to say after inviting us to make a presentation:

“Dear Frank
Thank you for meeting with various divisions of DSD on 24/2/14. Your program is really amazing and so cost effective and empowering - so many lessons we learnt already in just this one session. We and other NPOs can learn a lot from you. We hope to continue the relationship we have started and I know great benefits will come from us working together towards the great goal of opportunities for youth. Once again thank you and lets grow that network to open all possible opportunities for our youth.”
Deborah Van Stade, Senior Director

Small scale funding covering about 30% of our operational and program costs has recently been accessed from Grandwest CSI and HCI Foundation. This will allow us to consolidate our current programs and pay small stipends to volunteer trainers to cover their transport needs. In YP@W nobody is paid a salary. More funds will have to be raised to make this possible and retain our volunteer base. Until then our mission to empower our unemployed youth continues!

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