YES! Youth Employment Service Giving SA Youth a Fighting Chance

October 19, 2017
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“We cannot always build the future for our youth, but we can build our youth for the future.”

 Franklin D. Roosevelt, 32nd President of the United States of America

Youth unemployment is one of the biggest existential threats to South Africa’s future. Latest figures suggest that 58% of unemployed people are between 18 and 34. There is no easy solution to tackling this but a positive step forward is to ensure strong collaboration between government, the private sector and wider civil society. That type of collaboration is the vision of Youth Employment Service (YES) and its CEO, Tashmia Ismail-Saville.

Launching soon YES, part of the CEO Initiative, is designed to be a business-led initiative, supported by government, that aims to empower one million unemployed youth by offering them a first chance at quality work experience and skills development through three-year internships and, in doing so, giving them the dignity and confidence many youth so badly need. The programme is focused on black South Africans between the ages of 18-35, and diffrent industries will be able to absorb interns at different rates. By working with SARS and Treasury on incentives for business, companies who are part of the programme will have an employment tax incentive rebate when employing from this pool of potential candidates.

The platform is a truly unique collaboration. Working with a wide range of stakeholders to collectively tackle youth unemployment, YES works for youth, as well as business and government. Combining the goals of all three, YES aims to support South African youth to achieve their first step up in adult life through job creation. From job readiness training to ongoing monitoring and evaluation, YES is fully committed to creating a wide range of work opportunities, and with it longer term skills development and security.

As South Africans, we are all aware of the deeply negative impact of unemployment on our society: a young workforce with diminishing prospects of employment makes it difficult to break the cycle of poverty across our country, reinforcing the poverty trap and increasing the risk of fractious social relations. On a personal level, it denies badly needed confidence, dignity and hope from our children. We desperately need to re-empower our youth through the dignity of work and skills development. Young South African’s self-determination to chart the course of their own future will be key to our economic growth and our society’s future stability and success.

From a macroeconomic perspective, unemployed youth represent significant lost growth potential for the country and a risk to future social cohesion. Unemployment also has very individual consequences leading to high levels of depression and isolation in young people who feel excluded from economic activity. YES seeks to engage this demographic by creating new opportunities that inspire a sense of belief, hope and optimism and counteract the deep sense of disillusionment they face. In doing so, YES aims to build the personal agency, resources and work readiness skills of young people and to work closely with business to create opportunities for youth at scale.  A significant focus of the initiative will be black-owned SMMEs and authentic working partnerships between business, government and labour that supports collaboration and inclusive growth.

YES was born out of a shared realisation by business and government that an intervention is required. A major intervention. No one person or organisation will solve this problem – if we are going to adequately begin to tackle youth unemployment and its associated issues we need to work together. It has to be a collaborative, long-term effort amongst South Africans to secure the future of our country. Please join the cause!

YES not only invokes the wisdom of Roosvelt’s quote, it takes it to a new level. Who says we can’t build the future for our youth, while building the youth of our future?

YES soft launches in early November. For more information please contact:



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