British High Commission plans partnership to develop youth technical skills

The British government will invest up to £75-million of official development assistance, globally, for skills development across nine fast-growing economies; with the South African portion being dedicated to addressing the skills gaps, skills mismatch and quality training for unemployed youth and youth in post-school education and training.


Undertaking the local portion of assistance, the British High Commission in South Africa plans to work with local partners to train unemployed youth in technical skills through trade apprenticeships.

In partnership with Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and implementation partners – the Institute of Plumbing of South Africa (IOPSA), the National Business Initiative (NBI), and BluLever Education – the programme aims to skill 200 marginalised young people for income-earning opportunities using technical skills.

In addition, a further 100 underemployed young people will be assisted in gaining a formal qualification, which will improve their earnings and career prospects.

The British High Commission states that technical vocational education and training (TVET) graduates require skills in technical or trade occupations.

In this regard, the organisation also notes that, historically, there has been a disconnect between the outputs of the TVET system and the needs of potential employers. As a result, young graduates exit TVET colleges to find themselves with limited pathways into work.

The British High Commission’s innovative apprenticeship approach to setting young work-seekers up for success starts with Harambee selecting candidates through the SA Youth mobile platform based on the attitudes and aptitudes most valued in trade work.

SA Youth is a zero-rated, data-free network that matches work-seekers to earning and learning opportunities.

The British High Commission says, often, young people arbitrarily choose trade jobs because they offer a faster route to earning a stipend; but that if a young person is not suited to the work, they will not succeed, regardless of how determined they are to earn a living.

Two newly developed learning models by BluLever and NBI offer different but equally successful pathways into employment. One is a three-year apprenticeship programme that prepares graduates to work on their own. The other is a short, high-impact route to work through a nine-month programme that supplies the industry with the entry-level skills it needs.

Harambee water and plumbing sector lead Sherrie Donaldson says when these partnerships focus on inclusive growth and mutual interests, barriers can be reduced and sectors can create jobs to be filled by young people who would otherwise be locked out of the economy.

She adds that the UK support enables Harambee and its partners to demonstrate that sector-wide collaboration can, and does, result in real impact on systems-change and effect, which can be adopted at scale.

Further, these two pathways address the South African government’s 2020 National List of Occupations in High Demand, which identifies a shortfall of 30 000 trained artisans yearly amid strategic infrastructure projects and Covid-19 recovery plans.

This new approach to sourcing and the transformative training these young people receive – which critically includes a focus on work-readiness components in addition to technical skills – sets them up to succeed in these high-demand jobs.

IOPSA executive director Brendan Reynolds says a collaborative approach by the partners in this programme means IOPSA can focus on addressing systemic problems in vocational training. “The funding provided by the UK government is an essential part of the improvements we’re making, meaning employers will be able to employ TVET college graduates with confidence.”

The first cohort of trainees started their career journey in 2020, and now that they are in the on-the-job training phase, the programme’s coordinators are receiving positive feedback from their employer partners.

Published on Engineering News