Employing young people and making use of internships may provide forward-thinking companies with the opportunity to harness the knowledge and life insights millennials offer. These businesses understand that the contribution young people make, prepares the business itself for the future, plus it offers the young person an opportunity.
But why is it then that most small businesses resist using internships and youth employment as a way to create growth? This was what we addressed in the recent CPD webinar episode titled “How your business clients can effectively use interns or youth for growth”.
Watch the replay of the CPD webinar
<< CLICK HERE >>
During the webinar, it became clear that the mindset and approach of the employer determines the success of an internship or youth employment project. The motivation of the business leaders should be to seek out the value young people can add to their businesses, while offering the young person the opportunity to learn and create work experience. And there needs to be a realistic willingness to address the challenges perceived by both the young person and the leaders of the business.
Webinar attendees identified issues small business owners perceive to be stumbling blocks in the way of participation in youth employment. Some of these are:
- “Businesses are wary of fixed costs of employing young people or interns. “
- “SME owners don’t want to waste time and money training, they want new people who can hit the ground running.”
- “Lack of appropriate education and experience of young people and interns.
- “Mentoring of young staff is time consuming.
- “Not sure what youth employees will do and cost.”
- “Labour relations is a major issue, people are worried about having fixed costs when offering fixed term employment contracts.”
Sharing their considerable insight and experience in this field, the webinar panellists Marc Ashton from Yes4Youth, and Dr Ricardo Dames and Lutho Gwili from Engeli acknowledged that these challenges are real, but they all emphasised that a conducive mindset by the employer and realistic expectations by the young person, will quickly set these challenges aside. As Ricardo put it: “What follows was MAGIC!”
Be willing to “pay forward”
Ricardo shared the reason for his passion for youth employment as his own journey took him through a process of discovering his niche. He acknowledges that despite having a postgraduate qualification at the time, he was “clueless” about his career path. First he went into teaching. But, it was only later during an interview with a student, that he realised the he wanted to enter the Business Advising profession.
That choice came with learning opportunities, but also initial income sacrifices. Ricardo shared the importance of support by strong leadership and management that saw his potential that resulted in him becoming the executive director of COMSEC, one of the first incubators in South Africa, after 9 years of hard work. This humbling experience turned him into someone who wanted to pay it forward, and maintained the business adviser internship, grooming 14 business advisers in the process.
Acknowledging that it is not easy to find the youth to employ, he stressed that the need is huge, and the matching of requirements are low. Needing to appoint business development staff, they advertised two positions and receive 349 CVs, of which only 9 were relevant. Realising the challenge, they reverted to the internship model and placed two trainee business advisers in a structured business advisory internship. This proved to be a much more productive way for them to add to their internal capacity to offer advisory services.
Ricardo emphasised that youth placement must be structured and he shared a short list of some best practices for youth placements. These include:
- Choose them well — make sure that their skills and values align
- Embrace the millennial mindset
- Realise that they come with life experience — LISTEN
- Tap into their objective view of your business
- Let them play to their strengths
- Grow them to let go of them
Already R1.3 billion paid in youth salaries
Marc, a former financial journalist and specialist in “access to funding’ and “access to market” solutions, works with the team at the Youth Employment Service (YES) introduced the BB-BEE benefits to businesses who are looking to integrate youth into their workforces.
YES is focussed on creating a 12 months quality work experience for youth in order to build their CV for long term employment. Various models for inhouse or sponsoring external placements are available in community programmes. YES even has a specific programme tailored for SMEs.
Marc shared how the process of employing a young man of 24 through the YES program. He completed a postgraduate Business Management Certificates and B Come Degree, but was sitting at home for four years without being able to find employment. This opened his eyes to the real challenges of youth employment. The lack of mobility of youth to explore job opportunities is one of the greatest socio-economic hurdles for them to overcome. This young man only needed a few weeks of experience to become a valuable employee, not only building his own career, but being an asset that generates income.
Marc said that YES is one of the highest impact social initiatives in the world having created over 27 000 jobs and generating over R1.3bn in youth salaries since the start of 2019.
Even though Gauteng still received the bulk of the benefits to date, he stresses that the YES programme creates the opportunity to direct initiative to provinces that might otherwise struggle to leverage development programmes.
Marc also acknowledged the challenges to involve SMEs in leveraging the opportunity which is mainly focussed on BEE level improvement and tax benefits.
He stressed, however, that YES is learning and creating solutions like the opportunity to work with corporates in their supply chain development, placing the overflow youth in their programmes with their small suppliers.
Marc emphasises that YES offers an opportunity to bring highly qualified people into the business at the minimum wage of R3 500, as they understand that they need to gain work experience. They are keen to get experience and their learning curve is steep, turning them quickly into assists for the employer who are willing to take the risk.
“Give us a chance & do performance appraisal”
Lutho, one of the two interns appointed by Engeli, echoed both Ricardo and Marc’s experiences with youth employment. Sharing his own story as a young man with a Masters Degree in Economics, he thought he should be starting high and earn a decent income, just to realise he needed to jump at every opportunity to gain work experience.
Through entry-level employment, he gained a broad range of experience, and offered the following advice to his peers:
- Polish you CV.
- Regularly check social media platforms. His first opportunity was found though Twitter.
- Constantly practice self-development.
- Take initiative and show you can take responsibility and solve problems.
- Be prepared to work hard.
Lutho concluded by advising potential host employers to follow these tips:
- Give the youth a chance.
- Do not micromanage young employees.
- Ease up on the experience requirements as absolute.
- Ensure that efficient performance appraisal processes are in place.
South Africa is faced with a huge challenge. The portion of the unemployed in South Africa that are youth is staggering and growing. We know that our educational system is not providing them with the best possible chance, but business advisers should encourage and assist their clients to take a small chance of investing in the youth. You will have the opportunity to select from highly, even over-qualified, young people offering knowledge and life experience, hungry for an opportunity to prove themselves,
To view a recording of the full webinar, << CLICK HERE >>.
- The next IBASA & EPI Webinar, scheduled for 5 December 2019, will cover the important subject: “Guiding your small business clients with introducing HR systems for a growing number of employees”
- << CLICK HERE >> to register for the next episode in the IBASA & EPI Webinar Series.
Carel Venter is the producer of the IBASA & EPI Webinar Series and a Partner at the Entrepreneurial Planning Institute (EPI).