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Skills & Youth Employability

South Africa’s notoriously high unemployment rate poses a significant risk to social, economic and political stability in South Africa, finding expression through widespread poverty, crime, social unrest and ultimately a non-inclusive society (Altbeker & Bernstein, 2011, p. 2). This creates a difficult environment for business to operate, particularly where the perception is created that business is prospering at the expense of society.  NBI’s strategic thrust of working with companies to contribute to social and economic transformation recognises business as an integral part of society. The performance of business therefore must be measured in relation to the level of transformation and inclusivity in the society within which it functions.

Youth in South Africa make up around 36% of the total population but represent approximately 70% of total unemployment. Despite the significant investment in TVET and skills development in South Africa over the past two decades, South Africa continues to face the persistent and growing challenge of youth unemployment. Just over 1 million youth exit the education system every year, but 43% of these become discouraged within 6 months. Within a year of leaving school, nearly two-thirds of young people find themselves out of any system of employment, education, or training. The low levels of successful transitions from education to the world of work, are a result of mismatch in the supply of and demand for skills, as well as in the interface between supply and demand.


The Skills & Youth Employability programme aims to harness business expertise and resources to unlock demand for skills in the labour market and build inclusive pathways to learning and employment across the economy. A key component of this work is facilitating collective response to youth unemployment through the implementation of practical interventions, through systemic partnerships with government departments, public TVET Colleges and others aimed at addressing the mismatch and interface between supply and demand.

Installation, Repair and Maintenance Initiative: Green Skills TVET College Intervention

Flowing from a strong track record in various demonstration projects in the area of TVET Colleges and employability, the NBI in partnership with the Confederation of Danish Industries (DI) has initiated the Installation, Repair and Maintenance (IRM) programme aimed at developing sustainable and scalable pathways through TVET into employment, with a specific emphasis on pathways into the Green Economy. Other project partners include the Nedbank Foundation, Business leadership South Africa’s (BLSA) Beyond Advocacy Fund, Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) and Institute of Plumbing South Africa (IOPSA).

The IRM Initiative is a three-year multi-sector partnership, led by the NBI and aimed at expanding and growing pathways for young people into artisanal roles, thus creating 7,500 entry-level artisanal jobs but also enabling marginalized and vulnerable young people to be on a pathway towards full trade qualifications. The Initiative forms part of the Framework Agreement reached at the Presidential Jobs Summit (2018). IRM is focusing primarily on four key sectors: Plumbing, Electrical, Infrastructure Maintenance, and Automotive. Photovoltaic, Solar Water Heater and Energy Efficiency provide specialised green skills that offer expansive opportunities in the Green Economy. 

Building on the NBI’s extensive experience in working with the TVET sub-system, the project seeks to enhance the role of TVET Colleges as centres of innovative programme delivery aligned to employment opportunities in local economic areas.  This will be achieved through effective social partnerships which unlock demand-side opportunities and a fundamental paradigm shift in the design and delivery of college programmes.  It will also be achieved through ensuring the programmes being offered are suitably aimed at preparing young people for entry into the workplace and meeting the needs of employers.

Growing Green Skills and Jobs in the Plumbing Industry through
Mentoring TVET College Graduates | Click Here

Expanding Inclusive Entry Pathways into the Green Economy| Plumbing strategic note | Click Here


The IRM has four broad objectives:

Create scalable and sustainable pathways for unemployed youth into technical occupations in large companies as well as Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs), as well as offering pathways to artisan trades and micro-enterprises.

Establish an enabling mechanism to effectively match the supply of skills and labour market opportunities and manage the pathways of youth into technical occupations.

Demonstrate a model of demand-driven curriculum delivery that responds to existing and new labour market opportunities and can be replicated.

Embed a sustainable funding mechanism for mainstreaming IRM pathways into the Post School Education and Training System (PSET).

The focus of the programme will be in Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.

