Unemployment levels in South Africa are at an all time high. The economy is in dire straits with no solution in sight. However, a group of young people are serving as an inspiration for how young people can fight unemployment and create opportunities. The Daily Vox team spoke to Zandile Olivia, one of these young people.
Olivia is from Tsietsi in Palmridge, eastern Gauteng. Along with 12 other people, she has started a construction company Simunye Trading Construction. Not only have the 13 of them started their own company but they also landed a big deal to build low-cost housing.
Olivia said she first got involved with the construction while completing a learnership programme with Motheo Construction. Motheo Construction is one of the biggest construction companies in South Africa. Part of a class of 20 learners, Olivia participated in the learnership from 2017 to 2018. After graduating from the programme, they spend 2019 searching for jobs.
“We were hustling to get a job,” said Olivia. After still being unable to find anything she and 12 other classmates decided to open their own company. Olivia says they “noticed they had nothing and there was no one to help them to start the company.”
Just this past week Statistics South Africa (Stats SA) revealed that the unemployment rate is up 29%. The last time South Africa had such high unemployment numbers was during the 2008 global recession. Amongst the numbers revealed by Stats SA, the unemployment rate for those aged 25-34 (35,6%) is more than double that of the 45-54 (17,2%) year olds.
The group went to Motheo Construction and Arc Skills to ask for help with their company. Arc Skills is company which “creates programmes that are transferable, industry relevant, and accessible to all.” They support the growth of skills in people and have helped thousands of people across America, UAE, South Africa, Kenya, Nigeria, Malaysia, India, Indonesia, Thailand and Argentina.
The learnership programme which Olivia and her classmates participated in was put together by Arc Skills. The company was awarded a contract to train 60 unemployed youth. This training programme was conducted in the Motheo Construction Group. Students from three underprivileged communities – Westbury, Palm Ridge and Fraser House were selected.
Olivia says they told both Arc Skills and Motheo about their idea to start a company. Both companies promised to help them but it was Arc Skills who gave them immediate help. Olivia says Arc Skills helped them with everything from registering the company registration to setting up the company emails and creating the logo.
“They helped us well. We are very happy,” said Olivia about the support they received from Arc Skills. The company also helped them with training of financial and company management skills.
Writing for The Daily Vox in 2014, Aalia Cassim mentions the way to fight youth unemployment is making the job market more accessible. That’s what company Arc Skills has done. Through their learnership programmes the company has helped to train and encourage young people to get into the construction field.
In a press statement Arc Skills South Africa CEO Wikus van Vuuren said the journey of the young people from having no previous experience in construction to owning their own company is “incredible”.
“Simunye Trading Construction is already making a meaningful impact in its respective communities and will be instrumental in creating around 100 job opportunities for other young people,” said van Vuuren.
Simunye is already making its mark on the construction industry. They won a house building contract with Mokgolokwane Civils (M Civils). This contract will see them build 20 low-cost houses. As part of the contract, Simunye will be hiring around 100 young people to work on the job – and further creating employment.
Olivia says along with the contract with the Mokgolokwane Company, Simunye is also busy signing a contract with Motheo Construction.
Simunye plans to go far with the company but Olivia says they can’t do it on their own. “We need those big companies. We need them to help us on growing our skills more,” she said.
They started with nothing and despite having matric certificates, there were no opportunities from them. Olivia says: “You know it’s so hard to get jobs in our country in these years. So I say to any young person will be listening to this I am saying that whatever opportunities you get, grab it.”
She says while they didn’t plan to be in construction, they took the opportunity. Olivia says young people especially young women need to remove the negative thoughts about refusing to work in the construction industry.
“No this is our time. Let us wake up. Let us be our own business people. Let us do our own things. Let us create jobs instead of waiting for them to create jobs for us,” she said.