A Secret Weapon in Job Hunting

I spent 6 hours today in a training session on finance for School Governing Bodies (a story for another time). Right at the end of the session someone said the following:

“ … we need to be teaching children to give not take. Apartheid killed giving, our communities were earning so little there was nothing left to give. Kids are used to putting their hands out, and taking.  We’ve forgotten how to give; we have to reintroduce this into our classes. We have to teach our kids to give.”

I’d been thinking about volunteering over the last few weeks. It’s an issue that we’ve discussed at Grow a number of times. 

Volunteering and Youth Unemployment

In South Africa in 2014, there were more than 2.2 million volunteers, contributing more than 600 million hours. This is the equivalent of nearly 300,000 full-time jobs. Most of these volunteers, volunteer directly for family or their community; less than a third volunteer through organisations (http://www.statssa.gov.za/?p=5433).

When we talk about youth unemployment, I just wonder if we aren’t missing one of the effective ways of helping young people get ahead.  Volunteering is a great way for young people to get started in the job market. There are so many unemployed youth who leave school with their matric and hope for the future. What they don’t realise that they are now in the same position as so many other school leavers.  Effective job search is about making yourself stand out amongst all the other candidates. There are many ways to do that, from making your CV stand out, interviewing brilliantly, or saying thank you after an interview. But even if they do all these things, where unemployed youth often fall down is that they have no experience to add to their CV.

Volunteering is a great way to start gaining experience and building up skills while you look for work. Depending where you volunteer you can get experience in working with customers, administration, finance, retail – the opportunities are endless. 

Doggy Day Care and SGBs

One of our younger volunteers started volunteering at a doggy day care (he loves animals) at the beginning of the year, and two months later he was offered a job. He’s now been there for over six months. Not only has he learnt so much more about dogs, but he’s also learnt how act in the workplace, how to interact with customers and other members of the team. He hasn’t always got it right, but he has learnt quickly and adapted his behaviour to his work environment.  He hasn’t decided what career he wants to follow going forward, but what this voluntary position and then job will show on his CV is that he is committed, and stick to something, can learn from others and understands what is required in a work place.

Another young job seeker was elected onto a School Governing Body (SGB). This is a great thing to have on her CV. It shows her involvement in the community, and being in a position of Governor at the school, and now Treasurer, it has helped her develop a range of skills. She is responsible for bank reconciliations, helping with the budget, checking the finance policy and other tasks. She actively contributes to meetings, and plays a key role in the school. As a position holder on the SGB she also gets access to training courses, which will look great on her CV. 

The Challenges of Volunteering

Volunteering isn’t always easy though. When people are desperate for work, and desperate to earn something for their family, then the thought of spending time doing something for free just feels ridiculous. It’s hard when you are desperate and discouraged to see the bigger picture. But volunteering can actually quicken job searches, and get unemployed youth ahead of other candidates.  In these situations, when going to volunteer the candidate can always agree to hours that would leave them time to continue to look for work. Or they may be able to negotiate to use the internet during break times. In the case, of the person who joined the SGB, they even had access to free training. Or in the case of my son, get offered a job. Volunteering can really be worth it.  Another common challenge is transport costs – these can really mount up. We encourage young people to look for opportunities locally, that won’t cost them anything to get there. It might be that the organisation they are volunteering at will be willing to pay travel. Some organisations are actually established to put youth into volunteering opportunities. We work with Action Volunteer Africa and we’ve had some great volunteers. 

The Power of a Reference Letter

We tell all our candidates that once they have been at their volunteering position for a month, to ask the organisation for a reference letter. That letter should be attached to their CV when they make copies. The letter should include the following:

  • it should be written on headed pape
  • it should state the date they started volunteering
  • the volunteering position they are filling
  • their duties
  • the organisation’s experience of the individual to date, in terms of
    • time-keeping
    • following instruction
    • taking initiative
    • getting on with team members
    • their attitude when challenged
    • their strengths
    • areas they can develop
  • it should finish with a statement about whether they would recommend the volunteer to an organisation for a paid position

At Grow, we believe we need to help change the perception of volunteering as an option for unemployed youth. The payoff from adding a volunteering position to a CV can be significant.

Tabitha Wright-Ingle, of 1FM, interviews Crosby Hunda and Henrico Esau of Grow Recruitment

Tabitha [00:00:16] So could you tell us just a little bit about how Grow Recruitment started and why it did?

