Tebogo Monakedi, Sub-Saharan Africa HR Directo at CHEP

South African businesses have a responsibility to not just create employment opportunities for the youth, but to empower young people to seize opportunities South Africa’s social challenges are well documented and much of the burden of those social challenges falls on our young people. 

Far from accepting this situation, it is the responsibility of South African business to work to repair it. As businesses, we not only need to create employment, but also to make our young people more employable. 

At CHEP, we embrace this responsibility, and we encourage organisations across the economy to do the same. We value inclusivity and diversity with a multi-generational workforce being a key driver in developing and grooming young people entering the workplace. 

We believe that the key to doing this is to operate without fear. Despite the economic headwinds, organisations must look to grow. Jobs are created when companies invest, expand and prepare for better days. Likewise, one needs to build systems that create a talent pool for the future. That way, we establish the capable workforce that will drive the recovery. 

For us, this happens by equipping the youth with the skills, the education and the knowledge to work as young professionals in a growing economy. Our solutions are fourfold. The CHEP Graduate Programme is a flagship opportunity – for our organisation, and for the young graduates we enlist in the programme. 

Young talent from our universities, our technical colleges and our tertiary institutions get the chance to acquire real-world skills and to build a worldwide network through our multinational business. 

Those skills are globally transferrable – within our organisation, and across any number of sectors. The graduate development programme is also critical for our business, in that graduates bring in new ideas, and challenge us to relook our ways of working. 

A second youth skills initiative is our Study Bursary Programme, which is open to the children of CHEP employees. We think of it as a direct investment in their futures, and ours. A third intervention is our Learnership Programme. 

We offer more than 100 year-long learnerships annually, where we provide training to young people who have completed high school. At the conclusion of their learnerships, some of these young people are absorbed into our business, while others move on to work in other sectors. 

In all our programmes, the skills we impart include general management skills that are broadly applicable. Graduates may find employment, but they are also equipped to start their own business in any sector where they see opportunity. 

This then feeds into our enterprise development programmes, where we identify smaller companies to invest in, with an eye to contracting them as suppliers in future – to our supply-chain business, our forestry operations or our timber-processing plants. 

Our In-service Training Programme is the most recent of our youth-development initiatives. Many tertiary qualifications require students to complete an in-service period before they can graduate, and we have designed a system to cater for these undergraduates, while also equipping them for the job market. 

Ongoing social upheaval in our country shows it is imperative that we constantly engage with our youth, working to create jobs, and empowering them to find work and create businesses of their own. 

Our youth relationships run deep – after all, young people are the foundation of our future. Besides our in-house youth empowerment programmes, we have a longstanding partnership with Enactus, the world’s largest experiential learning platform, where global business, academic and student leaders share their vision for a better, more sustainable world. 

We also partner with Christel House South Africa, supporting their work to break the cycle of poverty and building self-sufficient, contributing members of society. We are proud to be playing a small part in equipping our youth to take our country forward, and we encourage other corporates in their efforts to do the same. 

Only when we all do our bit, can we start to unlock the almost limitless potential of South Africa’s youth. 

By Tebogo Monakedi, Sub-Saharan Africa HR Directo at CHEP