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Unemployment is one the biggest crises faced by South Africans today, and the youth are particularly hard hit due to a lack of suitable qualifications, skills or work experience which hamper their ability to secure employment.
To address this issue, the Youth Employment Service (YES) programme was created in 2018, and is led by business in collaboration with government, labour and civil society to provide work experience in an effort to stimulate employment for the youth of South Africa.
"Continental Tyre South Africa (CTSA) joined the YES programme in 2019 to assist unemployed youth based in Port Elizabeth where our tyre manufacturing plant is situated," says Genevieve Naidoo, CTSA's Transformation and Diversity director. "As one of the city's key original equipment and aftermarket manufacturers in the automotive sector, we have a corporate responsibility to support government initiatives aimed at creating jobs and contributing to our economy.
"The YES initiative is a fantastic way of providing young people with learning and employment opportunities, which creates a pool of talent for potential employment at Continental or within the broader economy," she adds.
The company selects learners from the YES database and pays a stipend towards their income and resources required for learning. The candidates can be hosted by the company or placed with an alternate employer who provides valuable work experience. The timeframe for the programme is normally one year, after which the learner receives a certificate of completion and an employment reference.
"At Continental, we have opted to further train our YES learners on additional life and entrepreneurial skills within various aspects of business to support their efforts in finding jobs and being absorbed into the workforce," Naidoo says.
Assistance in putting together a CV is also given to the learners during their training, and CTSA's Human Resources department supports the project by helping the graduates to find temporary or permanent employment at the end of the cycle. Some of these learners may be offered job opportunities at Continental Tyre SA, but all of them exit the programme with marketable skills and a much greater prospect of finding gainful employment.
"In these uncertain and tumultuous times where there is so much unemployment and a shortage of essential skills, we are proud to be part of the solution by empowering the youth for a better future," Naidoo states.
BestDrive Learnership Programme
CTSA's support for the YES youth empowerment programme is bolstered by its own Continental Tyre SA/BestDrive Learnership Programme that was launched in 2019 in collaboration with the SOS Children's Village House of Youth in Cotswold, Port Elizabeth.
Four young men were selected for the first intake in July last year, which saw them gaining insight into the tyre manufacturing process, followed by classroom and practical training at the company-owned BestDrive William Moffett store.
Through merSETA - the Manufacturing, Engineering and Related Services Sector Education and Authority - the programme is built around the learners completing a National Certificate in Automotive Repair and Maintenance with a focus on Tyre Fitment (NQF Level 2).
An integral part of the development and empowerment project is equipping the learners with essential life skills. They share the House of Youth with a mentor where they pay rent and utilities, contribute to the weekly food budget and schedule cooking amongst themselves. Weekly saving is encouraged, preparing them for the future and enabling them to form these crucial habits early in life.
The learners passed the assessments and their certificates of competence were subsequently issued by merSETA in November 2019, and their practical training continued through to the end of January 2020. Two of the graduates, Sibusiso Sokutu and Sipho Xhego, were subsequently placed in temporary positions at the BestDrive William Store. Classmates Ndimphiwo Manaka and Wayne Nel have gained temporary employment at Concept Wheels in Port Elizabeth, with positive feedback received from the owners of the retailer regarding their skills and the success of the Learnership Programme as a whole.
Four new learners have been taken on board for the second wave of the Learnership Programme in 2020, comprising Litha Bodlani, Sandiseka Mzomba, Vuyolwethu Ntungwana and Xolelwa Fulani. The new learners have completed their introductory training, and will begin their three-month practical work experience at BestDrive as soon as the COVID-19 regulations allow additional staff to work at the company-owned store.