Youth Connect to give a voice and opportunities

From back, left, are, Ashwin Fester , Rashied Andrews and Megan Adams, and in front, Jodine Fester and Shafieka Andrews. They were just some of the young people who attended the Youth Connect gathering.

Some young people who have joined the Youth Connect initiative have already reaped the benefits and have a clearer idea of how they will pursue their dreams.

According to Samantha van Schalkwyk, the head of Youth Connect, it is a creative solution responding to youth unemployment, socio economic challenges, lack of workplace readiness, sense of self-worth, and access to entrepreneurship and employment opportunities. This is done by creating a platform for young people to connect, learn, grow and earn. Youth Connect is a division of the South African Informal Traders Alliance (SAITA), which is a registered as a non-profit company (NPC), representing four million people nationally.

Brett Swile, 19, from Bridgetown, matriculated last year and dreams of owning his own mechanical workshop. He was among the hundreds of youth who attended a Youth Connect gathering in Athlone a few weeks ago.

“My experience was very enlightening and it changed my perspective of things. It actually motivated me to push even harder to make my dreams come true. I have taken some of what I’ve learnt there, and implemented it into my own life. I feel inspired. Right now I am learning as much as I can at another mechanical workshop, and next year I am enrolling for a formal qualification,” Brett said.

Grace Maduku, 20, from Bokmakierie, heard about the gathering from a friend.

“As young people we face so many challenges. I matriculated last year, and I grab any opportunity that will come my way. I found out that there are so many entrepreneurs out there, and these are people who are willing to assist people like me. I was exposed to so many opportunities. I consider myself a community person and I want to merge that with my desire to own a business. I met a young woman who promotes small businesses online, and she offered me a paid opportunity, which I am excited about,” Grace said.

Ms Van Schalkwyk said youth from the community, youth entrepreneurs, informal traders of Bonteheuwel and Gatesville, youth development organisations and sponsors attended the gathering on Thursday May 20 at the Dulcie September (Athlone) civic centre.

“Our youth should be regarded as important stakeholders in key decision-making policies that affect all South Africans. Their ideas, input and contribution are valuable and there should be an accessible platform that makes allowance for their voices to be heard and noted”

The Youth Connect initiative is aimed at creating a platform for youth to share ideas, have a voice, recommend solutions, be innovative, apply entrepreneurial mindsets and grow through connecting with the informal sector. Our database will ensure that members can be contacted to participate in future projects, including employment opportunities,” Ms Van Schalkwyk said.

Unemployed youth between the ages of 18 to 34 can email youthconnect@saita.org,za or contact Samantha van Schalkwyk on 076 368 7898 if they would like to participate. For more information on SAITA visit www.saita.org.za