Youth@Work is a South African organisation devoted to providing access to work placement, internships and educational programmes to young people in South Africa. Youth@Work is both an Implementation Partner of the state’s Youth Employment Service and an Alison collaborator. The Alison Blog caught up with Youth@Work’s Director Erica Kempken, as well as two successful Youth@Work graduates, to find out more about this inspiring project and to learn how free education and training are helping to empower young South Africans.

Youth@Work prides itself on producing “employable, empowered, and well-rounded individuals”. By providing young people with quality hosted placements in school settings, Youth@Work give young South Africans the opportunities to gain invaluable experience in teaching as well as other skills fundamental to running a school, such as accounting. They also facilitates dynamic and supported work experience with small businesses and local initiatives. As well as gaining access to all-important experience, all participants are paired with supervisors who provide mentoring and coaching.

Youth@Work uses Alison’s free online learning to help empower the young people they’re helping set out on the road to employment. “We have been collaborating with Alison for almost two years now and have had many of our youth complete a number of the courses on the Alison platform,” says Director Erica Kempken. “Since September 2020, we have youth registering for the courses through the portal on our website. We have noticed the value of the courses to our youth and would like to strengthen our work with Alison and promote the courses more widely.”

Youth@Work avail of Alison Groups, a tool which allows them to monitor the progress of their students by seeing what courses they are taking and the grades they are achieving. “The Groups functionality works well,” says Erica. “We use it as a tracking tool. The capability of seeing how far an individual has progressed is useful and allows us to engage with the youth to explore why they are not progressing further.”


Youth@Work have provided over 1200 young people with placements this year and foresee huge growth in the immediate future as the covid-19 pandemic has highlighted the crisis in South African education, as well as exacerbating the challenge many young South Africans face in gaining employment. However despite the pandemic conditions, Youth@Work have had countless success stories in the last twelve months, including Sabelo Ngcobo and Molemo Mashigo.

Sabelo Ngcobo is from the province of KwaZulu-Natal, south of Durban. After matriculating from high school, he studied Business Administration as well as Financial Literacy with ABSA bank. 

Sabelo, tell us about your experience with Youth@Work.

“I got involved with the Youth@Work programme through my previous college, where I was studying Business Administration. After finishing my studies, I received a call from them telling me about the opportunity and I was happy to take it. My experience with Youth@Work was amazing. Thanks to them, I now have two years work experience. Youth@Work offered me the opportunity to be part of their programme and, through the programme, I was placed at a school as a teacher’s assistant for one year. After that year, I was offered a School Governing Body post for six months. (The School Governing Body is a committee elected by parents to represent them and to make sure that the school operates efficiently.) I also got the opportunity to be part of the presidential programme. (The presidential programme is an initiative by the President of South Africa to reduce unemployment.) 

How did you find using Alison?

Youth@Work introduced me to lots of other helpful platforms to help me further my studies, like Alison. I enjoy studying through Alison and I have gained the following qualifications: Dealing With Difficult People In Life & Work, Diploma in Supply Chain Management, Merchandising and Data Capturing. Alison courses have helped me a lot in my career. I am now able to apply for different jobs and I also learned a lot from their courses that assisted me in growing my gardening business.

Where are you working now?

I am currently working for Mbalasi Primary School and I also have my own gardening services company and currently employ three people. My hope is that, in the future, I will be one of the most successful business people in KwaZulu-Natal.

Molemo Mashigois a football player, coach, photographer and graphic designer from Gauteng Province.

Molemo, how did you get involved with Youth@Work?

“My Youth@Work journey began in January 2020 with a workshop aimed at teaching us how to conduct ourselves as professional coaches. Coaches have a duty that is often overlooked by society. It’s considered unimportant that we coach children for a few hours each week but we play an important part in the children’s lives. We instill morals and values and build social skills. How we carry ourselves in our roles is important and this was highlighted during the course. A few weeks later I was fully introduced to Erica and the Youth@Work team.”

How has Youth@Work affected you?

Youth@Work has greatly impacted me and it’s been a fun journey of discovery through the modules that Youth@Work encouraged me to take. I could see the difference in myself as I was doing things with more purpose. I wasn’t just waking up, showing up for work and leaving but instead understanding the dynamics of a community and how everyone is important. 

Tell us about your experience of studying with Alison. What courses have you taken?

It was challenging in the beginning as, with self-study, there is no one there to baby you to study and complete courses. I was curious about Photography, Graphic Design and Social Media. The coronavirus course was also insightful and informative. The global pandemic has affected so many healthcare systems and economies and so much is rapidly changing. Alison courses encourage students to experiment and read more on the topics and to put theory into practice. I found using Alison Groups helpful during assessments. If we didn’t get it right the first time around, we could keep trying and guide each other.

How have Alison courses helped you in your career?

 So what am I doing with the knowledge I’ve gained? Well, I started Clueless – a sports show on Instagram appreciating women in sports. There are so many clueless people when it comes to women in sports, so I interview athletes and share their stories and break the stigma that women can’t be professional athletes. My show developed into Clueless Media – photography, videography and content creation for both events and products. I approach small and medium sized enterprises and offer to create a package that will assist them by giving them a professional look with custom logos and also marketing strategies to increase sales. This has all been made possible through pointers from Alison modules. I’ve brought it all together to improve my life. And not just for me, but for my parents, who are both well over sixty. The work enables me to provide medication, food and other essentials. It’s fulfilling because they have taken care of me all these years. Now its my turn to look after them.

Click here to learn more about South Africa Youth@Work and the great work they’re doing to empower young South Africans through education and training.

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