Elevating Youth Employment through the Social Employment Fund  

June celebrated as Youth Month in South Africa, is a period dedicated to commemorating historical struggles, promoting educational reforms, empowering youth, and advocating for educational equity. This month is a reminder of the ongoing efforts to ensure that every young South African has access to quality education and employment opportunities. 

As we reflect on the progress made since the Soweto Uprising of 1976, it is crucial to recognise and support initiatives that provide pathways for youth development. The Social Employment Fund (SEF) has been key in addressing youth unemployment and fostering community development. 

Creating Work for the Common Good  

The Social Employment Fund, part of the Presidential Employment Stimulus (PES), was launched in October 2020 to stimulate economic recovery and reduce unemployment in South Africa. 

The SEF collaborates with various non-governmental organisations to generate job opportunities for individuals who are currently unemployed, particularly targeting those with little formal education or prior work experience. 

The SEF offers diverse employment opportunities across sectors such as early childhood development (ECD), environmental conservation, and community support services. This not only develops skills and confidence among participants but also improves their job prospects. 

The After School Sector: A Critical Youth Employer  

After School Programmes (ASPs) are key in improving educational outcomes, tackling inequality, and supporting child well-being. ASPs build key academic skills, help children catch up, and support socio-emotional learning and development. These interventions are essential in a nation plagued by poor academic achievement and educational inequality. 

As a strategic implementing partner for the SEF, The Learning Trust (TLT) has convened 50 community-based organisations (CBOs) to create over 9,000 paid work opportunities in the after-school sector, reaching more than 100,000 children and youth. This project exemplifies how government investment in job creation through ASPs can address multiple challenges: improving learning outcomes, reducing youth unemployment, and strengthening civil society. 

From Education to Employment  

The SEF, through ASPs, provides youth with vital skills and experiences that enhance their employability. 

To mark Youth Month, The Learning Trust reached out to some of our SEF implementing partners, driving strong skills development programmes to participate in a blog series, highlighting the work being implemented within the communities they operate and their innovative work and achievements ensuring youth employment prospects improve. 

One example is the Assumption Development Centre (ADC) in the Eastern Cape. The organisation has been instrumental in preparing young people for future employment through a comprehensive work skills programme.  

This includes life skills, computer skills, professional communication, and business canvass model training. These critical skills not only prepare young people for employment but also foster resilience and the ability to withstand challenges. 

Moreover, ADC’s collaboration with local businesses to place young people in work and training opportunities has been transformative.  

Participants gain practical experience, see role models from similar backgrounds, and develop entrepreneurial skills. This shift from seeking employment to starting businesses is essential for cultivating a culture of entrepreneurship in townships and reducing reliance on traditional job markets. 

From Unemployment to Professional Growth  

Masixole Madikwa, born and raised in Makhanda, faced significant challenges due to a lack of resources. After discovering the ADC during his university years, he utilised its services to complete his studies. He participated in various skills courses offered by ADC. 

After graduation, Masixole struggled with unemployment. However, thanks to SEF’s project in partnering with the ADC to create job opportunities for the community, Masixole was placed as a teacher assistant at C.M. Vellem Primary School. This experience helped him gain work experience, engage with his community, and develop a sense of responsibility and financial independence. 

Masixole shares, “The SEF project has instilled a sense of hope, belief, and confidence in me. It has allowed me to focus on my goals, invest in my education, and face challenges head-on to create opportunities.” 

Read more on the youth month series here and here.