Bridgestone pushing back at youth unemployment

This Youth Month, we once again confront the fact that, as a country, we remain motivated to push back our frightening youth unemployment figures.

23 Bridge1

In the first quarter of 2023, we learned that 62.1% of job-seekers in the 15-24-year age cohort are unemployed, pretty much double the overall unemployment rate. The 25-34 age group is 40.7% unemployed.

A less-frequently cited crisis is the skills shortage that business faces in a whole range of sectors such as ICT, health, marketing, media and marketing, business and management, and engineering.

“At a technical level, we need people who can help us transform the way we manufacture tyres and provide mobility solutions in line with emerging technologies and greater emphasis on sustainability; equally important, we need marketing, sales, finance, HR and business specialists who can help us make the business even more efficient and responsive to our customers," says Botaki Hlalele, Learning & Development Leader at Bridgestone.

Botaki Hlalele

“Looking at the big picture, it’s clear that we need to bring these two parts of the equation together in order to realise the benefits that a large youth population should represent.

“Getting this right is obviously not going to be easy and will require multiple things to happen, not least a renewed effort to implement growth-friendly economic policies – the 0.1% growth currently being forecast is proof that more needs to be done,” he says.

Job experience is a Catch-22: first-time job applicants can’t get the job because they don’t have work experience, but to get the work experience they need a job.

“In this context, the Yes4Youth programme of which Bridgestone is part of, deserves a thumbs up. Yes4Youth aims to connect youth to internship opportunities at scale. The idea is that those who the host company cannot ultimately employ will find it easier to find employment elsewhere. As many commentators have pointed out, work experience demonstrates that an individual has the right attitude and has the potential to be trained.

“At Bridgestone, we have been working with Yes4Youth for several years with great success. It’s a concrete expression of our commitment to building a sustainable society and providing opportunities that our youth currently lack. Of the 151 young people who have come through the programme, we have been able to employ 41, while the remainder have gained invaluable work experience that makes them more employable.

“Another great benefit that we have noticed is that we are building a more diverse workforce, including the recent absorption of two women in our manufacturing facility. One of them, Precious Baloyi, completed a course in Production Technology at NQF Level 2 and has now qualified as an RTB operator, responsible for the supply of production components. Stories like this one are significant in a sector still dominated by men.

“We see this programme as strategic for our business because it creates a pipeline of talented young people with the skills we will need to keep the company competitive into the future,” Botaki says.

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  • 12 April 2024