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YES, UJ partner to tackle the country’s youth unemployment crisis


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YES, UJ partner to tackle the country’s youth unemployment crisis

An image showing UJ Professor Letlhokwa George Mpedi & Yes CEO Ravi Naidoo signing a memorandum of understanding
Professor Letlhokwa George Mpedi and Yes CEO Ravi Naidoo signing the Mou

3rd August 2023

By: Tasneem Bulbulia
Senior Contributing Editor Online


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Private sector jobs engine the Youth Employment Service (YES) and the University of Johannesburg (UJ) have committed to collaborate on a range of initiatives to provide skills, training and entrepreneurship programmes for South Africa’s youth.

Through UJ’s Johannesburg Business School Centre for Entrepreneurship and Institute for Intelligent Systems, YES Youth will have access to UJ’s portfolio of massive open online courses (MOOCs) in the fields of entrepreneurship and artificial intelligence.


The two entities are also jointly establishing start-up incubation programmes for youth who have successfully completed the YES Siyazakhela Entrepreneurship training programme.

Currently, all YES Youth have access to the Siyazakhela-accredited training through the zero-rated YES phone app. Beneficiaries of this partnership will include all active YES Youth, as well as YES alumni who have completed their employment term through YES.


YES is a private-sector initiative focused on promoting social mobility. It works with businesses to place or sponsor unemployed youth in 12-month quality work experiences that are fully funded by the private sector, giving them the quality work experiences and skills that they need to secure future employment.

These include placements into various high-impact sectors like global business services, creative, drones, tourism, digital and mining. YES has created over 116 000 work experiences in the past four years.

In addition to enabling YES Youth to access UJ’s online AI training courses, UJ and YES are jointly creating a broader Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) training programme to ensure that South African youth possess the necessary digital skills and insights they need to thrive in the modern workplace.

The programme will include an entrepreneurship stream that supports enterprising YES Youth to leverage AI technologies to build innovative and resilient businesses based on the latest technologies and business models.

Speaking at the signing of a memorandum of understanding, UJ vice-chancellor Professor Letlhokwa George Mpedi said the two bodies were already actively exploring ways to collaborate to achieve their respective mandates and objectives.

“As a university, we don’t only want to graduate job seekers. We want to graduate job creators. UJ is ranked first in South Africa in terms of our impact and second in Africa’s higher education rankings, so entrepreneurship is extremely important to us. We look forward to working with YES to confront one of the biggest challenges facing our country right now,” said Mpedi.

YES CEO Ravi Naidoo said the two parties shared a common purpose of societal impact, and the partnership would provide “significant synergies” in the drive to increase youth employment levels in South Africa.

“One of the most important foundations for our country’s future is the youth – and the biggest endowment we can give them is skills, training and experience that are not only already in demand today, but that will also serve them well into the future.

“What’s exciting for us is that UJ has a clear vision for preparing its students for the future through its in-depth expertise in areas like AI and technologies that support the 4IR,” Naidoo averred. 


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