Crosby [00:00:23] So it started about a year and a half ago by Alfred Botha and a lady by the name of Bev Meldrum. Alfred has 20 years’ experience in the industry and he’s been connected with Bev, working on various projects mainly youth unemployment projects and Foster CPT (Foster Cape Town). Bev has about 20 years’ experience in social entrepreneurship. They came together and they were working on youth unemployment and youth projects in South Africa and decided to branch out from that and started Grow Recruitment – where the focus was on youth unemployment.

Tabitha [00:01:16] So what are some of the services that you provide with Grow Recruitment?

Crosby [00:01:27] Grow Recruitment is like any other regular recruitment agency. The difference is that we are fighting a really huge problem – youth unemployment, especially in our disadvantaged communities. It’s a very critical problem; and it’s a national problem. The main service we offer, other than just helping youth get experience in different work environments and job shadowing opportunities, is permanent placements. We also help them with their CV, ensuring their CV is well presented, and ready to show off to prospective employers. And the other thing that we focus on is job readiness. We work with partner organisations to make sure these youths are ready and they know what they need to do once they are employed.

Tabitha [00:02:44] Because youth unemployment increased in the first quarter of this year to 27.6% which is increasing quite radically.

Crosby [00:02:58] The funny thing is that you know it’s not really just a South African problem, but an African problem, a third world problem – especially in disadvantaged communities. They don’t have people or connections that can help them move from high school into a career or anyone they can call and ask advice to get them  to the next level. So what we are doing differently as opposed to any recruitment agency is that we are actually taking the initiative to go out into the communities. We come to the young people, as opposed to them coming to us. We’ll sit down with them and go through their CV, to make sure it is the best presentation of them and their skill set. Often they are so desperate and when we ask them what they want to do, they say anything. We always try and make sure that we ask them what they want to do, and what they are passionate about. If you don’t have an idea of what you’re passionate about, I’ll ask you what do you think when it’s Sunday when you don’t have anything to do? I always use this example, because when you are by yourself, with nothing to do, and you are sitting at home, you can find yourself imagining what you will be doing in your future, that’s when you find the things you are passionate about. Give me that and then you can start working for us. So once we find the passion and the love of what they want to do then we try to help them career wise and see where they can fit within, the various industries.

Tabitha [00:04:44] We are back with Grow Recruitment and we are chatting to these two gentlemen who know what it’s all about out there. Jobs are scarce; a lot of people are unemployed. So tell us, how do you go about growing that talent pool. What is the process from start to finish in helping others out there.

Henrico [00:05:04] Hi, I’m Henrico from Grow Recruitment. What we usually do is on a Tuesday we go to the I-CAN Centre in Elsie’s River, from 10 – 12 noon. And that is where we will do the intake of CVs of different young people, particularly from that area.   Some of them don’t know how to put together a CV together, and some don’t have access to internet facilities – and that means we can offer this service to them. We do the screening also as well. When we sit with them, we try to find out what type of job they want. Too often people tend to want to take any kind of work, because they need the income, and then they find themselves depressed and not happy and they end up leaving.  

Tabitha [00:05:50] Yes, and they only end up staying in it for a certain period of time and its not really what they wanted to do in the first place.

Henrico [00:05:52] Many of them lack knowledge about the process, and don’t know how to go about it. Also, where the crime rate in our country is concerned, the crime rate is up where youth unemployment is up. So we have focused our business on fighting youth unemployment, like Crosby said, what we also do for companies is get staff who live close by, to save the company from losses relating to people coming late to work. But basically we do everything for screening of the person, including background checks; everything before we take them to the next level.

Crosby [00:06:35] Just to just to add one thing to what Henrico was saying, as he is coming through on an administrative position. I mostly trying from a marketing and communications angle. So what we do, or what I do, on the team on a daily basis, we start off on our Facebook page and let youth know what we are doing right now and where we will be in the week – at the I-CAN Centre every Tuesday from 10am to 12 noon. We always get a huge response from that – which from one perspective which is great as we are getting engagement. But at the same time it means that there are lots of people unemployed. And the reason why they’re unemployed – it’s hard out there – there are no opportunities out there for them.  So for us, through social media, when we are trying to talk about Grow Recruitment – it’s easy with the job seekers because they are looking for work. But it’s harder working and collaborating with these community organisations. So after we post on Facebook I do a lot of research, which is a key part of my job. I know a lot of friends who also come from different backgrounds and they’re still struggling. They’re well educated, they’ve got all the relevant qualifications they need but they still can’t get jobs. So I do a lot of research across different areas in Cape Town, where are focusing for now. But we do want to branch out to every corner of South Africa. So once you do the research we look at what other social enterprises are doing. If there are any social enterprise organisations out there that are doing something similar or something that speaks of language then we reach out, and this is what we did with I-CAN we reached out to them. I-CAN is a community centre that offers short term personal development skills training, where you don’t need any sort of qualification to do these courses. They actually offered for free fee, I think – they only pay an amount to join. Forgive me if any of my information may be incorrect. Basically the I-CAN Centre offers you an opportunity to develop those skills, which is clearly what we are also trying to do, and also ties in to helping people become job ready. So it made sense for us to partner with I-CAN. We now liaise on a regular basis about what events we want to do. Once we are at I-CAN we have other youth come in, some without CVs who are looking for employment.

