Although youth unemployment is a global problem, it is inordinately high in South Africa, where 49,9% of young people are unemployed.
“This equates to 3,4-million South Africans between the ages of 18 and 28 that are unemployed, of which 43% have a matric qualification. It is one of our many socio economic challenges and can be attributed to our low education levels and high dropout rate,” says Sylvester Moepya, senior manager at Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, speaking at a recent Unisa Graduate School of Business Leadership (SBL) masterclass for alumni focusing on the issues that face the youth in finding employment..
He adds that 61% of these individuals have no work experience at all. Harambee’s solution to this, according to Moepya, is the utilisation of bridging programmes that  simulate the work environment and give the young person exposure to the world of work. It also allows for better simulation of the work environment for retention purposes.
“Bridging programmes range  in complexity, lasting from two days to two months.”
Yershen Pillay, executive chairperson of the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), explains that the NYDA is a South African-based agency established primarily to tackle challenges facing the nation’s youth.
“Similar to many developing countries, South Africa has a youth bulge, with youth between the ages 14 and 35 representing 42% of the total population. Given the youthful nature of the South African population, much of the socio-economic challenges faced by the nation, such as poverty, inequality, joblessness and poor health, are borne by the youth.
“The gravity of the challenges that South Africa is faced with require multi-pronged efforts that simultaneously promote the development of sustainable livelihoods, reduce poverty, inequality and prioritise the development of policies which create an enabling environment for youth development.”
In 2013, the NYDA set out a new vision. Says Pillay:  “While we have made great strides in access to education, there is  currently a low level or poor quality of education, so we don’t realise the full potential that is inherent in our country.  Underdevelopment is the inability to realise the full potential of the youth.  Only 13% of young South Africans intend to start a business, which is much lower than the African level of 61%.”
Pillay says the NYDA’s multi-dimensional approach includes interventions aimed at the big five non-negotiables of youth development:
• Improving levels of education;
• Accelerated skills development;
• Structured mass based youth base service programme;
• A culture of youth entrepreneurship; and
• Promoting health and wellness
He says that 3,2-million youth opportunities must be created. “We must coordinate all work being done so that we can make a difference to the current situation. The NYDA plays a leading role in ensuring that all major stakeholders, namely government, the private sector, civil society and academia prioritise youth development and contribute towards identifying and implementing lasting solutions which address youth development challenges.”