JOHANNESBURG - The Innovator Trust’s Young Entrepreneurs Programme has welcomed its fourth intake of beneficiaries in 2021. More commonly known as YEP, the programme started out in 2017 as a partnership between the Innovator Trust and Vodacom with the purpose of upskilling unemployed youth and exposing them to opportunities within the IT entrepreneurship sector.
To date, the Innovator Trust has made significant strides towards growth and sustainability in combating the issue of youth unemployment in the country, with 103 young South African youth having participated in the annual, 1-year entrepreneurship programme since inception.
"Each year, the aim has been to better the historic successes of the YEP programme, seeking out young talent with innovative, unique tech ideas and the grit and tenacity it takes to not only become a successful entrepreneur, but with an innate, deep desire to achieve the ambitious goals and dreams they’ve set for themselves. It is this X-factor characteristic we look out for when selecting candidates, particularly in a time such as this where it is easy to become despondent about the future," said Tashline Jooste, CEO of the Innovator Trust.
Takalani Netshitenzhe Director of External Affairs for Vodacom South Africa says: "As South Africa’s leading digital telecommunications company, we strive to support initiatives that leverage technology to prepare the youth of South Africa so they can adapt to skills of the future. We remain committed to fighting youth unemployment, continuing our youth upskilling programmes and launching digital educational solutions to continue to move South Africa’s youth journey forward together."
Alarmingly, unemployment is concentrated among our youth, with those aged between 15 and 24 making up 63.2% of the unemployed, compared with those aged between 25 and 34, who make up 41.2%. For this reason having the right digital skills remains critical to these young people’s prospects and is recognised as a key tool in human capital development, added Netshitenzhe.
The Ideal YEP Candidate
This year’s cohort of YEP beneficiaries stem from a countrywide search for candidates best suited to the programme’s criteria. These are individuals who see themselves as the business leaders of tomorrow and who, in spite of many challenging circumstances, possess a hunger for success. The search included alumni graduates and students currently part of the Vodacom Academy's technical learnership programme which the Innovator Trust have previously recruited from, to matriculants and local unemployed youth between the ages of 18-35.
The 2021 YEP programme kicked off earlier this year with a comprehensive induction session where the young entrepreneurs were introduced to the Innovator Trust team as well as the structure and expectations of the programme. The 40 South African youth are from diverse backgrounds and cultures, with varying levels of working experience and represent four of the country’s provinces; 10 beneficiaries from Gauteng, 5 from Mpumalanga, 15 from the Free State and 10 beneficiaries from the Western Cape.
Improving on Passed Excellence
Cognisant of the digital shift brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic and incorporating key learnings from the past year, the format of the refined 2021 YEP programme takes place virtually with all workshops and training sessions conducted on Zoom. As part of the resources provided to the YEP beneficiaries, each person received a laptop courtesy of Vodacom, laptop insurance, a WiFi dongle and data for the duration of the programme, courtesy of the Innovator Trust.
With the aim of the YEP programme being to provide local unemployed youth with the practical skills and support necessary for young business owners, the content covered includes carefully selected subjects targeted at facilitating holistic training for the beneficiaries. Modules such as Business Modelling, Financial Management and Business Communication provide beneficiaries with a foundation for how to think like an entrepreneur. In the Business Modelling workshop, the formulation of a robust business plan is prioritised as an outcome, requiring the beneficiaries to interrogate various elements of their business idea and ultimately, assess the financial viability and planning of the growth of the business especially in the digital age we find ourselves in. The YEP curriculum also seeks to address the requirements of a business owner on a personal level with courses such Personal Development and Conflict Resolution as well as a look at the technological skills required for running a business in the 'new digital' world.
A Practical Model to Work Readiness
Before the year-long YEP journey draws to a close, beneficiaries will also receive on-the-job training through paid internship and learnership opportunities with small businesses within the Innovator Trust fold. Here, the youth are exposed to real-life experiences of the working world. What is unique is the ecosystem that the Innovator Trust has been able to create, one that supports growing small businesses in need of resources and a database of unemployed youth in need of work experience. Interns from the YEP programme have the benefit of the Innovator Trust covering a monthly stipend for each YEP beneficiary for the duration of the internship with participating small businesses. The result – a mutually beneficial relationship that fosters sustainability for all stakeholders involved and South Africa’s IT sector at large.
On the remainder of the 2021 training year, Jooste says: "Together with our partners who are all business owners themselves and knowledge experts in their respective fields, we have high confidence in the 2021 YEP group. Already we’ve seen their dedication and as they prepare to present their final business plans towards the end of this year, our hope is that their efforts will result in an outcome of excellence as has become the norm from our Young Entrepreneurs Programme."