President Cyril Ramaphosa opened the Volvo Group Southern Africa’s Youth Employment Initiative at the Volvo Trucks assembly plant in Durban on Saturday. Picture: GCIS/KOPANO TLAPE
President Cyril Ramaphosa opened the Volvo Group Southern Africa’s Youth Employment Initiative at the Volvo Trucks assembly plant in Durban on Saturday. Picture: GCIS/KOPANO TLAPE

President Cyril Ramaphosa has praised Volvo Group South Africa for its continuing investment in the country’s economy and commitment to the empowerment and development of the youth.

He was speaking during the Volvo Group Southern Africa’s youth empowerment initiative held at the company’s assembly plant in Umbongingwini in Amanzimtoti in Durban on Saturday.

The Volvo Group is planning to invest R25-million during 2018 on apprenticeship training‚ automotive and internships. The company has already invested more than R86-million since 2015.

Torbjörn Christensson‚ president of Volvo Group South Africa‚ said during the course of the year‚ they will also establish a specialised driver training academy to address the shortage of skilled drivers in the region at an investment of R1.4-million.

"We’re also continuing our involvement in Star for Life‚ a non-profit organisation that aims to provide young people in southern Africa with essential skills‚ sport training and health education. Just in three years from 2017 to 2019‚ we are planning to invest around R7.8-million in this very worthy cause‚" he said.

Christensson said they were ready and willing to join hands with government to identify and create more opportunities for "our youth‚ to start rebuilding the social fabric and economic transformation of the South African labour market".

"As a global company‚ we are certainly proud of our business successes here in South Africa. But we are even more proud of the difference we believe we are making by investing in skills development‚ youth development‚ and giving back to the industry and the country as a whole‚" he said.

Ramphosa‚ who was accompanied by Economic Development Minister Ebrahim Patel and Education Minister Naledi Pandor‚ said Volvo’s investment in the country’s economy was motivated by a desire to contribute to building a better South Africa.

"It is rooted in an understanding that business is not separate from society‚ but inextricably bound to the fortunes of its people. As poverty‚ unemployment and inequality decline‚ businesses grow. As young people gain skills and work experience‚ businesses thrive. As businesses grow and thrive — and employ more people and pay better wages — so the lives of ordinary people improve."

Ramaphosa said the greatest challenge to social development in South Africa and to economic development was the high rate of unemployment.

"We therefore applaud Volvo for making youth development such an integral part of its social investment programme. We all share a responsibility to develop skills of young South Africans and ensure that these skills are suited to the needs of our economy‚ now and into the future."

This‚ he said‚ meant that the basic education system needed to ensure that more learners made it through to matric and that the quality of the education they received was improved.

"It means that we need to ensure greater access to universities and colleges for the children of the poor working class. The phased introduction of free higher education from this year promises to contribute to a skills revolution in this country."

Volvo’s initiative is in line with the Youth Employment Service (YES) led by Ramaphosa which aims to see more than one million young South Africans being offered paid work experience over the next three years.

The YES initiative is a partnership between government‚ business‚ labour and civil society.

"We call on companies to join the programme‚ not only to increase the chances of employment for many thousands of young people‚ but also so that the companies themselves can develop the young workforce that they will need to expand and grow‚" said Ramaphosa.

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