The high level of youth unemployment in the country was demonstrated in Athlone when the venue for a seminar had to be changed at the last minute, to accommodate more than 6 000 young people desperate for an opportunity.
Organisers of the Youth Unemployment Prevention Project’s (YUPP’s) Post School Opportunities Seminar did not expect this large turn-out, as they had booked the Dulcie September (Athlone) civic centre, which can accommodate 800 people.
While the large crowd gathered outside the civic centre on Wednesday June 13, plans were made to move the seminar to the Athlone Stadium.
This was the 10th annual seminar hosted by YUPP, an organisation dedicated to assisting youth with employment and study opportunities.
Faiez Dollie, YUPP director, said a “quick-thinking” ANC Member of the Provincial Legislature (MPL), Cameron Dugmore, who was also one of the guest speakers at the event, arranged for the use of the Athlone Stadium because there was a concern for the safety of the large number of youth who attended the seminar.
“The youth who attended the event could complete application forms for employment and further studies in a safe environment.
“One of the primary challenges of youth unemployment is travelling costs which inhibit young people from accessing opportunities and services. YUPP’s goal of hosting the seminars is to bring these opportunities to young people within our communities, making it easier for youth to apply for a multitude of jobs through placement providers as well as to apply for further studies and funding for further studies. These are critical opportunities for young people and YUPP will continue striving to bring opportunities and services closer to the communities that need it most,” Mr Dollie said.
Institutions represented at the seminar, which Mr Dollie refers to as “opportunity providers”, included the University of the Western Cape (UWC), Cape Peninsula University of Technology (CPUT), False Bay College, College of Cape Town, University of South Africa (UNISA), National Student Financial Aid Scheme (NSFAS), Harambee, the Department of Labour, the Western Cape Department of Social Development, Lulaway, Pearson Education, South African Youth Adventures (SAYA), YoungPeople@Work, Services Sector Education and Training Authority (SETA), Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA), National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), Old Mutual and the South African Police Services (SAPS).
“The YUPP seminars provide an important platform for young people to access all these opportunities under one roof, which is supported by the YUPP team and volunteers, many of whom are past recipients of our programmes,” Mr Dollie said.
Speaking at the event, Mr Dugmore encouraged the young people to either be at school or at a tertiary institution, to work, be an entrepreneur or to travel.
Former finance minister, Trevor Manuel, said the challenges faced by young people today were different from the ones he faced as a youth.
“We did not expect the numbers today. Part of what we are is a result of how and where we grow up. What we must realise is that school does not always prepare us for life after school. On a day like this, we want to open doors,” he said.
Mr Manuel also encouraged the youth to read as much as they can, to do mathematics, to learn about computers, and to be confident when speaking.
Lucia Kelly, 24, a YUPP beneficiary, said she has been a volunteer with the organisation since she was in Grade 10.
She told the crowd she did not have an easy upbringing – that she was raped as a child and grew up in a shelter. Her university application was rejected.
Her life changed when she agreed to be a master of ceremonies for an event hosted by the organisation she volunteered at. Fred Robertson, a YUPP patron and executive chairperson of the Brimstone Investment Corporation, happened to be at the event, and was so impressed with her skills that he offered her an internship.
“I didn’t believe him. I thought people were full of empty promises. Mr Robertson saw something in me that I did not see. I was given an 18-month-internship, and was then employed by them. Two years later I moved out of the shelter and went to live on my own in Salt River. If someone offers you an opportunity, say yes, even though you don’t know how to do it. You will learn,” Ms Kelly said.
Mr Robertson told the youth that one’s attitude will determine your success.
“It is about your willingness to take up an opportunity. When I got my first job, I did not ask how much are you going to pay me – I just took the opportunity. Back then I earned R80. Now I employ more than 4 500 people. You too, can become creators of jobs. What we want to give here today is hope,” Mr Robertson said.
Andrew Gasnolar, another guest speaker, together with Courtney Edwards and Ms Kelly, helped to co-ordinate the change of venue.
“We must extend our sincere thanks to the South African Police Services, Athlone police station, law enforcement, Cape Town Emergency Services, the management and staff of the Dulcie September civic centre, the management and staff of Athlone Stadium, Mayor Patricia de Lille, our donors, exhibitors, guests, guest speakers, and all of our volunteers for coordinating very quickly to move our Post School Opportunities Seminar to the Athlone Stadium,” said Mr Dollie, adding that, “it just shows what can be achieved when everyone works together. If we continue with the same energy and spirit, we can address the challenge of youth unemployment in our communities”.
Among those who attended the event, was Charne Thomas, 26, from Manenberg, who said she’ll make use of any opportunity presented to her.
Abdullah Edwards, 22, from Surrey Estate, dropped out of school in Grade 9, because he started “hanging out with the wrong crowd”.
“I managed to pull myself towards myself. I have criminal records, and it is not worth it. At the end of the day, all you are doing is hurting your family. I am hoping I will be able to rebuild my life with the opportunities presented by YUPP,” he said.
Shandre Williams 25, came all the way from Hout Bay to apply for a job. She said the event was a great opportunity for the youth.
“I got information about starting my own business and I got to apply for job opportunities. I am now also thinking about volunteering after I saw the YUPP volunteers assist the youth at the stadium. There are a lot of youth who are unemployed and in need of assistance, and I got a chance to see them all at the event,” she said.
All the forms completed by the youth at the event are now being processed and those young people will be contacted soon. Those who completed the forms, but were unable to hand them in, can take pictures of their completed form and email it to firstname.lastname@example.org Also, YUPP forms can be requested via email at