Report highlights what young people need from the Basic Education  Employment Initiative

Young people who take part into the Basic Education Employment Initiative (BEEI) need a focus on relevant and transferrable skills, workplace mentorship,  contract periods and clear exist pathways. This is according to a report by Youth  Capital. The advocacy campaign ran two online surveys; one with 2905 young  people who took part into Phase One of the BEEI, and another one with some  schools that hosted them. The report highlights the importance of these key  factors when designing and implementing public programmes that can kickstart  young people’s earning and economic activities.


“With 4 in 10 young people between the ages of 25 and 34 years old who are unemployed, it’s critical that  we focus on how these programmes can act as launchpad for productive  economic activities”, says Kristal Duncan-Williams, Project Lead at Youth Capital. 

Young people’s lived experiences must be at the centre. 

The BEEI is South Africa’s largest ever public employment programme. Funding  for the BEEI amounted to R7 billion, and over R4 billion of this was used to  create job opportunities for unemployed youth. ‘Given that public employment  programmes are a large focus of the Presidential Youth Employment  Intervention, there are lessons to be learnt from the BEEI that are relevant for  the design of other (current or future) public employment programmes that seek  to benefit young people, while also addressing the needs of their communities. This is critical now more than ever, with more than 4 in 10 young South Africans not in Education, Employment or Training (NEET)”, adds Duncan-Williams.  

Why the Basic Education Employment Initiative matters. 

In response to COVID-19’s impact on jobs and livelihoods, the Presidency  launched the Presidential Employment Stimulus towards the end of 2020. Intended to be an augmentation of existing government commitments  to employment creation, the Presidential Employment Stimulus was designed to  support livelihoods while the labour market recovers: investing in public goods  and services, enhancing skills and employability, and boosting demand in the  economy at the same time. One of the initiatives of the Presidential Employment  Stimulus is the BEEI, coordinated by the Department of Basic Education (DBE).  The BEEI is South Africa’s largest ever public employment programme. Phase One of the BEEI employed 300 000 young people as General and  Education Assistants, from December 2020 to April 2021. Phase Two employed  287 000 unemployed young people, from November 2021 to March 2022. In  March 2022, DBE confirmed Phase Three from 1 April 2022, announcing that the  youth appointed in schools as at 28 February 2022, would be offered new fixed term contracts commencing on 1 April 2022 until 30 August 2022. Youth Capital has now launched a new survey to evaluate Phase 2 of the  programme. 

‘Young people have spoken’: the findings of Youth Capital’s report.

It is clear from both the results of these surveys as well as conversations with  schools, young people, and civil society organisations that the role of school  assistants is beneficial – to both schools and young people. “With COVID-19  related delays in schools, and these young people could provide key support to  ensure that learners are caught up with the curriculum and absenteeism is  tracked”, says Duncan-Williams. 

Youth Capital’s report highlights that to have a meaningful impact in addressing  youth unemployment, school assistants programmes, and public employment  programmes in general, need to create a pathway for young people to gain  experience, skills, and social networks that will help them gain a meaningful  foothold in the labour market.  

In July 2021, the DBE released a closeout report for the first phase of the BEEI. Results from the DBE’s closeout report have been used in this report to  inform conclusions drawn from the two surveys carried out by Youth Capital. The  following recommendations are based on the findings of the surveys and the  experience of civil society organisations that have an extensive understanding of  facilitating and implementing school assistants programmes.  

1. Training on relevant skills. 

This is an area that has scope for significant improvement. Training received by  young people in the BEEI programme differed from school to school, and the  majority of this training did not appear to have a strong focus on transferable  skills. The DBE’s closeout report states that basic orientation training was given  to all assistants in a printed manual, and an electronic version was made  available to teachers through the Teacher Connect platform. However, this  platform was not referenced by anyone in either of our surveys. It is then not  surprising that the DBE’s closeout report notes that only 50% of all assistants  participated in this online training, as it appears there was a lack of awareness of  the platform. 

Training should be given prior to commencement of the position, and continued  learning should be provided, even if through WhatsApp in a self-learning style.  

2. Workplace Mentorship. 

Mentorship should be a compulsory component of school assistants’ programmes. The role of the mentor and mentee should be clearly established at  the beginning of the programme. “Social capital is an important resource that  can help young people navigate the work environment; part of the purpose of  school assistants programmes is to provide young people with real-world work  experience. Thus, it is to be expected that participating youth need guidance,  support, and mentorship to help them carry out their assistant role”, explains  Duncan-Williams. 

3. Contract period and exit pathways. 

An insight from organisations that have experience in training and placing  assistants in schools is that a contract period of one year is optimal to provide  the necessary training to the assistants, and ensure that schools reap the most  benefit for the time and money invested into each assistant on the programme.  This insight is supported by the recommendations from schools who took part in  the survey, who recommended that contracts should be longer than 3-4 months. “Instead of 3-4 month contracts, assistants should be contracted for a full school  year. Moreover, programmes such as these need to have an exit strategy in  place for participants”, adds Duncan-Williams

Moreover, programmes such as these need to have an exit strategy in place for  participants. Inferring from the DBE’s closeout report, an exit strategy was not a  core component of the first phase of the BEEI: “The DBE is considering how the  youth on the BEEI can be supported beyond their participation in the initiative.  This forms part of the National Pathway Management Network (NPMN) through  which the youth can be exposed to various learning, employment, or entrepreneurial opportunities.” 

“If these types of programmes are designed to be short-term, then support and  information should be provided to the beneficiaries, during the course of the  programme, to equip them to navigate their next (post-programme) step in  more informed ways than they would have had they not participated in the  programme. Additionally, there needs to be a strategic approach to how this  opportunity provides a meaningful exit pathway to those who participate”,  explains Duncan-Williams. 

“The key components of success highlighted in this report are relevant for any  intervention that aims to create an entry point into the job market for young  people who have little or no work experience. “Many young people lack the basic  skills needed to succeed in the job market, and need training, mentorship, and  guidance”, adds Duncan-Williams. 

Furthermore, it makes sense to ensure the duration of a work experience  opportunity is long enough to impart relevant transferable skills, and to ensure  that the experience has real impact. Fortunately, there is already a wealth of  experience in the sector. The design of these interventions should therefore build  on existing best practices, in order to achieve maximum impact for all  stakeholders. 

About Youth Capital 

Youth Capital is a youth-led advocacy campaign with an Action Plan to shift gears  on youth unemployment in South Africa. Youth Capital’s vision is a society in  which every young person has the skills, support, and opportunity to get their  first decent job. In 2020, Youth Capital published Shift: An Action Plan to  Tackle Youth Unemployment in South Africa. This Action Plan highlights  leverage points that would improve outcomes for young people: supporting them  in finishing their educational journey, supporting them in their transition into the  world of work, and ensuring that existing employment initiatives and  opportunities work for them.  

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