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#YouthMonth: Working to get our youth ready for life in a post-Covid-19 world

For the first time in our history - and hopefully the last - Youth Month 2020 falls in the middle of a global health crisis, which has had a staggering social and economic impact on the people of South Africa. Question is, how do we commemorate the sacrifices of those who have gone before, and build on them, when we are severely limited in movement and resources?
Larisha Naidoo, head, Anglo American Zimele
Young people are particularly vulnerable to the disruption and uncertainty caused by the pandemic. Before the onset of Covid-19, our youth were already twice as likely to be unemployed as adults. Without strong interventions from the public and private sectors, young people are at an even greater risk of being left behind in educational and economic opportunities.

We must redouble our efforts to develop the youth and give them relevant skills that will allow them access to job opportunities when the pandemic starts easing. Broader partnerships and networks will play a big role in assisting young people to be able to stand on their own two feet. Through the work we are doing in our mining communities we understand that some of the inhibitors that stand in the way of young people gaining skills or getting employed are basic, like, no transport or even a place to stay as home is too far from work.

Yes, it’s that basic, we must recognise that many young people are burdened by crippling generational inequality which means their capacity to live up to their full potential is stifled.

When I reflect on the last 90 days of living in a pandemic, I have realised that the way the world has changed is unimaginable. The way we work, learn, socialise and connect has transformed at a rapid speed. We have witnessed the power of leadership, the strength of unity and the change that digitisation and social media has brought to society at large.

The role of digitisation

Digitsation has been massive in assisting us to cope and adapt during the global crisis. While the world changes rapidly and inequality continues to rise we need to consider the employment and skills development reforms that will need to support upskilling and reskilling in the post Covid19 world.

There is certainly a case that digitisation can play a massive role in supporting our youth to learn and develop and there is an interesting opportunity for them to take advantage of economic opportunities. How do we collaborate to understand how we can support young people gain meaningful work experience that improves their lives? Through digital platforms we can create a blended approach of learning specific skills as well as giving youth access to mentors and coaches.

Gone are the days where distance and accessibility is the problem. Anglo American Zimele has seen that support can be reached with scale and impact through digitisation. Social distancing has forced us to do things differently in terms of how we support our beneficiaries who are currently on our enterprise and youth development programmes.

The power of partnerships

We were able to understand the biggest challenges faced by our entrepreneurs over a WhatsApp call and work with partners to assist them remotely to obtain Covid-19 relief. The power of a partnership will determine the value of impact – what do I mean? Anglo American Zimele is currently working with Summit to create employment opportunities within the tourism and hospitality industry for youth in our host communities. The aim is to get up to 1,000 young people per year into jobs with various national and global hospitality brands.

We are determined to create career paths that will give a young person an opportunity to gain a skill with a 90% chance of getting a job and continue to craft a career path. While we are under lockdown, training will continue on Summit’s digital learning platform, using data sim cards and mobile phones sponsored by the partnership. That way, they will be ready when the tourism industry opens again after the pandemic.

As we think up solutions for job creation for youth, we have to acknowledge that data & devices are costly with limited digital infrastructure being a barrier for entry into economic activities to many of our youth, and we therefore need work together across sectors to solve for these real issues.

The process of empowerment must be deliberate, and there needs to be a metric of measurement to look at successes and shortfalls of the impact target. We cannot be upskilling individuals with random skills, there needs to be a demand for that skill, and employment opportunities available for it where private and public sector work across industries to bring change for a young person.

Zimele has also recognised that digital platforms for learning and recruiting creates equal opportunities as well as improves the quality of learning outcomes if there is a blended approach of mentoring and coaching. Another focus is ensuring that once a youth has gone through deliberate training and development interventions that they have access to employment opportunities.

Part of our efforts in this respect include a partnership with Giraffe, a recruitment platform that allows a candidate to create a digital CV and creates accessibility to broader employer networks within the private sector and this network is continuously growing as more partners are brought on board.

Leveraging value chains

Zimele can also leverage its local mining value chains to further introduce young people to opportunities and work with local employers to create visibility of new job opportunities as and when they become available.

So, as we reflect on youth prosperity in the middle of a pandemic we need to look forward to the role of partnerships, our ability to learn from how we have adapted through the pandemic and take these lessons and innovations forward to create meaningful opportunities for our youth.

More importantly we need to create accessibility for our youth to be inspired by role models who started at grass roots and changed their lives and communities with the hope that our youth will pay it forward for generations to come.

About the author

Larisha Naidoo is the head of Anglo American Zimele



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