Tabitha [00:09:56]  Yes, because how do they cope out there anyway? Some people don’t even have computers to type up a CV, let alone how to type it or event get it to you by email or the internet. 

Crosby [00:10:11] Many of the youth are actually not comfortable using this new technology and don’t even understand how it works. It’s funny I was under the assumption that most of the youth actually see our posts on Facebook, but it’s actually through word of mouth, from the small number of youth that actually see the posts. Every time we go there and we ask how they found out about us, they will say that ‘someone told me that they saw it on Facebook’. So that’s really working. But the thing is when they do come through they don’t have CVs, which we’re happy to do that, because we are out here to help communities. So there’s someone who’s always going to be dedicated to help actually writing the CV from scratch if need be.

Tabitha [00:11:18] Do you go to any of the communities yourselves or do you just go to that I-CAN Centre?

Crosby [00:11:25] We have also been to St. Cyprian’s Church in Langa, we are also in collaboration with them. So if anyone is listening to this show right now please feel free to reach out. We are opening hubs in communities in Cape Town and we want these hubs to be self-sufficient. So basically we want to create this hubs because we don’t want these youth looking for jobs to wait. For example, if you’re staying in Khayelitsha, I don’t want you to work in Cape Town because there’s going to be an issue of transport and people are always complaining about bus rides and train delays.  So just to add to what Henrico said, is one of the key selling points is that we try our best to place people close to their place of residence. What that does is improve productivity within the workplace. So when you start work at 8am you can always be on time. Many of these positions are minimum wage, as many of our youth are from disadvantaged communities and most of them don’t carry a lot of qualifications. So we make sure that we help them understand that you might you will by working if you stay in Elsie’s River and you’re working in Epping Industrial  it’ll make sense to you. One, you will save money as your money won’t go to transport, so you can actually save it to take care of other expenses. It’s always going to be early at your workplace. That’s another key issue that people don’t realise …

Tabitha [00:13:14] … and the traffic is hectic here in Cape Town. Oh my goodness I’ve spent two hours on my way to the CBD the once, I thought oh my gosh, I’m not going there again.

Crosby [00:13:23] So you’d be surprised if you actually tried to do numbers on how many people are laid off from work, just because they get to work late. And it says a lot about you if you’re not time conscious, how you treat your job or your workplace. So we try to eliminate all that and you know it always works in the best interests of us, as an organisation because it looks good on paper, and  You know it’s organization because we look good on paper good and it also makes the employees look good. Some of these employees may be employed on a casual basis, let’s say for example one of the factories that we work with in Epping Industrial.

Tabitha [00:14:04] So do you do temporary employment and permanent? 

Crosby [00:14:09] So we do a whole array of employment which is from job shadowing, internships paid or not paid because we are trying to get these youth to get some sort of experience at first and exposure to the work environment. So job shadowing, internships, casual employment, part time, permanent, contractual, whatever the case might be. Any opportunity is good enough opportunity for someone out there. So whatever opportunity you have, come over to our website or Facebook page. We are welcoming and we’re open to taking opportunities because there is always something for someone out there.

Tabitha [00:14:50] Absolutely.

Henrico [00:14:55] We also have WhatsApp number also where they can just screenshot it and send it onto the WhatsApp group and then we take it from there. Also with the companies we try to partner with, and that does not always job recruitment opportunities. We always try to partner with them to see if there are any learnership opportunities they have or any internships opportunities. So both ways it’s a win-win. And basically we just focus on the youth, to solve the unemployment problem in our country because it’s about the youth at the end of the day.

Tabitha [00:15:34] It all begins there and then you start growing up. And well even elderly people now have issues finding jobs as well. Qualifications or not.

Henrico [00:15:49] I’m speaking from my personal experience I had a lady that is over 60 and came and spoke to me when I did the I-CAN screening myself and she was actually wanting to work still. And she was saying she went to a number of different places, but they weren’t employing her because of her age. It’s difficult to describe how I felt, that old lady who would want to work, struggling.

Tabitha [00:16:15] That was going to be my other question. What sort age ranges and all that? What do you do now?

