Over 100 enthusiastic young participants on the Department of Environmental Affairs’ Youth Environmental Services (YES) Programme are equipped to pursue careers in the green economy after having received their graduation certificates at a ceremony held in Caledon today.
This group is the latest intake of youths from disadvantaged backgrounds that have completed the year-long YES Programme, which has been implemented by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA) in the Western Cape over the past three years.
The YES Programme was created in response to two of the most significant issues facing our economy, namely the extremely high youth unemployment rate and the lack of skills amongst job seekers. The programme has addressed these issues by providing the previously unemployed participants with environmental skills training and by offering them structured workplace mentorship.
The skills training has been provided by WESSA’s Environmental Skills Development Unit in the form of a variety of LG-SETA accredited courses that have been presented since the start of 2013 to more than 375 YES Programme participants from Cape Town, Hermanus, George, Worcester, Grabouw, Oudtshoorn, Knynsa and Sedgefield. The participants have also benefited from non-accredited training in subjects such as Health and Safety, First Aid and Professional Development.
The workplace mentorship has been facilitated by WESSA by arranging job placements for the participants at various host organisations, which has given them an opportunity to gain practical work experience and to network with prospective employers. While these placements have been predominantly in the environmental sector, host organisations have also been from the education, local government, green business and the agricultural sectors. The variety of these host organisations has added a hugely to the diversity to the programme and to the applicability of the training to a number of different employment sectors. Without the input and nurturing received in these organisations the YES Programme participants would have certainly not have grown as much as they have.
At today’s ceremony in Caledon, a number of YES Programme participants from previous years had the opportunity to share their stories of success with this year’s graduates. These success stories include Randall Saptou and Phinando Ingo from Oudtshoorn, who received bursaries from the Department of Environmental Affairs to study further at the Southern African Wildlife College in Mpumalanga following their completion of the YES Programme in 2014. Verdi Alaart from George was a participant on the programme in 2013 and was then selected for an internship with the Cape West Coast Biosphere Reserve. Taryn Van Neel from Cape Town secured a permanent position with CTEET (Cape Town Environmental Education Trust) as an Environmental Educator after being hosted by them while on the programme in 2013. Says Taryn, “The WESSA YES Programme has given me so many opportunities to network and make positive changes to uplift my community. This programme has had a huge impact on my life and has been a stepping stone to achieving even greater things.”
The keynote address at the graduation ceremony was delivered by international motivational speaker, extreme adventurer, TV presenter, youth developer, conservationist and WESSA patron Braam Malherbe. He encouraged the graduates to take ownership of their futures by leading purpose-driven lives with integrity and a strong code of ethics, saying: “It is imperative that each and every one of us understands the inter-connectivity of all life and the important role us humans have in protecting our biodiversity”.
Speaking at the event WESSA senior project manager, Mandy Noffke, said: “This graduation event is a wonderful culmination of a year of learning and hard work for these enthusiastic participants on the DEA Youth Environmental Services programme. WESSA is proud to have been the implementer of this successful programme that has trained and mentored these young people who can now contribute to driving the green economy in the Western Cape.”
The YES Programme has been funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) under the auspices of the department’s EPIP (Environmental Protection and Implementation Programme) and guided by the government’s EPWP (Expanded Public Works Programme) job creation programme.