Over 40% of 18-24 year olds in South Africa are not in formal education or training, nor are they employed (NEET). This represents a severe loss of human potential just at the time that young people should be becoming economically active. In 2011, Connection received 192 Step 1 applications. We were looking for projects and interventions that address this crisis in any of the following ways:
- synthesize and distribute information on opportunity
- prevent and lower educational drop-out rates and increase access to higher and/or further education
- provide on-going support and guidance to young people to succeed once they have accessed an opportunity
- mediate connections to employment opportunities, and
- provide support services and training to young entrepreneurs.
Of the 192 applications, 17% were successful and were fully funded.
Synthesise and distribute information on opportunity: The Connection flagship partnership for 2011 was with Career Planet who are working to develop a mobile opportunity communication service to young people. We funded this project because it will collect and synthesise information on a wide range of opportunities aimed at youth, and communicate it via an affordable and accessible medium (a mobi site) to young people across the country. The aim of this project is to bring those opportunities that many young people are unaware to a medium that many of them have some form of access to.
Preventing educational drop-out, increasing access to further or higher education, and providing on-going support: We received many applications from organisations offering youth transition support services. Of these applications, we funded those that:
- leverage existing state support (for example, NSFAS and NSF) by providing additional social support to FET- and tertiary-level students
- provide academic and psychosocial support to in-school youth
We only received one application for a programme that gives young adults who failed Matric support as they prepare to retake their Matric exams. We will be looking to support more of these initiatives, as a Matric qualification can be the link to a broader base of opportunities for many young South Africans.
Worryingly (given the high drop-out levels across all sectors of the South African education system) only one of the applications we received from organisations working directly to address educational drop-out. Going into 2012, the DGMT will be looking to form partnerships with organisations that are trying to (1) understand the factors behind persistently high drop-out levels and (2) implement interventions to prevent and/or lower drop-out.
Mediate connections to employment opportunities: A large proportion of these applications came from organisations that offer training. We funded projects that demonstrated a clear connection between the training being offered and an increased access to employment of graduates. Whilst we funded some accredited programmes, we also considered strong non-accredited programmes that were able to demonstrate a good track record in terms of the employment prospects of NEET graduates.
We also received a large proportion of applications from organisations that offer placement services. In many cases, applicants were initiating a placement service as part of an existing training programme. We found that the most successful examples of placement programmes were those that were rooted in strong relationships with employers (and a good understanding of their needs), and that were coupled with efficient tracking systems that kept records of employment opportunities accessed, and the outcomes of each instance of employment (be it a contract, temporary or a permanent engagement). An example of such a model is being demonstrated by Western Cape-based partner, Dreamworker Employment, and the DGMT will be looking to take this model to scale, or replicate it in another province. Most of applications sent in for the portfolio continue to come from training and/or placement programmes, and in 2012, the DGMT will be looking specifically for:
- thorough training programmes that equip trainees with skills that not only provide them with access to the job market but facilitate connection to employment
- placement programmes that are based on a good understanding of employer needs, and gaps in the job market, and that keep track of whether or not placements lead to a successful, sustained connection to employment.
We will also be looking to replicate the model illustrated by another one of our partners, Go for Gold, who have facilitated a direct link between youth who demonstrate a passion for engineering and the built environment and major employers in that industry.
Entrepreneurship development and support: We received a relatively small number of applications from organisations working to train and support young entrepreneurs. Most applications were for programmes that offered specific skills training for aspirant entrepreneurs. As more applications for entrepreneurship development programmes come in, we are starting to see a trend towards more holistic support (including mentorship, and SMME incubation), and this year we supported one organisation that offers this. In 2012, we will be looking to support holistic models of entrepreneurship support that we feel lead to successful, sustained entrepreneurial activity.