By Sanet Yelland, CEO and founder of Streamline Advertising
As we honour South African youth during June, it’s important to acknowledge the multitude of challenges they face. Issues of poverty, unemployment, inadequate educational outcomes, and substance abuse are just some of the problems they need assistance with. COVID has exacerbated these issues, and now, according to Stats SA, “almost one in every two young people in the labour force did not have a job in the first quarter of 2021”. This equates to a 63.3% youth unemployment rate.
Emphasising youth development
With the average age of our country’s population sitting 27.6 years old, this increasing unemployment rate is a serious concern for the nation. And while there are many initiatives, projects and organisations focused on youth skills development and upliftment, this segment is not sufficiently covered, and more can be done.
Sanet Yelland, CEO and founder of Streamline Advertising, is personally invested in championing the youth. With a firm belief that the youth are the future of South Africa, she started the Young Community Shapers (YCS) initiative. Simply, this project aims to make a real difference in the lives of the less fortunate while contributing to the local economy.
Cultivating entrepreneurial spirits
When first embarking on this effort in 2000, Yelland discovered that many young people (16 – 26 years old) did not just sit hopelessly waiting for opportunities to come their way. They made things happen. They exuded entrepreneurial spirits and started sustainable projects to make a transformational impact on the lives of people in their local communities.
YCS acknowledges the active role these young South Africans play to make their local communities a better place and serves as a platform to showcase these projects. Through this initiative, Yelland has identified talent across the country and assists them in growing their projects into a meaningful and sustainable community initiative. Over the past 21 years, she has consistently rallied for sponsors to provide bursaries, computer equipment, mentorship, funds and/or whatever the immediate need of these projects was.
Uplift Young Community Shapers (YCS)
As a result of this support, many of the YCS ambassadors achieved greater success and recognition. Many have been featured in the Mail & Guardian’s Top 200 Young South Africans. Others run successful companies now that employ hundreds of young people. One became a London School of Business graduate and another a Harvard graduate. And, one of the ambassadors was named a Standard Bank Top Business Woman winner.
Although there’s been life-changing success achieved through YCS, there have been many challenges, too. Yelland shares that finding a constant flow of funding to keep the projects going has been the single biggest challenge. As the projects grew in numbers, resources also became a challenge. Sadly, COVID has also forced many sponsors to cancel their funding due to the difficult economic climate.
Greater investment in youth initiatives
By investing in youth programs and initiatives, corporate South Africa can help address this crippling socio-economic challenge. Together with the private sector, the government introduced the YES Youth Job Creation Initiative, and companies could leverage this to play their part in employing and training youth. Education carves a pathway to a better life. It’s been said that true charity is not giving bread or money but providing employment.
“In every community, there is work to be done. In every nation, there are wounds to heal. In every heart, there is the power to do it.” – M Williamson.
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