The Deputy President said this when he addressed a gala dinner of the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator: Solutions Exchange at the Spier Wine Farm in Stellenbosch in the Western Cape on Monday.
Addressing guests in his capacity as the chairperson of the Human Resource Development Council of South Africa, the Deputy President said: “Whether they [young people] have degrees or no degrees… we need to open up opportunities for them. Just open up those pathways and [watch them thrive], they (will) fly. They have got wings. All we need is to open up the space and say ‘go’,” he said.
Harambee is a youth employment accelerator, which connects employers looking for entry-level talent to young, high-potential work-seekers, who are currently locked out of the formal economy.
It is also one of the social partners of the Human Resource Development Council of South Africa.
The solutions exchange is aimed at formulating a joint work programme focusing on developing a select number of practical solutions that can be adopted into the performance plans of the participating Ministries and private and social sector partners. The concrete solutions will be implemented from 2018 to 2020.
Addressing guests last night, the Deputy President said the extent of the youth unemployment crisis and poverty means that the country needs to take extraordinary measures.
He said the solutions exchange is about shifting the narrative of a youth that is losing hope in the country’s policies and programmes to a youth that is enabled, empowered, treasured and affirmed.
“It is about realising the demographic dividend.
“The challenge of youth unemployment calls for a new era where we involve young people themselves in developing the solutions that are meant for their benefit,” he said.
He said since its inception six years ago, Harambee has placed more than 45 000 young people into entry-level jobs across the economy.
The event was also attended by social partners in the private sector, labour representatives, young beneficiaries of the programme and leaders from the civil society.
The Deputy President also said the initiative was an example of how partnerships between government, labour and the private sector can yield positive results.
“I just want to stress the issue of partnerships because for me that is a defining issue and I have seen partnerships work. We challenged business as government when we held the Presidential Working Group. We said we want you to help us do something about it and the Youth Employment Initiative was then born and I would like to commend the private sector for having come to the party and having agreed they will take on this partnership.”
Higher Education Minister Professor Hlengiwe Mkhize said the initiative brought hope for young people.
“We have come a long way talking about possible interventions in ensuring that our young people are empowered through education and skills for employment and entrepreneurship. We have taken too long if you look at where we started … but today I feel like I came out with a sense of hope that South Africa is alive with possibilities.”