Partnering with the Salesian Institute and the City of Cape Town to tackle the youth unemployment crisis in Bishop Lavis and Bonteheuwel!

VPUU first engaged with the Salesian Institute in 2015. In 2015, the newly elected community leadership of Gugulethu and Nyanga made the following plea. “As our number one priority, please help us overcome the great unemployment challenge we have in our communities”. 

VPUU took the lead in organising a series of workshops with a wide range of stakeholders in partnership with the Gugulethu College of Cape Town, UCT Mandela Initiative and the Salesian Institute.

The last instalment of the Let’s Get to Work Series was held on Wednesday,18th of October 2017. Professor Tom Ryan facilitated a co-design workshop for addressing the challenge of youth unemployment by exploring ways to improve the level of employability of unemployed youth and NEETS at risk. The NEET acronym stands for; Not in Education, Employment or Training. 

Read: Let’s Get to Work – Partnerships for improving youth employment opportunities

As mentioned, one of the facilitators was now retired professor Tom Ryan, Emeritus Associate Professor at UCT, an experienced facilitator who uses systems thinking and design thinking approaches.

The challenges addressed at the workshop were:

  1. How might we design a system for assessing the employability of unemployed youth and NEETs and then connecting them to either opportunities for further education and training or employment opportunities?
  2. How might we redesign the formal education and training system to increase the employability of unemployed youth?
  3. How might we redesign the informal education and training system to increase the employability of the unemployed youth at risk (NEETs)

These challenges are even more pressing today, with unemployment among young South Africans (15 to 24 years), at its highest historical level of  66.5 percent in the last quarter of 2021 (see graph further down). 

Professor Tom Ryan has continued his work with the Salesian Institute on several programmes, including the development of the innovative pedagogic Learn to Live Project-Based (PBL) approach. This approach is used in their NEETS programme. 

Project-based learning is an instructional approach designed to give students the opportunity to develop knowledge and skills through engaging projects set around challenges and problems they may face in the real world. Project-based learning (PBL) motivates students to connect with content areas whilst increasing their knowledge of a topic. It is a way to engage and give them ownership over their learning. The PBL Programme is vocationally driven. The   vision is to prepare and equip learners to function in the workplace and when they can’t be immediately placed in a job, learners should have the confidence and skills to create their own jobs and future. Life Skills forms an integral part of the learning programme.

A powerful & insightful presentation on Project-Based Learning principles in the Learn to Live School of Skills by retired Assoc Emeritus Prof Tom Ryan (UCT), Dr Ria de Villiers (E-cubed) and Gabriel Hamuy (Salesian Institute Youth Projects)

In 2022,  VPUU reconnected with the Salesian Institute to implement their NEETS Work Readiness Programme. 

In partnership with the city of Cape Town, two  6-month cohorts will be facilitated by the Salesian Institute Youth Projects.  The first City of Cape Town cohort started with the life skills training in Cape Town’s Bishops Lavis and Bonteheuwel communities. VPUU is project managing the roll-out in  the Bishops Lavis and Bonteheuwel communities.

Stats SA’s data confirms that approximately 3.4 million (33.5%) out of 10.2 million young people aged 15-24 years are not in any form of employment, education, or training (NEET). The graph below shows the unemployment rate by age group in South Africa for the last quarter of 2021.

“In the fourth quarter of 2021, the unemployment rate in South Africa reached 30 percent among workers aged 35 to 44 years. The figure increased from 27.4 percent the same quarter in the previous year…..Among young South Africans (15 to 24 years), the unemployment rate was at its highest, 66.5 percent.”


Statistic: Unemployment rate in South Africa from Q1 2019 to Q4 2021, by age group | Statista

Supporting the skills training and employment of these unskilled, young individuals will empower them to lead active, productive, and successful lives, thereby counteracting inequality, and elevating destitute communities out of poverty.

Access to education is a challenge for certain vulnerable communities in South Africa. The unemployment rate in both formal and informal job markets is crippling. Recent statistics shared by StatSA indicated that out of approximately 100 000 matriculants graduating per annum, only 30% will find employment.

The youth that are the most vulnerable in the South African labour market are NEETS. 

The programme combines Life Skills Training with Vocational Skills Training, packaged in an innovative approach that should result in employment opportunities and the development of entrepreneurial skills.

A Brief Introduction to the NEETS Employability Programme

The NEETS programme is relatively new and offers education in an innovative and engaging pedagogy. In line with Learn to Live’s Project-based learning (PBL)  approach, it adopts the same platform to develop work readiness for youth at risk that had not completed their basic education.

The NEETS beneficiaries (who are aged 18 to 25) are recruited from specific disadvantaged communities within the greater Cape Town area to create a critical mass tipping point of social change within the beneficiaries’ communities.

We aim to enable 20 learners from Bishop Lavis and 20 from Bonteheuwel to graduate via this programme. 41 learners were registered, and as of the end of March all 41 learners have registered, started their portfolio of evidence and have completed the fundamental stages of the course. 

The main achievement so far have been:

  1. 80 % of the fundamental phase is complete. Learners have been carrying out their Maths, English, Afrikaans, and Financial Literacy phases. They are 80 % of the way through the fundamentals phase and are on track to complete it by mid-April.
  2. Learners have begun to populate their portfolios of evidence, after receiving training on how to use their tablets. They are completing them in their online classrooms to complement some of the work also carried out on paper. 
  3. Learners received their first visit from an external moderator and assessor to view their work and guide them if corrections or adjustments are necessary.
  4. Learners are now in full study mode, most of them have become accustomed to the class times and the workload.
  5. Feedback was received on the SETA registration document submitted, and outstanding documents for the final registration with SETA were collected and are being processed.
  6. The Hydroponics Garden is up and running, and learners are managing the entire process. 

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