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This article is taken from the December 2000 Phatlalatsa newsletter

 

Youth Development Initiatives (YDIs)

S&T’s Nobayethi Dube, Jowie Mulaudzi and David Everatt were involved in an evaluation of the innovative Youth Development Initiative in Gauteng. Nobayethi tells us about the project, and some of the findings.

In our last issue, we reported on an evaluation we were undertaking for the Joint Enrichment Project (JEP) on YDIs. The evaluation included both qualitative and quantitative methodologies. The qualitative part of our evaluation included focus groups and in-depth interviews with business training providers. We also administered a questionnaire to all participants of the YDIs.

Findings

Participants came both from formal and informal areas. The majority of participants had a matric and were unemployed before joining the YDI programme. This was part of the recruitment criteria - that participants should be unemployed and out of school. Most participants said they had not studied as far as they had planned.

Young - or young adults?

Participants came from varying household sizes, and many - despite being ‘youth’ - were the sole breadwinners in their households. Three out of ten respondents were the only individuals in the household that were earning an income. More than two fifths of the respondent said that only a single other member in their household was employed.

This brought the issue of the social wage paid to the youth to the fore. The design of the YDI was that all participants would earn a social wage set between R200 and R300 per month. If profits were generated (which they were), these would go to the creation of or support for a community-based organisation in the community where the YDI was located. During the focus group discussions, participants raised their unhappiness about the wage. Almost all the youth in the businesses had pressures and demands from their families.

This should remind us that ‘youth’ are merely young adults. Many carry enormous burdens as parents, breadwinners and the like. To design a programme which combines entrepreneurship and restricted wages is anyway questionable. To do so purely because participants fit into the under-35 age bracket is inappropriate, even where participants are aware of the arrangement on entering the programme. Their responsibilities in many instances are identical to those of adults and their financial needs the same.

Training and value

All participants (except one individual) in the businesses went for business plan training, which was provided by Foundation for Economic and Business Development (FEBDEV). Training was also provided by the Centre for Business Education and Trust (CBE&T). Because of financial constraints this training was not attended by everyone. Each business site had to send two representatives with the hope that they would pass the skills on to other members of their business site. The JEP also offered life-skills training to participants. There were mixed feelings on the training with some participants saying the business training did not add any value. They felt that too much of the training was theory and little emphasis was put on the practical side. Some of this reflected problems with training provision, detailed in the evaluation technical report.

Lifeskills

The JEP’s lifeskills training - something the JEP have been championing for a decade or more - was considered useful by participants and most felt that it had helped them to have a different view on life. One young man from the Bekkersdal site said “JEP’s training helped me a lot, I never thought I could sit with people and discuss differences or problems, but now I have a different outlook on life”. It may be time for a larger-scale demonstration of the value to youth of the much talked-about lifeskills training.

Qualities that lead to success

We asked participants what they thought was the ‘recipe for success’? Most participants mentioned that motivation and hard work lie behind success. Working together was also cited as important. The majority (76%) agreed with the statement: “In a business, even if you have responsibility for a specific task you must be willing to do whatever has to be done”.

The social wage

Youth recruits were paid a social wage - between R200 and R300 per month regardless of the profitability of their businesses. When conducting focus groups, representatives from the sites had told us that the social wage was not worth debating since they were unanimously unhappy and rejected it. In the survey, however, we found a different situation, with 80% of respondents agreeing to the statement “We were given government money to start our business and we have a responsibility to put into the community even if our wages are lower”. We also found that the majority of respondents came from families where they were the sole supporters of the entire family.

The future

We asked participants to tell us where they thought they and their businesses would be in five years time. The majority (59%) chose self-employment, 12% want to work for a YDI-type venture, and a quarter (24%) want to work for big business. Three quarters (74%) of YDI workers are optimistic about their businesses and believe that five years from now, they will be successful. When asked to rate their businesses, participants mainly gave scores in the 7-10 (out of 10) range, although in Lanseria and Dobsonville some participants gave far lower scores.

Conclusion

Being an observer of these YDIs gave us the sense of determination among participants who wanted their business to be successful and still to be around in five years time. However participants were also concerned about a lot of issues, which they felt were hindering their businesses, which ranged from electricity, commitment from other members, and so on.

Participants felt that the YDIs were a good idea but they also raised a variety of issues about the organisations that are providing resources and support to them. Most participants felt that in future YDI participants had to be carefully screened or interviewed before they being taken on board such ventures.

 

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