Research conducted by the Department of Women, Youth and Persons with Disabilities shows that when it comes the development and empowerment of young people, not much is being done in South Africa. Neither the public nor the private sector is responding effectively to young people’s needs, causing intense frustration amongst the youth and negatively affecting the mental health of the 64.4% of young people who are currently unemployed in our country.
Without proper training or work experience, young people are just not as competitive as experienced workers, and stand a slim chance of finding work in our current economy, where jobs are scarce and many formerly employed people find themselves unemployed. Massive job shedding, a result of the pandemic, has forced experienced workers to take anything they can find, including entry-level jobs at low pay levels, formerly the preserve of the young. This leaves even fewer opportunities for the youth.
We have to find ways to address youth unemployment holistically, at a grand scale, to avoid an escalation of the frustration and disappointment that already simmers just below the surface of our society. This means not only ensuring that young people acquire the skills they need to start a career, but even more importantly, ensuring that those skills don’t go to waste. This, in turn, means finding a way to get millions of young employed at a decent wage.
It is this pressing need that prompted a change in Momentum Metropolitan Foundation’s strategy three years ago.
‘The days are long gone where companies simply threw money at social problems, like youth unemployment, as a way to fulfil their social responsibility, and then moved on without really monitoring how their funds were being used, or evaluating whether or not they were achieving any sort of impact,’ explains Nkosinathi Mahlangu, Head of Youth Unemployment at the Momentum Metropolitan Foundation. ‘Most corporate companies have refined their CSI strategies to play a bigger role in the programmes they support. At Momentum Metropolitan Foundation, we’re taking things even further. We are now also playing a role as a partner, by providing internship opportunities at our own company.’
An important step in Momentum Metropolitan Foundation’s strategy is to form internal partnerships, in addition to partnering with external programmes or NGOs.
‘We form partnerships internally, as socio- economic development is also one of the pillars of the transformation scorecard. Collaboration helps us to maximise our offering. For example, we partner with the different departments in our company, so that we understand what each department is doing and what is needed. Where a department might need extra help or interns, or even fulltime employees, we are able to introduce the beneficiaries of our programmes to these departments, which creates a win-win situation.
‘Internal and external partnerships play a role, where each party leverages off the strengths of the other, to achieve strategic objectives as a collective,’ explains Mahlangu. ‘NGOs or training partners have managed to reach their mandate to prepare learners for the world of work, while our internal stakeholders give us a platform to showcase their skills.
‘For example, we have partnered with WeThinkCode, a network of revolutionary tech institutions that are training young people in digital skills that are in demand now and will become even more so in the future,’ explains Mahlangu.
‘But we’re doing more than just investing in the training of these young people. Momentum is also offering a number of these beneficiaries internships in our various business units, so that they gain valuable work experience. We have offered some of them permanent employment, or used our networks to help find them permanent employment.’
Another way in which Momentum Metropolitan Foundation goes beyond the role of the financial partner in development is through its entrepreneurship programmes.
‘In one programme, we are about to embark on a programme that will train women in agriculture. Let’s say we train a fruit farmer; we will then; for example, buying produce directly from the farmers to supply food for big events.’
Mahlangu says that corporate companies have a huge role to play in equipping and empowering our youth. By going the extra mile, as Momentum Metropolitan has, companies are able to fund training, dovetail their training with the training of others, and provide opportunities for short or long-term employment within the company. This approach is one of the more wholistic we have seen, and seems to offer more hope for real change than simply offering training.