Youth Development, July 28, 2021, 2:29 p.m.

CareerBox challenges corporates on the continent to employ more young people

Author: riaan@wecanchange.co.za

Skills and employment development organisation joins global call to promote impact sourcing as a proven approach to tackle youth unemployment.

While the official unemployment rate announced by Statistics SA at the beginning of June rose to 32.6%, it is estimated that the jobless rate for youth under the expanded definition – which includes people who have given up looking for work - has surged to 74.7%. 

If one considers that Africa has the youngest population in the world, with the Organisation for Economic Cooperation Development estimating that the continent will have a labour force of 1.6-billion people by 2030, there needs to be an urgent and concerted effort to create opportunities. CareerBox MD Lizelle Strydom challenges corporates in South Africa and the rest of Africa to embrace impact sourcing as a viable, and proven, way of finding jobs for talented young people.

Impact sourcing is a business practice where organisations target previously disadvantaged communities to identify and develop talent, and then place them in jobs that provide them with a sustainable income, and pathway to social upliftment. 

“There is a scarcity of jobs which means hundreds of thousands of young people with odds stacked against them are rapidly losing hope,” says Strydom. “Impact sourcing allows us to bridge that gap of hopelessness by developing crucial skills and giving young people a foot in the door to grow and develop their careers.”

As a Mandela Legacy Partner, CareerBox is committed to overcoming challenges around youth unemployment, working to address what Zindzi Mandela said: “My father always said education is the most powerful weapon the youth can have. More and more we are finding that education and training without the promise of a job is more demoralising than no job at all.”

Strydom says that if more corporates in South Africa and the rest of the continent committed to procuring entry-level jobs through impact sourcing, the effect would be exponential. “We must undo the legacy of apartheid and leave a new legacy, one of hope for previously and currently disadvantaged communities,” she says. 

“The legacy of our unequal society is that there are many gifted, young people who don’t get their chance. We’ve proven that impact sourcing is a sustainable solution that not only builds careers for young people, but benefits businesses who get to hire young, talented workers while contributing to social upliftment,” she says. 

CareerBox, winner of the 2021 Global Impact Sourcing Award from the International Association of Outsourcing Professionals, identifies and recruits underprivileged youth between the ages of 18 and 35. It then aims to provide high-demand skills development training programmes and places the young people in entry-level digitally enabled jobs, which is supported by its strategic relationship with corporates in the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. 

“It is important to work with young people to remove self-doubt and then empower them to soak up as much knowledge and experience as possible so that they can grab opportunities they are exposed to, to grow and develop their careers. We must teach them important soft skills and encourage a culture of mentorship” says Strydom, adding that while a young woman may start as a call centre agent, for example, she could evolve into a team leader or an IT technician. The first job is just that – a foot on the career ladder.

Having been placed in an entry-level job at BPO CCI Global seven years ago as part of the CareerBox programme, Pearl Zikalala has worked her way up her career ladder while travelling the world. “I have had the pleasure of travelling to the UK, US and Australia as a representative,” she says. 

“My job teaches me every day that leadership is not accidental. It is a purposeful active participation of mind, body and soul that involves self-awareness and deliberate goal setting to motivate and drive yourself and the individuals around you,” she says.

Strydom says it is important for young people to be exposed to mentors, and people from similar backgrounds who have achieved growth and success. “The impact this has on young people is profound,” she says. 

Siphumelele Mhlongo, who was placed at CCI in 2018 as a customer service representative, has grown into a competent and confident team leader. Mhlongo says the skills she learnt from the programme have enabled her career growth, while Strydom says she serves as a role model for other young people in the programme.

By 2020, CareerBox had placed 35,000 young people in jobs over seven years, impacting more than 140,000 lives. “The broader we take this, the greater the overall impact. It is exponential” Strydom says.  

CareerBox aims to replicate the success it has enjoyed in starting the careers of many thousands of young South Africans across sub-Saharan Africa, where there is high youth unemployment, gender disparity and a lack of jobs. “We have a pilot program in Kenya and look forward to extending this to other countries in the region, and to grow alongside new corporate partners to continue to demonstrate the value of impact sourcing across South Africa and the continent, socially uplifting the communities where they operate,” she says.