Harambee aims to scale up connecting youth and economy prior to Youth Day

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Social impact nonprofit organisation Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator on June 15 took media on a tour of its offices and detailed its work to link the youth with job opportunities in the economy, and to help the youth to progressively gain employment experience and skills along their paths to formal employment.

Harambee registers young people who are eager to work on its platform. They can access and use its services free-of-charge and its websites and applications (apps) are data-free, says Harambee chief communications officer Zengeziwe Msimang.

The SA Youth digital platform is also the digital spine of the organisation and helps it to link directly with its governmental and nongovernmental partners, and thereby increase the opportunities available to participants.

The platform is designed to facilitate seamless sharing of information among partners and reduce duplication, while broadening access for youths to all opportunities. Work is also under way to develop smart curricula vitae (CVs) for participants, such that CVs are automatically linked to potential work or learning opportunities across all partners, says Harambee technical director Kuben Nair.

“The aim is to ensure that the youth remain engaged in the economy and move along their pathway to employment and their careers. We do this by actively engaging with youth who are registered on our platform, and we encourage them to stay engaged with our platform,” says Msimang.

“Further, we carefully vet each employment opportunity to ensure that it is genuine, and we engage each youth to determine what their skills are and what they may need to improve their professional profiles,” she says.

Harambee has 4.4-million young people between the ages of 18 and 34 registered, although only about 3.5-million are active participants. However, this number represents about 20% of South Africa‘s young population who are active participants in seeking to develop their professional profiles.

The organisation engages with young people to determine their levels of education, skills and capabilities. It then suggests to them, via the app, email or telephone, pathways they can take to complete or increase their education, to partake in volunteer work to gain initial work experience and skills or matches them with available employment opportunities through its employer partners.

Each participant also provides, in addition to work experience and education, a location where she or he stays. This is important to enable Harambee to link youths with opportunities in their areas or near them, as transport costs for farther work are often prohibitive, Msimang notes.

There are 936 employers that post work opportunities on Harambee’s platform. The nonprofit has also partnered with a range of governmental departments and agencies and nongovernmental organisations, which includes not only public work opportunities, but also education support and training organisations and volunteer organisations, among others.

“We would, depending on the experience of the young person, sometimes suggest that she or he take up volunteer work in their communities or local areas. This not only helps them to develop workplace skills and experience, but also assists the community and demonstrates to potential employers the willingness of the youth to work.

“Harambee also conducts research into work opportunities and changing work opportunities to ensure that we provide sustainable pathways to employment. For example, our research indicates that there are about 66 000 jobs created in the digital industries sector each year. We then focus on how we can enable young people to gain the experience and education needed to do such work,” she explains.

In addition to providing support and advice directly to young people, with the Harambee engagement team specifically called guides, the organisation is also focusing on providing workplace experience for youths with tertiary qualifications, says Harambee marketing administrator Sandile Ngakane.

The organisation’s Digilink division provides youth with tertiary qualifications an opportunity to learn while earning. The division has partners in the automotive and financial services industries that provide specific projects that the youths then work on.

Thus far, this initiative has led to 100% of those completing the year-long course finding formal employment, he notes.

“To achieve our nation’s ambitious goals will not be possible without social cohesion and nation building, hence the need to ensure unemployed youth can access and are connected with work opportunities. We want to support youth who are willing to serve their communities and build themselves, and then to build South Africa,” says National Youth Development Agency (NYDA) CEO Waseem Carrim.

“However, short-term work opportunities can seem that we are giving young people hope and an opportunity, only for it to fall away again. For some, it is the first time they have had a bank account and been paid electronically.

“Therefore, we engage with the young people to ensure that, during this time when they are working and feeling confident, the young people take responsibility for their own steps and transitions on their employment pathways during this time before their employment ends. We also engage with the implementers to ensure that they support youth in gaining work experience and skills.”

The SA Youth digital platform is enabling the NYDA and Harambee to have considerably greater visibility of the demand for and supply of skills in the economy and is helping them to support connecting opportunities with young job seekers, Carrim adds.

“We encourage all companies and organisations in South Africa to consider partnering with Harambee. For many of us, our first job opened many subsequent doors and opportunities,” he emphasises.
Source: Engineering News

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