As part of its contribution towards job creation, the sugar industry recently held the launch of the multi-million rand Youth Employment Programme (YEP).
“YEP is aimed at providing work for young black South Africans, with a strong bias towards females. Through this programme, we have created 80 new work opportunities for first-time job seekers – in February of this year, 48 matriculants and 32 graduates were placed throughout the sugar industry to gain two years of work experience,” said SASA Chairperson Hans Hackmann at the launch of the programme on 1 November 2019.
These young people are gaining workplace experience within the South African Cane Growers’ Association, South African Farmers Development Association, Tongaat Hullett Sugar, Illovo Sugar, Umfolozi Sugar, Gledhow Sugar, RCL FOODS and UCL Company. YEP forms part of the industry’s R1 billion transformation plan, with at least R10 million allocated to the critical programme. Giving their views on YEP, some of the beneficiaries at the launch expressed their gratitude to the industry for the work opportunity. According to progress reports from different industry members, the youngsters were doing exceptionally well, so much so that some had even got permanent job offers.
President Cyril Ramaphosa has made job creation one of the key priorities of his new administration. In his most recent State of the Nation Address, he spoke firmly about his plan to create two million jobs over the next 10 years – that is 200 000 new jobs per year specifically targeted at South Africa’s youth. “I believe that every effort aimed at job creation for young people must be made. Rome was not built in a day… and if we get the right support from government, the sugar industry’s contribution to the President’s plan of creating 2 million jobs will be exponentially more significant in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. So say YEP, let’s get the youth working,” said Hackmann.
He added: “We have also increased industry funding into our Grower Development Account Fund for the training of black sugarcane farmers and we have expanded this programme to include rural youth development. This initiative has resulted in 22 of the 80 youths undergoing training in the following disciplines through our Shukela Training Centre and through the Sugar Milling Research Institute: In Agriculture - Junior and Senior Certificate Course in sugarcane farming, and In Sugar Processing - Laboratory work, Routine Sugar Analysis, Factory Control Regulations, Juice Extraction, Clarification, Evaporation, and Pan Boiling.”
Speaking on behalf of SACGA, SAFDA and milling companies, Dieter Lutge, Lee Hlubi and Mduduzi Nkala all heaped praise on the programme and committed to it in the long run. They spoke with one voice with regards to how YEP was making a huge difference in the youngsters’ lives and making them more employable as it equipped with crucial skills and experience.
The sugar industry operates in the provinces of KwaZulu-Natal and Mpumalanga. It is a major player in the economies of rural communities where cane growing and milling activities take place. It creates at least 65 000 direct jobs and around 350 000 indirect jobs. At least a million people are dependent on the industry.