President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering the state of the nation address. President: JAIRUS MMUTLE / GCIS
President Cyril Ramaphosa delivering the state of the nation address. President: JAIRUS MMUTLE / GCIS

President Cyril Ramaphosa announced an ambitious programme to address the crisis of youth employment in his state of the nation address (Sona) in parliament on Thursday night.

More than half of all young people are unemployed and of the 1.2-million youths who enter the labour market each year, about two-thirds remain outside employment, education or training.

Ramaphosa said the presidential youth employment intervention, which consists of six priority actions over the next five years, would be implemented immediately.

The intervention will involve a youth employment initiative which will be funded by setting aside 1% of the budget.

“This will be through top slicing from the budget which will require that we all tighten our belts and redirect resources to address the national crisis of youth unemployment,” the president said.

Minister of finance Tito Mboweni will prioritise this initiative and give specific details when he delivers the medium-term budget policy statement later in 2020.

The intervention will involve creating pathways for young people into the economy either by online, the phone and in person to give them active support, information and work readiness training.

Five prototype sites for these pathways would be launched in five provinces in February to form the basis of a national network that would reach 3-million young people through multiple channels.

The way young people are prepared for work would be changed fundamentally with shorter, more flexible courses being provided for specific skills that employers in fast-growing sectors needed.

Ramaphosa said new and innovative ways to support youth entrepreneurship and self-employment were being developed and the youth employment service would be scaled up. Technical Vocational Education & Training (TVET) colleges and the private sector would be involved to ensure that more learners received practical experience in the workplace to complete their training.

In addition, the first cohort of a presidential youth service programme would be established to provide opportunities for young people to earn an income while contributing to nation building.

The National Youth Development Agency and the department of small business development would provide grant funding and business support to 1,000 young entrepreneurs in the next 100 days. The government plans to assist 100,000 young entrepreneurs over the next three years to access business skills, training, funding and market facilitation.

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