If you thought our unemployment rate of 30.8% is bad, youth unemployment is sitting at a devastating 55.75%. There are numerous barriers stopping youth from entering the workforce including access to the internet to search for jobs and send CVs, lack of adequate skills development, little to no experience, and dwindling availability of jobs. Now add a disability to the mix and the unemployment experience is intensified as social attitudes, public transport system, discrimination, and building accessibility seriously hamper progress.
As the world observed The International Day of Persons with Disabilities on 3 December 2020, Nkosinathi Mahlangu, Momentum Metropolitan's Portfolio Head for Youth Employment encourages corporate SA to create more opportunities for youth with disabilities. "People with disabilities are always not adequately considered. With a COVID-stricken economy, their situation is going to get worse, but that doesn't mean they don't deserve the same opportunities. There is a distinct lack of workplaces who are adequately sensitised and accommodating to the needs of our disabled workforce."
In an effort to help bolster the job opportunities for the persons with disabilities, Momentum, through the Momentum Metropolitan Foundation (NPC), partnered with Quad-Para Association of South Africa (QASA) two years ago and funded the organisation on their work readiness programme to equip 200 disabled trainees over a period of three years with the necessary skills and tools for gainful employment, using modules aligned to SAQA Unit Standards. QASA recently received the Corporate Livewire South Africa Prestige 2020 Award for Disability Access Service for the year which was based on their service excellence, quality of the service they provide, innovative practices, value, ethical or sustainable methods of working, and consistency in performance.
These skills include computer literacy, office administration, call center, financial literacy, workplace etiquette, effective leadership and diversity training. COVID-19 restrictions and the national lockdown meant that the programmes were run remotely and each participant was given a tablet in order to continue learning and access employment opportunities.
Derick Houston, Fundraising Manager at (QASA) added that challenges impacting wheelchair users start at the school level where many of them are not able to complete their school careers due to issues ranging from disability unfriendly facilities, public transport usability and financial challenges. These challenges compounded as most of its programmes require a matric certificate, leaving most disabled youth unable to find a path to their financial success.
Houston points to two recent examples of success, as the work readiness programme gave Nokozola Rantso and Dumisani Langa their self-confidence, and skills they needed to secure employment. Both participants completed their courses and secured jobs with Sitwell Technologies and a CCTV monitoring company respectively.
Mahlangu says, "When corporate SA combines efforts in combating these challenges that hovers over our youth and more so, disabled youth, it will lead to sustainable job creation for them and enable them to actively participate in and grow the economy. Through this partnership, we have provided skills and training to 72 young trailblazers with 49 having been absorbed into the workforce. If we can get more companies to open their doors and their hearts to placing more disabled people in jobs after completing their training, this would do wonders for their confidence."
The QASA work readiness programme is offered in Durban, Gauteng and Cape Town and people with disabilities are encouraged to register for a qualification and increase their chances of employment.
"We have a common goal through these partnerships," says Mahlangu. "It is imperative that we start working closer together as a collective so we can fast track economic upliftment among our youth. Our collaborative approach and our partner's efforts will be the catalyst for our country's journey to success, but there is always more that can be done and always more people who can help achieve it," concludes Mahlangu.