This was the message from Public Works Minister Thulas Nxesi, who on Tuesday addressed learners at the Property and Construction Career Week in Sandton, Johannesburg.
The Minister, quoting President Jacob Zuma at this year’s Youth Day event, said to tackle the triple challenges of poverty, inequality and unemployment, South Africans must empower themselves through education.
He said this is why government spends more than R6 billion per year in the National Student Financial Aid Scheme. “We are also building more institutions of higher learning - including three new universities and 12 new technical and vocational training colleges,” he said.
“But, as government, we are painfully aware that the youth is bearing the brunt of high levels of unemployment – the result of deep-rooted structural weaknesses in the economy – made worse by the international economic crisis following the financial crash of 2008.”
He said government has responded with a number of initiatives, including incentives for businesses to employ young people, encouraging young people to become entrepreneurs through the Industrial Development Corporation in partnership with the National Youth Development Agency and the Small Enterprise Finance Agency as well as supporting young entrepreneurs through a mentorship programme.
He said the successful Expanded Public Works Programme also provides opportunities of training and short-term employment for young people. “Our target is to provide six million work opportunities over the five year term of this government.”
Government departments are also providing various training and development programmes that they offer nationally and provincially, as well as in municipalities throughout the country.
Last year, the Department of Public Works trained 120 youths in KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga to operate water treatment services. Currently, a further 320 unemployed science and engineering graduates are receiving training and will be appointed to 97 water facilities across the country.
Other programmes include providing assistance to students from FET and Higher Education Institutions with workplace /experiential training and internship to meet requirements of their qualifications enabling them to be employable and a host of learnerships which offer matriculants a training opportunity while also giving them access to employment opportunities.
“Above all else this morning, that is the point that I want to make: the opportunities are there – where once black learners were excluded – now the doors of education and training have been opened – but you must walk through those doors of learning – and that means discipline and commitment to study and to work for your goals.
“…Today you also need a broad education, qualifications and skills if you are going to succeed in the wider economy and labour market,” said the Minister.