Key Activities:

  1. Establishing social partnerships to unlock employment and self-employment opportunities and enable effective pathways for young school leavers through TVET colleges into the Green Economy
  2. Strengthening the capacity of TVET colleges to deliver innovative and responsive programmes that optimally prepare youth for labour market entry into technical occupations

Call to Action: To employers to unlock the workplace learning opportunities for youth.

Key contact person:
Xhanti Mhlambiso

Xhanti Mhlambiso

Xhanti Mhlambiso

Programme Manager: Social

The Swiss Hospitality Apprenticeship Programme (SSHAP!)

In 2019, the Swiss Embassy in South Africa initiated a project to demonstrate the value of the Swiss Dual Apprenticeship model for supporting effective pathways into the labour market for South African youth.  Drawing on the extensive history and track record of the Swiss Dual System, the project seeks to illustrate how closer alignment and integration with the workplace can be achieved and the benefits of this in equipping young people with appropriate technical skills and work readiness that will increase their likelihood of success in the occupational role, make them productive and ultimately enhance their employability.

The hospitality industry forms a critical part of the travel and tourism industry in South Africa, which contributes over 9% to GDP and provides 1.5 million jobs. The NBI TVET Hospitality Initiative seeks to exploit the full potential of the South African Hospitality Initiative to absorb TVET College students and to implement effective interventions to enable this to be realized.

The programme is a partnership between the Swiss Embassy, the National Business Initiative (NBI), and the Hotel and Tourism Management Institute Switzerland (HTMi). It comprises a six-month dual apprenticeship, with integrated theoretical and practical training, targeting three occupational roles in the hospitality industry: front office, housekeeping and restaurant and room service. These occupations represent important entry points for youth into the hospitality arena and can set the foundation for career pathways through the industry.

The focus of the programme is in Gauteng.

Key Activities:

  1. Mobilisation of host employers to provide placements
  2. Establish partnerships with TVET Colleges for the delivery of demand-led entry level skills for the hospitality industry
  3. Capacitate Hospitality lecturers at the TVET College to deliver the entry-level programmes
  4. Select and recruit unemployed youth to complete the work readiness training and prepare them for selection and workplace entry

Call to Action: To employers to unlock the workplace learning opportunities for youth.

Key contact person:
Shavilla Harpal

Shavilla Harpal

Shavilla Harpal

Project Manager:
Skills & Youth Employability

SME and Supplier Development

Expanding opportunities in the Township Economy

Artisanal roles account for around 2 million jobs (12% of all employment) in the South African economy, of which 736,000 are occupied by young people.  Two-thirds of these jobs are in Small and Medium-Sized Enterprises.

This programme aims to support township-based artisanal entrepreneurs to expand and grow their businesses, through increased market access, funding and support, on the condition that they train and hire young people in IRM occupations. The focus of business activities could include:

– Plumbers
– Electricians
– General Maintenance / Handymen
– Automotive Mechanics and Autobody Repairers (Panelbeaters)
– Domestic Appliance Repairers

Repairs of other electronic goods

Through the creation and implementation of an Incentive Fund, the programme will over a 5-year period support a minimum of 1,450 township Artisanal SMEs and create 3,625 new jobs for young people in these SMEs.

The focus of the programme will be primarily in large townships within the major metropolitan areas of Gauteng, the Western Cape and KwaZulu-Natal.


Key Activities:

Through the creation and implementation of an Incentive Fund, the programme will over a 5-year period: 

  1. Establish multiple IRM Township Hubs across the three provinces
  2. Provide Enterprise Development Support to achieve formalization and market access for a minimum of 210 Township Artisanal Businesses
  3. Certify a minimum of 1,230 IRM workers (both existing and new)
  4. Create a minimum of 1,000 new jobs/self-employment opportunities

Call to Action: To companies to support township businesses as part of their enterprise development strategy

Key contact person:
Anthony Gewer

Dr Anthony Gewer

Dr Anthony Gewer

Programme Manager:
Skills & Youth Employability