Youth Development for academic, work and self employment success needs more than just lip service

Youth Month has come and gone, yet the plight of many young people of South Africa remains unchanged.

Youth Month has come and gone, yet the plight of many young people of South Africa remains unchanged.

The question is, did we hear their cries for help? How did we demonstrate our understanding of the different messages they conveyed? Youth Month was a perfect time to respond with sustainable interventions to contribute to the development of young people’s abilities to secure employment, embark on differentiated academic journeys and acquire the much needed entrepreneurship skills.

It has been shown that in countries where young people’s development is prioritised (by both government and the public sector), these countries prosper – a case in point would be:

  • Canada’s focus on Skills Retention and Job Creation through Enterprise Development
  • India’s prioritisation of Skills Retention through Localisation
  • The USA’s drive for Job Creation and Skills Retention through Localisation
  • Australia’s “Nation Building” programmes, Job Creation and Skills Retention and Malaysia’s – Economic Growth through Localisation and Enterprise DevelopmentOne can argue that South Africa has prioritised youth development from a policy and strategy perspective but execution is limited and unsustainable, with the public sector trying to comply with Enterprise Development but with no sustainable focus on solutioning for the betterment of the country and its youth. The ask in this regard, is for public sector and citizens to do something that is meaningful and sustainable to contribute to youth development because we will be looking to them to lead the country and our companies in the future. To contribute to this process, YLED – a Youth Development non-profit organisation upskills in and out of school youth by hosting skills development workshops that run for 28 weeks in a concept that they call YLED Programme. To celebrate Youth Month, YLED hosted 60 grade 11 young people from 20 different high schools based in and around Johannesburg, 15 young people that are either running their own Businesses, at higher learning institutions and have just joined the employment market for an entrepreneurship awareness winter camp. These young people were selected as part of a year-long self-development programme. They have successfully completed the life skills leg and were being prepared to travel the entrepreneurship journey where they will be taken through the hard lessons of starting, running and managing a business. The 11-year YLED model was validated by a Harvard Business School Study that proved that creating entrepreneurial awareness among young people goes a long way in boosting their success across many spheres of life. The Study, in addition to a NYU report, reinforces that learning about entrepreneurship ignites an entrepreneurial mind-set in young people — they begin to think and act like entrepreneurs in all aspects of their lives. They communicate better. They persist through failure. They become flexible and adaptable when facing obstacles. They take smart risks. They become problem solvers and opportunity finders.During the three-day long winter camp, the young people formed three action learning companies, got to understand the importance of team work for business success, and appreciated the entrepreneurial process both from a practical and academic perspective. They were also afforded the opportunity to craft their action learning company strategies, selected products or solutions they would offer and were allocated mentors and coaches who will travel the learning and practical application journey of 14 weeks with them.
  • With this insight, we are calling on the people of South Africa to prioritise Youth Development efforts that are sustainable, locally developed and aimed at preparing the next generation for success. This will not only communicate a message that we care about the majority of our population but will also make the YOUTH feel appreciated when Youth Month stories are about testimonies of those that have benefited from such efforts. The benefits of such will see these young people make the right choices, change the lives of their families and patriotic citizens.
  • “There is nothing I fear more than waking up without a program that will help me bring a little happiness to those with no resources, those who are poor, illiterate, and ridden with terminal disease.” – Nelson Mandela, Former South African President
  • This was YLED’s way of contributing to youth month and taking the nurturing and development of young minds to the next level.
  • “I was honoured to be part of the Entrepreneurship Orientation Camp aimed at school youth. I personally learned immensely about project management, educational programme design and how such entrepreneurship programs are heavily needed to transform and inspire individuals to build sustainable businesses that can create employment in our country and when developing these individuals at a high school levels becomes an even more greater deed” – Rolland Motaung (Entrepreneur and volunteer business coach at YLED)


Why organisations need to go beyond lip serve in youth development:

  • Young people need to know that the right attitude, self belief, problem solving and communication skills are critical for their long term success
  • Young people need to know that Entrepreneurship is Hard and is a life skill that can be learned
  • Organisations need to be seen to be
    • Advocating for the good and well being of the country by nurturing its next community leaders, activists, entrepreneurs and Business leaders
    • Supporting / supplementing the educational efforts aimed at producing employable young people
  • Building the ideal entrepreneurial base (healthy pipeline)
  • Improving Total Entrepreneurial Activity Levels
  • Support efforts aimed at Introducing Entrepreneurship as a life skill – since it is a key twenty first century workforce skill that is linked to higher academic attainment
  • Setting up young people and future entrepreneurs for success through support, providing an enabling environment and making resources available


For more on how we help prepare young people for success, please visit our social media pages

Steven Zwane is the founder and chairperson of YLED. He has dedicated the last 11 years on youth development – having ran this programme over the many years, served as a facilitator of youth skill development and entrepreneurship training for YLED, junior achievement South Africa and Wits Business School.

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