Regional Focus – Changing Lives Through Training and Employment

By Jessie Taylor

Free State is the latest province to benefit from a government programme that will look to create thousands of employment opportunities. Through the Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF), the Labour Activation Programme (LAP) is set up to provide training that will upskill youth for employment and entrepreneurship. The Labour Activation Programme was recently launched in the Free State by Employment and Labour Minister Thulas Nxesi. The programme offers training for between 12 and 36 months, with participants attached to job post training that will allow them to obtain experience.

Upskilling And Empowering

The Minister said that the Department of Employment and Labour has set aside R23.8-billion to fund the training for employment and entrepreneurship programme. The labour activation programmes run over multiple sectors, including agriculture, services, IT, construction, engineering, wholesale and retail, safety and security, hospitality, social services, textile and transport. Participants who will be hired and trained in the programme will be selected through the Department of Employment and Labour’s Employment Services of South Africa database.

The labour activation programmes are expected to be rolled out in all provinces by the end of May. The Labour Activation Programme was created under the mandate of the Department of Employment and Labour to stimulate job creation, enhance the employability of the unemployed, preserve existing jobs and improve operational efficiencies of companies in distress.

The Programme Aim To:

  • Create opportunities for employment
  • Skill and re-skill of unemployed people
  • Combat long-term unemployment
  • Alleviate poverty and reduce unemployment

The Unemployment Insurance Fund (UIF) harnesses its partnerships to deliver the Labour Activation Programme on behalf of the department. The intent is to create two million work opportunities in the immediate future. This is in line with the National Development Plan, which envisions the creation of 11 million new jobs by 2030. There are currently 25 approved projects committing jobs and enterprise development opportunities to approximately 69 000 unemployed beneficiaries. Minister Nxesi said that in the face of rising unemployment, all efforts to create employment in South Africa should be welcomed.

“It is very important that we respond to the challenge of unemployment, and plan together to implement strategies to mitigate it on an ongoing basis. We believe that the government, working together with all stakeholders, has a major role to play in mitigating unemployment, and creating and preserving jobs,” said the Minister.

Building The Provincial Economy

Free State Premier Mxolisi Dukwana says the province has been working to lessen the burden of unemployment. Unemployment in the Free State fell from 38.5% in the third quarter of 2023 to 37% in the fourth quarter – with much of this due to the interventions brought by government programmes such as the Expanded Public Works Programme and the Presidential Employment Stimulus.

Premier Dukwana said since 2019, the province has created 282 907 work opportunities against a five-year target of 260 000 work opportunities through the Expanded Public Works Programme (EPWP). Minister Nxesi believes that those who possess appropriate and relevant skills are able to access available job opportunities to sustain themselves and their families. “The possession of appropriate skills becomes the single most critical asset for individuals, businesses and societies. Many experts agree that building basic skills from early childhood, and developing and improving the quality of skills is essential. The importance of skills is even more important today with the advent of the fourth industrial revolution, which brings with it increasing automation and digitisation,” said Minister Nxesi. He added that the problem of unemployment cannot be solved by the Department alone.

“It is everyone’s responsibility, and we need to continue forging collaborative partnerships. What we’re facing is both an individual tragedy and a community and social tragedy, as well as an economic one. We have a range of government interventions that are very good in cushioning the effect of poverty and unemployment,” said the Minister. “As the Department, we have decided to establish partnerships, to make employment our mission, and to fund interventions that provide training to our youth and to access formal entry-level jobs that will give them an opportunity to grow.”

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