According to Statistics South Africa (StatsSA) - unemployment statistics have remained high at 34.5% in the first quarter of 2022 and youth unemployment statistics have reached a staggering 63.9%. To address this economic crisis, it is imperative that the public and private sectors collaborate to foster inclusive youth empowerment initiatives – taking into consideration the racialised nature of South Africa’s historical and prevailing systems of inequality.
And with June being Youth Month in South Africa, this allows the country to not only commemorate the June 16, 1976, Soweto Uprisings, but it is also a reminder of the role the youth play in defining the economic state of our future as a country.
Exxaro believes that the mining sector plays an important role in pioneering economic prosperity and stability throughout the country. The diversified mining and renewable energy solutions company is guided by its Sustainable Growth and Impact (SG&I) strategy which upholds that innovative problem-solving must occur through all levels of the organisation.
“Based on current socio-economic and technological realities, change is inevitable. With the rampant youth unemployment plaguing our country, our innovative processes require integration of the youth in the mining sector through skills development and employment opportunities to guarantee economic prosperity,” says Vanisha Balgobind, Executive Head of Human Resources at Exxaro.
“It is the private sector that has the ability to unlock the solutions to some of the major challenges in our country. We believe in empowering our young employees and those in our communities through various initiatives that also encourage digital innovation,” Balgobind explains.
While great strides to educate and upskill the youth have been made, Exxaro continues to empower young people through digital innovation for global competitive edge and adaptable skills.
These include interactive platforms for engaging the talent pipeline of professionals in training (PIT) and bursars; as well as the MyNexxt learning platform which enhances the learning experience for Exxaro employees.
The mining company has recently partnered up with the Youth Employment Service (YES) for skills development and to help stimulate job creation, for young South Africans within its host communities, in both the Limpopo and Mpumalanga Provinces. Since 2018 the YES4Youth programmes have created over 72 000 jobs worth over R4bn in youth salaries. Thus, Exxaro deems it essential to implement Yes4Youth programmes across the regions.
Furthermore, in 2021, Exxaro’s renewable energy solutions subsidiary, Cennergi, through its Tsitsikamma Wind Farm Trust (TWFT) invested R10.6 million on socio-economic and enterprise development projects in its host communities in Eastern Cape. The TWFT partnered with Paul Sauer High School to accommodate 67 grade 12 learners at Qhayiyalethu High School with after-school learning services. Understanding the importance of quality learning environments to stimulate educational enthusiasm – the Trust further supported the local municipality and Department of Education with prefabricated classrooms to establish a new high school for R1.1 million.
In the same year, Cennergi – through its Amakhala Emoyeni Community Fund Trust contributed R13.7 million towards a bursary programme that helped 15 young people in Cookhouse, Bedford, Adelaide and Somerset East further their studies at universities and Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges across South Africa where they are learning scarce skills such as electrical, mechanical, and civil engineering, computer sciences and accounting.
Furthermore, Exxaro’s talent management division works with universities such as Wits, UNISA and University of Pretoria as well as technical colleges, influencing syllabus change in alignment with Industry 4.0 concepts. Through strategic collaborations, the company, community, and country at large, can combat the societal challenges it faces. As a result, relationships were established with local and global learning platforms such as Udemy; LinkedIn; Coursera; Omnitell Tech University and Open Sesame, to help our employees with upskilling their learning while placing that responsibility and opportunity in their hands.
“We have integrated new modules in engineering graduate programmes such as modular and agile lean construction, complexity management, and design thinking with focus on digitalisation.”
“For Exxaro, there is no sustainable economic development without diverse and inclusive youth empowerment. After all, today’s youth are tomorrow’s leaders,” concluded Balgobind.