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We cannot afford to leave youth behind, says Premier Alan Winde

Western Cape Premier, Alan Winde

Western Cape Premier, Alan Winde

Published Nov 23, 2021

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Alan Winde

CAPE TOWN - We’re at a critical juncture when it comes to the future of our young people.

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Like many African countries, we have, on average, a young population, and it is critical that we ensure a growing economy that creates opportunities for them.

They cannot be left behind. To do so, we need to be responsive and agile and ensure that our youth have the skills they need to succeed and prosper.

Our economy has, however, been hard hit by the pandemic, which has impacted the livelihoods of our residents.

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This is demonstrated by the most recent Quarterly Labour Force Survey. The survey shows that the Western Cape had an expanded unemployment rate of 29.1% between April and June 2021.

While we have the lowest unemployment rate in the country by some margin, the figures are still too high and need to be addressed so that our residents can live a prosperous life.

The Quarterly Labour Force Survey also unpacks the impact of the pandemic on young people, showing us that across South Africa, those between 15-24 years who are not in education, employment or training (NEETs) are becoming increasingly discouraged from applying for work or other opportunities.

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The survey shows us that nationally there were approximately 10.2 million young people in 2021 or 33%, who were NEETS in this age group.

As a Provincial Government, we cannot allow our young people to remain discouraged from reaching their fullest potential. We are working to drive up youth employment by creating an environment that makes it easier for our people to pursue work opportunities.

According to the Western Cape Government’s 2020 Provincial Economic Review and Outlook, the most significant industries in our province for job creation include agriculture, the Business Process Operating (BPO) sector, the service sector, which includes the banking and finance industry, the hospitality industry and the manufacturing and construction industries.

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This understanding of what our most prominent industries are is critical in helping us to upskill our young people so that they can enjoy meaningful workplace opportunities.

That is why we are taking an agile approach to enhance our young people’s skillset through our focus on Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Mathematics, Agriculture and Coding and Computational Skills or STEAMACC.

In supporting creating opportunities in the agricultural sector, we have established a total of 29 schools across the province, which offer agricultural subjects.

This will ensure that our future farmers, horticulturalists and food engineers are fully equipped to enjoy a rewarding career in the province’s significant agriculture industry.

Of course, there will be jobs and industries in the future which will further require a focus on coding and computing, and which we must prepare our young people for.

I had the opportunity to visit Westridge Primary School in Mitchells Plain, which is doing exactly this by teaching learners how to code robots and use 3D printers.

We must empower our young people with a sense of curiosity and interest in the digital world so that they can take advantage of the opportunities of the future.

Through the [email protected] project, we are further ensuring that we empower our young people with the necessary ICT skills that create work opportunities, and this approach is already yielding results. Between 2019 and 2021, the Western Cape Education Department and Department of Economic Development and Tourism implemented the [email protected] project in partnership with Oracle SA.

The purpose of the programme was to upskill Grade 10 to 12s with recognised ICT certification and drive educator development.

During the programme, learners were taught the fundamentals of Java, a coding language, to fast track their development and workplace exposure to address industry skill needs.

The programme has seen 94.6% of participating Grade 10-12 learners receive placements in the IT sector.

While ICT is a significant and growing industry in our province, we are also increasingly seeing growth in the BPO sector, which is empowering many of our young people with workplace opportunities.

That is why the Provincial Department of Economic Development and Tourism’s Work and Skills programme partnered with the College of Cape Town, the National Skills Fund, the City of Cape Town and the BPO Industry to launch the first public-private partnership BPO Academy of Excellence in partnership.

Within the last financial year alone, over 1160 full-time jobs were created in the BPO sector.

We are a government that is committed and dedicated to the empowerment of our young people. And we know that by supporting them, and by developing new skills, and growing the economy to create new opportunities, we can reduce youth unemployment.

We are playing our part by ensuring that they have the necessary skills to access the opportunities that exist in the economy and ensuring this translates into meaningful and rewarding job opportunities.

All the while, we remain cognisant that we must prepare our youth for the jobs of the future, which are increasingly ICT focused, and that we must remain open to new and innovative ways to achieve this important objective.

Winde is the Premier of the Western Cape

Cape Times

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