South Africa has one of the highest youth unemployment rates in the world. According to the 2018 Quarterly Labour Force Survey released by Statistics South Africa, in the first quarter of 2018, in South Africa, there were 3.3 million youths between the ages of 15 to 24 who were not in employment, education, or training.
Business Process enabling South Africa (BPeSA), the umbrella industry association for the Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) sector in South Africa, estimates that the sector employs approximately 200,000 people, of which 20,000 are employed thanks to foreign direct investment – i.e. international companies outsourcing services or setting up service centres in South Africa. Given the attractiveness of South Africa as a Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) destination, it is clear that this sector has the potential to make a significant impact on youth unemployment.
The government recognises the potential of this sector too, which is why, to help solve the youth unemployment crisis, it is investing in skills development specific to BPO and also at a grassroots level in order to cultivate a future workforce for this important sector. However, to remain competitive and able to meet rising demand, BPO employers cannot rely on government alone to bridge the skills gap. We need to take responsibility ourselves to ensure that we create opportunities to employ and empower talented individuals from disadvantaged backgrounds to both power this sector and help raise people out of poverty.
Webhelp entered the South Africa BPO sector in 2013 and has learned from extensive experience that the key to creating sustainable job opportunities – and therefore business growth – is finding and nurturing the right skills. For the international market in particular, securing South African talent is key to competing effectively by delivering comparable or better customer experiences. Young people are a core component of the value we deliver to our clients, and our business simply wouldn’t be as successful if we were unable to attract and retain this valuable demographic.
Cognisant of the importance of the critical skills our business needs, in addition to ramping up our recruitment of young people, Webhelp has consistently invested in training and skills development, in the frame of long term career development. Not only does this mean that our people are staying with us for longer, it is also reducing the impact of wage inflation driven by a transient workforce – essentially individuals that ‘hop’ from job to job to secure a small salary increase.
In this context, our partnership with not-for-profit social enterprise, Harambee, in support of its Youth Accelerator programme is delivering remarkable results. In fact, today, Harambee accounts for a high proportion of our overall hires.
Above and beyond shared values, our success is due to the fact that Webhelp and Harambee have jointly developed a strong proposition to attract skills to the sector. In addition to opening up rewarding career opportunities for South Africa’s youth, it is building a quality pipeline of talent to support Webhelp’s business growth in this region. Thanks to Harambee’s scientific matching tools and behavioral readiness programmes, we have been able to build a sector specific competence profile meaning that we are able to recruit young people who are a good match for our business and our clients. Not only does this make the hiring process easier, it also reduces the quality and cost risks associated with hiring the wrong people.
Thanks to Harambee, we are able to access an untapped talent pool of young people from disadvantaged households. Although these individuals generally have no prior work experience, the combination of the support provided by Harambee in terms of work readiness, the strength of the jointly developed ‘matching tools’, and Webhelp’s approach to skills development, is really helping this demographic to change their lives. In addition, the partnership has been so successful that our largest UK client in South Africa has committed to sourcing at least a third of their 1,200 strong workforce through Harambee.
In summary, Harambee has been instrumental in creating a link between Webhelp and young people, and is also helping us embed a diverse and inclusive workplace representative of South Africa’s demographics.
As a company we are committed to tackling youth unemployment, so in addition to our partnership with Harambee, we have also responded to the Global Impact Sourcing Coalition’s (GISC) challenge to its members to hire 100,000 impact workers by the end of 2020. The Impact Sourcing Challenge is the first to specifically focus on impact sourcing as a way to increase employment and career development opportunities for disadvantaged people, and Webhelp South Africa has pledged to hire 400 new impact workers within this timeframe.
To conclude, we are convinced that the youth of South Africa is the backbone of Webhelp’s fast growing business and absolutely critical to our ongoing success. Our partnership with Harambee to mobilise young talent is therefore fundamental to Webhelp South Africa’s responsible and sustainable growth. We are delighted to be partnering with Harambee, and proud of the impact that we are having on youth unemployment.
Edited by Daniëlle Kruger
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