Unemployed youth in the Eastern Free State: implications of an integrated youth development approach to youth SMME learnerships In Volume 3 Issue 1 of Phatlalatsa, we reported that S&T had won a tender to help profile the youth target market in the Eastern Free State for an SMME learnership. S&T partner Jowie Mulaudzi presents some of the findings and some of the implications.
Profiling the target market
The profiling exercise comprised (a) re-analysing Census '96 1
data to draw a composite picture of general living conditions in the target
area - Maluti-a-Phufung District Council (combining Harrismith, Bethlehem
and Qwaqwa), the specific circumstances of youth in the area and (b) conducting
focus group discussions with young people in the respective areas.
Notwithstanding the limitations of the data - re-analysing census data
which is not youth-focused, and the qualitative nature of focus group
data - we were nonetheless able to gain insights into the general life
situation of the youth as well as their experiences in small, micro and
medium enterprises (SMME).
- The target market lived in households that were slightly larger than
the national average and a significant number lived in traditional dwellings.
- On the whole, and reflecting the rural nature of the target area,
most households were poorer than the average South African household.
Access to sanitation, water and refuse removal services was limited.
The use of candles for lighting amongst the majority of households was
significant for the Learnership, as it pointed to other services and
facilities that the Learnership may have to make provision for or facilitate.
- Formal employment has been declining with mines closing down and/or
- Very few youth - male or female - have post matric qualifications.
- High levels of frustration exist over the inability of those with
post-matric qualifications to access the labour market and militate
against a strong belief in education as the key to success.
- Some youth had experience of business. For example they indicated
that some of their failures were caused by over-saturation of the "market"
or lack of cash flow management etc. - but most had no exposure to the
labour market at all.
The situation of young people in this region does not differ significantly
from that of youth in other areas. Lack of appropriate experience in the
market place is a serious disadvantage that young people face when they
seek to enter the labour market. Diminishing intake of students in institutions
of higher learning is borne out by trends in statistics that suggest a drop
in the proportions of young people acquiring further training and skills.
Designing and delivering training courses that provide young people with
skills and certificates may be a viable solution to the problem of skills
acquisition. The challenge is that merely providing young people with certificates
and qualifications without looking into and addressing their other needs
has proved to be unsustainable.
The lack of technical skills is but one in a myriad of factors that puts
many youth into the marginalised category. Programmes that aim to give young
people skills should also equip them to deal with non-technical challenges
in order to be better able to engage in productive community life. Life-skills
become a critical component of any youth programme. Life-skills do not comprise
a homogenous programme (although this impression is often given); rather,
as with any other skills programme there are different levels reflecting
the competencies of the group concerned.
Perceptions of young people in relation to programme design
Another important factor in the design of an integrated youth development
programme is the designers' perceptions about young people. The critique
levelled against a community development approach that treats beneficiaries
as passive recipients should also be heeded in youth programmes. There
seems to have been an on-going underlying assumption that youth development
is about pouring resources into young people who are ignorant of their
needs and unable to act appropriately to secure them. This assumption
is not only wrong, it can also lead to fundamental flaws in the design
and delivery of youth development programmes.
In other words, your starting point may be to see young people as empty
vessels needing to be "trained"; or you may see young people
as possessing skills and knowledge that need to be enhanced, redirected
or refined as part of the learning process. The same skills might be provided
in both instances - but the result would be different.
- The former may lead to well-intentioned programmes that patronise
and undermine the young persons' prior experience and learning. At best,
the programme trains a young person who has the technical skills but
lack the know-how in applying the skills acquired or coping with life
pressures and challenges.
- The latter incorporates the young person's prior learning and experiences
and also seeks to address - directly or indirectly - needs in other
spheres of their life and development. Acknowledging and affirming prior
learning and using such experiences as a frame of reference in training
is more likely to facilitate the learning process.
Integrated youth development and its implications for the learnership
While youth practitioners have various approaches to design and programming
there is growing consensus on the need for an integrated approach to youth
development. This would combine both the imparting of skills and competencies
to young people with provision (direct or indirect) of support that addresses
non-technical needs of participants.
For the Eastern Free State learnership programme, the challenge is in
targeting and channelling young people into the programme. Should the
programme recruit more young women with the responsibilities they have,
hoping to touch more lives this way? Or should it be have more young people
from rural areas where productive formal economic activities are almost
non-existent? These are questions that the designers of the programme
should decide on.
An integrated approach to youth development dictates that prior experience
of young people should be acknowledged and harnessed in the provision
of business development skills and experience. As indicated before, young
people have had some experience in survivalist enterprises. The challenge
is for the programme to harness these in the teaching and delivery of
business skills through the learnership.
The programme should also develop strong and functional relationships
with support structures that will work together with the young people
to sustain benefits/gains from the programme within communities and help
them better cope with challenges brought on by the environment they will
be operating in.
1 Census 96 data was used because it is the only recent
data-set where analysis can be done at a regional level.