Voices from the Youth Capital Network: Rob Urquhart

Youth Capital releases an annual publication that combines data with young people’s lived stories to shift gears on youth unemployment. The 2021 publication, Unlock Jobs: Clearing Roadblocks to Youth Employment aimed to answer a question. The questions were about how to start clearing the roadblocks on young people’s journey to quality work. To do that, they spoke to several voices from their network. These interviews are published below. 



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Rob Urquhart, Lead of Impact and Research, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator

Creating a new normal in our job-seeking journey

Existing online job platforms typically require high data costs to access and few opportunities are advertised at the entry level. These platforms rarely solve for the challenges of young people without work experience or a tertiary qualification. As a result, work-seekers struggle to effectively apply for opportunities and firms struggle to find the right talent. This is compounded by the geographic legacy of apartheid in South Africa, which means that many jobs are too far away for affordable transport. Online job platforms rarely optimise for geographic location, further excluding young people in smaller towns and cities.

To address the challenge of youth employment in the country, in 2020 the government launched the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, which aims at creating income generating opportunities for youth, with access to employment and skilling services. Harambee is a partner to this initiative, and powers SAYouth through the SAYouth.mobi platform, a national network for young people to access learning and earning opportunities for free.


Government portal to provide opportunities for young people

SAYouth.mobi makes work-seeking more affordable in a number of ways:

It reduces the financial barriers of work-seeking as young people are able to access the online platform via a zero-rated (across all South African networks) mobile site, available on any internet-based phone. Considering that South Africa has a smartphone penetration rate of over 90%, this enables most young South Africans to access work-seeking content and obtain line of sight to available income-generating opportunities without leaving their home and in their own time. Analysis of user engagement after the launch of the platform after zero-rating suggests an increase in user engagement, with the number of young people joining Harambee’s network rising from an average of 11,802 new joiners per month to 104,068 new joiners per month.

It provides young people with a network to work (in the absence of their own) and assists them to signal their abilities to employers in the absence of work experience, matching them to opportunities based on inclusive criteria such as socio-economic circumstances (household income and access to a social grant), geography (proximity to opportunity), capabilities (numeracy, literacy, and skills), gender, and disability.

It bridges inefficient work-seeking behaviours by allowing for targeted matching directly linking young people to income-generating opportunities available in the market and with employers seeking talent to fill resource gaps.

It provides targeted job search assistance to users, improving their employability prospects through the provision of advice on effective job searching approaches to guide work-seeking behaviour, interview tips to secure opportunities, and learning opportunities. These opportunities for upskilling allow young people to close skills gaps and improve their employability prospects.

Since the launch of SAYouth.mobi in September 2020, there has been a nine-fold increase in access to work-seeker support with 81,136 young people engaging with material on the platform monthly. The platform has also improved the conversion ratio of individuals in the network to those securing work from 1:5 to 1:3. This means that for every 3 people joining the platform’s network, 1 work opportunity has been enabled.

There is, however, still much work to be done. For SAYouth.mobi to reach and transform the livelihoods of many more youth requires a collective effort: of widespread adoption of the platform by employers (both private and public) for hiring; of collaboration and integration with the programmes of other community-based organisations and NGOs; and of integration with public and private sector growth and job creation initiatives.

Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator is a not-for-profit social enterprise building African solutions for the global challenge of youth unemployment. SAYouth is a Presidential Youth Employment Intervention targeted at the unemployed youth of South Africa. It is supported by Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, the Department of Employment and Labour, the Department of Higher Education and Training, the National Youth Development Agency, and the Development Bank of South Africa.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policies of The Daily Vox.

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