By Amanda Mkhize

An innovative partnership between Nedbank and the Youth Employment Service (YES) has created work opportunities for more than 7000 South African youth over the past three years. One of the biggest winners as a result of this partnership has been the environment, with thousands of young people getting critical work experience in the conservation sector.

The YES programme sees corporate partners like Nedbank create and sponsor thousands of quality work experience opportunities each year in various high-impact sectors like conservation, healthcare, education, digital, early-childhood development and more.

Many of Nedbank’s 7080 YES candidates were placed in the bank’s business units, and with one of 33 YES implementation partners (IPs) across South Africa. In line with Nedbank’s green economy programme, some candidates were placed with the bank’s conservation partners. Here, they gained critical skills in areas like land restoration, ecotourism, disaster management, education and even running food gardens.

‘This commitment is especially relevant in line with our purpose of using our financial expertise to do good for individuals, families, businesses, and society. This purpose stems from Nedbank’s understanding that it, alongside its stakeholders, operate in an interdependent system, where a thriving economy, a well-functioning society, and a healthy environment are needed. Reducing youth unemployment in our country is central to this.

Our business strategies, societal-upliftment and development commitments are guided by this purpose,’ says Deborah Fuller, Nedbank Group executive: Human Resources.

More than two-thirds of the work opportunities created through the Nedbank-YES partnership have been taken up by women, with placements in provinces where the unemployment rate is higher than the official national average (33,9%), like Mpumalanga (36,1%), Limpopo (36,3%) and the Eastern Cape (42,8%). The salaries these young people receive are critical in uplifting the economies of communities across the country.

Traver Chabangu, a YES Alumni of the Nedbank programme, is now a field ranger at The Kruger National Park. His YES experience opened his eyes to how the park conserves water. “I am very grateful for this opportunity. I am learning new skills every day, but most importantly I have a job and a better future to look forward to,” says Chabangu.

YES CEO Ravi Naidoo says Nedbank has shown its commitment to empowering South Africa’s youth by becoming one of the largest contributors in the financial services sector to have participated in the programme.

“The bank was one of the first companies to participate in YES for non-broad-based-black-economic-empowerment (B-BBEE) purposes, as it was already a level 1 contributor. Nedbank understood that the YES programme produces measurable outcomes and so it was able to integrate the YES youth job creation into its environmental, social and governance (ESG) and Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) strategies,” says Naidoo.

For growing numbers of South African businesses, creating youth jobs in sectors that build economic, social, and environmental stability is an effective way to reach their ESG and B-BBEE goals, while uplifting and empowering communities.

“Partnering with YES is more than just youth job creation and gaining a level up on a B-BBEE scorecard. It’s about creating South Africa’s future business leaders by providing the quality work experiences they need to get their first job or start their own business. That’s the impact we’re ultimately aiming for,” says Naidoo.

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