When our youth work, our economy works

Q&A with Dr. Tashmia Ismail-Saville, CEO of Youth Employment Service (YES)

Source: 2019 BEE.conomics Transformation in South African asset management annual survey


Tashmia, you reckon that black-owned and black managed asset managers should be particularly involved in creating jobs for our unemployed youth. We’ll come to that in a moment but for now, for those who don’t know what exactly YES is, please explain who your organisation is and what it does.

We have 6 million South Africans aged 18 to 35 without work. That’s a national crisis and a social disaster. YES (Youth Employment Service) was announced last year by President Cyril Ramaphosa but it is a private sector-driven non-profit initiative to find full-time jobs for young people, for one year, earning a minimum stipend of R3 500 per month. YES officially opened only in November 2018 after a new practice note relating to the B-BBEE codes of good practice was gazetted. In terms of that practice note, YES was able to offer participating companies B-BBEE inducements to become involved.


If we’re talking about one-year jobs are we talking about old-fashioned work experience?

On the contrary, YES is about building real pathways into the economy for young people. It’s backed by an immense amount of very detailed local and international academic research and practical experience. We use cutting-edge, impactful work readiness tools which really work to develop young people, to develop their skills and abilities and to add value to their employers’ businesses.

Of course we want companies to keep as many of the youngsters they employ for a year after that. But those they can’t keep on will be armed with qualifications, much stronger CVs, references and proof of their ability to deliver. Never having had a job is the greatest impediment to getting a job. Having a CV which shows some real experience, with a reference, triples a youth’s chances of getting a call-back to a job interview. For women, it doubles their chances of getting a job within three months.


You’ve been going for much less than a year now. Have you been able to find any young people jobs in that short space of time?

To date [July 2019] we have firm commitments to 18 383 positions, with over 14 000 individuals already placed. The wages paid to youth alone on the YES 12-month experience will see a R773 million injection into the economy. As you say, we’re only getting started and plan to get hundreds of thousands into employment.


And have any of those employed added any value to their places of work?

There are already many amazing stories coming in. Let me tell you one of these stories: a young man sponsored by Deutsche Bank was placed with a non-profit which does TB and HIV testing. Within the space of just a few months this motivated youngster tested more than 300 people and counselled 90 of his patients to move onto antiretroviral therapy. In other words, he potentially saved 90 lives!

Then there is the energetic young man who was sponsored by Volkswagen. Some of the VW youth were sent to dealerships; he was one of them. Instead of just hanging around the dealership as a junior not achieving much and waiting for customers to wander in, he realised that potential customers didn’t have the time to come in to look at cars during the week. So, on weekends, he went to community events in his township and did sales and marketing. He would interest people, hand hold them through a credit-rating process, assist with finance and then close the purchase. The last time I checked, he’d sold three cars in six weeks.

We have loads of stories like that, youth coming in with fresh energy and innovative approaches; they’re not jaded but are willing to experiment.


You mentioned Deutsche Bank which is obviously a financial institution. But that particular youth was working in health checking and testing. What’s the connection?

Retail organisations, for instance, can put more unemployed, entry-level youth workers into their own infrastructure than other companies. On the other hand, financial-service firms, for example, are very different. They hire more specialised, more highly skilled workers at much higher wage rates but in smaller numbers. YES is a mass employment programme; we want to give as many young workers who are currently locked out pathways into the economy. We want to give them that one-year boost to get a foot in the door. So we work with what we call implementation partners. These are typically SMMEs or NGOs (carefully vetted by YES) which can’t necessarily afford to employ large numbers of young people but which can give them great training and experience and will work with beneficiaries to ensure their development.

The likes of Deutsche Bank and VW will pay their salaries and YES costs (the sponsors getting the B-BBEE credits if they want them) while young South Africans are empowered and given a foothold on the jobs ladder closer to their communities – sowe spread the opportunity wider. VW is an example of where we use something of a hybrid model. The young man who sold cars on weekends (his name is Vuyani, by the way) was placed, at VW’s expense, with a dealership. VW created 560 one-year jobs, of which just 64 were within its Uitenhage assembly plant; others were within its dealership network and others got jobs which had nothing to do with the automotive industry.


So Deutsche and VW handed over the cash, did lots of good with enormous impact, got the B-BBEE kudos but didn’t really know how their beneficiaries were getting on?

Not at all. Youth placed via YES receive a smartphone with YES apps zero-rated by Vodacom and MTN. There is training content with film, animation, “nudges”, assessments, reflection exercises and surveys. We push and pull data to and from our youth. This data is collected into an easy-to-use platform and dashboard which sponsors can use to track the progress of the individuals they’re sponsoring. The dashboard is very easy to read, and extremely gratifying for sponsors. It creates transparency; you can see how your investment in these youth is faring in real time. YES is for South Africans and businesses who want to make a difference – and here you can see that difference.


Another question: you mentioned YES costs. What are these?

YES is a non-profit but we operate extremely efficiently – with presidential endorsement but without government funding. To place an unemployed youth in employment and to support him or her while giving the employer easy-to-use tools, costs from R1 700 to R9 000, depending on the size of your business and the package you choose. The service ranges from register-and-do-it-yourself to turnkey solutions where you leave thea dmin and contracting etc. up to YES and a pool of vetted partners. It’s really not complicated and our website is intuitive and easy to use. For SMMEs the once-off YES cost can really be as low as R1 700 per person.


Which is good to know because most black-owned asset managers are actually SMMEs, employing just a few individuals. So why do you think asset managers should get involved in YES?

They are custodians of our people’s wealth. I believe it would be wonderful if asset managers could demonstrate their commitment to growing the economy, the very economy in which they invest their customers’ funds. Citizenship can never be a spectator sport.


Is it correct that asset-management firms which aren’t black-owned can improve their B-BBEE compliance by one or even two levels?

That’s right. Our website has a very straight-forward B-BBEE calculator tool (https://www.yes4youth.co.za/b-bbee-benefit/) which can quickly and easily show companies what they have to do to achieve such benefits.


The asset-management sector is concentrated in Gauteng and Cape Town. Which are far from the areas of greatest need. How can companies have an impact beyond Sandton or Rosebank?

We’re now working with what we call scaling partners, or implementation partners, to take YES to the next level and to take it into rural areas and townships, to provide access, training, wifi access and even business incubation at YES Hubs. Through implementation partners and getting involved in the YES Hubs, asset managers can help to build our country, in all provinces. We also have a crowdfunding platform, called fundafuture. Now that is something which asset managers might very well be interested in. . .




From 2020, BEE.conomics commits to listing (and
celebrating) those asset managers which have
supported YES.