Telkom’s first YES programme is giving 499 young South Africans a critical opportunity to break into the workforce, learn future-fit skills in the ever-growing ICT sector, and in so doing, contribute to their communities.

One of the lasting legacies of the Covid-19 pandemic is a world more reliant on the communications industry than ever before. Cellphones and the internet have become crucial tools for communication, business, and life during the lockdowns.

South Africa is a leading hub on the African continent for growth in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector. This sector is already one of the biggest employers in South Africa, and according to Stats SA, contributes 2,7% (or R93-billion) of the country’s GDP. The telecommunications sub-sector remains the biggest employer in the ICT field.

Telkom is a major player in the South African ICT field and has recognised the key role this sector plays in contributing to South Africa’s social and economic development, which is why it has partnered with the Youth Employment Service (YES).

“Youth unemployment in South Africa is currently at 66,5%. Through Telkom’s partnership with YES, we are increasing job opportunities for youth, and injecting critical skills into our economy that will enable innovation, and a digital future,” says Telkom chief human resources officer, Melody Lekota. “Telkom is committed to addressing inequalities and the socio-development challenges of our country. The partnership with YES is critical to supporting community-led programmes and advancing their impact.”

Telkom has opted to place youth externally through the YES turnkey solution as a way to capacitate NGOs working in the digital space all over South Africa.

The turnkey solution allows companies to sponsor the placement of unemployed youth for 12 months in vetted implementation partners (generally NGOs or SMMEs working in high-impact sectors). Because youth are placed within their own communities, they do not have to travel far for work, and can rather contribute to building their hometowns’ economies.

Telkom’s job creation footprint through the programme is prevalent in Gauteng, Western Cape, Eastern Cape, KwaZulu-Natal and Limpopo. The youth were placed with YES implementation partners operating in positions that offer crucial in-demand skills such as data capturers, cyber security agents, digital artisans, content creators and software developers. This offers them a year of work and upskilling while earning a salary.

The five implementation partners hosting the Telkom youth are:

* The Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative – South Africa’s oldest tech incubator – which promotes the inclusive growth of the digital economy.

* The National Financial Literacy Association, which provides ongoing consumer financial education using various platforms.

* Reconstructed Living Lab, a non-profit which provides empowerment through hope, technology, innovation, training and economic opportunities.

* Youth Content Collective (YCC), where talented black content creators are connected with business.

* Youth@Work, where unemployed young people are given work experiences in non-traditional worksites.

The CV and the reference letter youth receive at the end of the 12-month programme are vital to building employability. Research shows that experience reflected on a CV significantly increases the chance of a job interview. For women, a reference letter doubles the chance of her getting the job. The YES x Telkom partnership therefore increases chances of employability but also chances of entrepreneurship.

“The ICT sector desperately needs more skilled workers. Telkom’s partnership with YES will contribute to building an equipped workforce in South Africa, and indeed the rest of Africa, that will have the right skills to deal with the growing ICT demands of the world,” concludes YES CEO, Ravi Naidoo.