The Youth Employment Service (YES) B-BBEE incentive has been one of the most powerful job creation incentives out of the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition (DTIC). Apart from helping businesses move a full 1 or 2 levels on their B-BBEE scorecard, it can also play a material part in mitigating some of the impact of COVID-19.
This quote from one YES youth highlights just how critical this incentive is for the country: “It feels so good to finally help out at home and give my mom a break from some things. It’s not easy raising 5 kids as an unemployed widow.”
Samantha Metcalfe at ‘financial problem-solving’ consultancy, Decusatio, runs YES programs on behalf of clients, and shares some learnings from the past 12 months and top tips to run a successful YES program.
Tip #1: Understand the rules of the incentive
YES is one of the simplest B-BBEE incentives out there. Just understand the rules and how it works so that you don’t invest in a program and then lose the investment because you didn’t set it up correctly.
Tip #2: Recruit carefully
Think about the program you are building and running and recruit for that. It makes no sense to hire an ambitious youth with a degree if they are going to be doing manual tasks.
Understand their motivation and home life situations to work out whether they will be a good fit for your program.
Tip #3: Give them meaningful work
It sounds obvious, but if the youth don’t have a purpose and feel like you’re inventing a job for them, then they will pick up on this.
If you can’t create the work inside of your organisation, you can work with a partner who can build a project that will have social impact.
Everybody wants to feel valued: don’t simply leave them in a situation where they are unattended with no purpose.
Tip #4: Salaries
Just because you can pay the National Minimum Wage doesn’t mean you should. Drop-offs are a very real challenge amongst youth employment initiatives, and while it might be attractive on a spreadsheet to get a youth with a degree working for you for R3760 per month, you will have high drop-offs and replacement costs.
We found it worked better when we sourced additional funding for the youth or paid top-ups/commissions on their salaries.
Tip #5: Skills. Skills. Skills.
One of the reasons businesses shy away from doing youth employment is the time that it takes to get youth upskilled. Simple things like soft-skills around answering the phone or basic Microsoft skills are often taken for granted.
Our youth have been able to do Xero accounting, Sales Skills, Public-speaking programs, 21st century design learning and Udemy courses that they can put on their CVs.
Don’t lose sight of the fact that you are aiming to give the youth a CV that will make them more employable at the end of the 12-month experience.
Tip #6: Celebrate their successes and gamify the program
You’ll be astounded at how hard the job search is for youth with no employment history. Many of them spend years knocking on doors trying to find a starting point and rejection has become a big part of the job search.
Spend a little extra time celebrating their successes and encouraging them to pick up new skills along the way, post their achievements and work output on platforms like LinkedIn – it creates a sense of belonging and achievement.
Tip #7: Data and airtime
It’s a simple cost but giving youth access to data and airtime will be a big drawcard, particularly in environments where Covid-19 restricts access to fixed office environments.
Tip #8: The Supervisor is not necessarily the Boss
When you are uploading youth into the system, you will be asked to nominate a supervisor for the program.
We feel that the supervisor should not be the person who manages them on a day-to-day basis. Rather, the supervisor should be an empathetic ear who will help them navigate their 12-month work experience.
Tip #9: Set milestones for retention
Remember that the goal is to get the youth over the 8-month mark so you don’t need to incur replacement costs.
By setting milestones including the opportunity to do skills programs, get a salary increase or other incentives, you can ensure that you don’t incur replacement costs down the line.
While everybody wants to run programs as affordably as possible, longer-term planning means that the youth don’t look around for other opportunities.
Tip #10: Discuss their futures and absorption opportunities
The absorption requirements for YES cohorts is very low at 2.5% or 5% (depending on which level you are looking to achieve) and many organisations treat this as an after-thought. We found youth who couldn’t see a future career path or opportunity were quick to drop off the program. Communicate opportunities and they view it in a different light.
In summary, YES is a very powerful incentive which can be used as part of your B-BBEE strategy if you plan it correctly… but if you fail to plan, you will plan to fail.