Henrico [00:16:20] What we do is we try to accommodate people from different age groups – from young to old alike. So with that lady, they tried to place her in some sort of domestic type of a job, where she could work three days a week. She was saying she couldn’t cope with just a pension and in most of the situations in the disadvantaged communities, it’s like that. Their children and grandchildren don’t work and live off grants that the parents or grandparents get. We’re trying to break that chain – that’s the only way you can solve something like this – you break the chain. We also do placements for people with disabilities. 

Tabitha [00:17:18] That’s fantastic. Now with disabled people, I’m assuming it’s people in wheelchairs, so do they still have to go to that centre or do you go to them.

Crosby [00:17:30] Thank for actually saying that, I forgot to mention that. So that’s what we’re trying to do. There are a  substantial number of disabled youth that are really interested in learning more about Grow Recruitment and how they can get their next career opportunity. We get together a group, and talk through what they want. But the reason is that you know it may not be easy for them to commit on a regular basis. So we’re still making the final decision regarding that, but hopefully you know you can do something we want to do on a regular basis that you say every once in a month or twice a month we can invite disabled youth that are looking for new opportunities.

The changing face of work

Recently we asked Crosby Hunda, our Marketing & Communications lead, to reflect on an event he attended …

Grow Recruitment has been a member of the Cape Chamber of Commerce since we were established in 2018. I always look out for their newsletter as their events are great places to network, and often discuss interesting topics. When I saw that the next event was a presentation on the 2019 Deloitte Human Capital Trends Report for South Africa, I signed up immediately.

What most interested me on the agenda was a discussion on the 4th Industrial Revolution and how it is going to bring about disruption to the political, economic, and social-fabric sphere. The expectation was that it will have significant impacts on work, workers, and employers like never before.

When talking about the 4th Industrial Revolution there has to be consideration given to the future relationship between Human Capital and Artificial Intelligence and how to two can work together. The human experience is right at the core of this discussion, with the main question being – what are organisations doing to keep humans relevant within the work space? How can human workers and AI work together?

At the event there were three main areas of discussion:

  • The future of the workforce

In the coming years, it will be essential to manage freelancers, remote workers and contract employees more strategically. The workforce will expect more from their employers in regards to this. With the increase in AI, another issue will arise, of how to integrate robotics and human employees.

As AI is being incorporated more in organisations – the shifts in the working environment and work patterns will need to be understood and managed in a way that positively impacts the companies involved. As “super jobs” continue to evolve – combining digital work done by AI, and human skills of problem solving, communication, interpretation and design – new opportunities and new types of work will be developed.

  • The future of organisations

Organisations will need to put more focus on human capital – showing the value that employees bring to companies through more than just monetary rewards. Ensuring staff feel valued, team-based approaches, new mindsets, ideas and ways of working will all play a more important role in the workplace.

  • The future of HR

Sourcing qualified candidates and graduates for jobs or internship opportunities will move to being based on their experience, qualifications and life experiences, rather than limited to tertiary qualifications. Companies such as Deloitte now not focusing solely on tertiary qualifications anymore, but rather look at the experience, passion and raw talent of youth looking for their next career break.

From our perspective, at Grow Recruitment, we welcome this move. Qualifications are important, but the young people we meet out in the communities have so much more to offer, and are often over-looked.

This was a particularly relevant workshops in regards to our work at Grow Recruitment. Considering how the workforce, companies and HR will change over the coming years is important for us, as we change and adapt our services to the new era.

We need candidates on our books that is ready for this changed environment, we need to understand our clients’ needs in this changing time and we, as a company ourselves, need to be more human centred in our own work, making sure that we know what the job seekers’ needs and wants are, so that we can better understand how we can help them grow as individuals and career wise.

We also need to update and innovate in the way we work with our candidates and the data we collect. Developments in IT, and in particular AI, will offer us more creative ways to aide young people in getting into work. And new connections with innovators can help adjust our strategic direction as needed and create new partnerships.  

You can have a look at the presentation from the workshop by following this link – https://www2.deloitte.com/za/en/pages/human-capital/articles/2019-deloitte-global-human-capital-trends-.html#

10 things we have learnt about working with unemployed youth in South Africa …

1. Community organisations play a vital role in the fight against youth unemployment

Community organisations – be they youth projects, religious organisations, schools or even key community members – are vital in the fight against youth unemployment. They are the ones who know the community, and the people within it. Through the networks they have built within the communities, often for many years, they know who the unemployed youth are – or they know the people, who know the unemployed youth are.
In many cases, they have also often been working with the youth on development programmes. It could be personal and spiritual development through religious programmes, training courses that are offered, or mentoring. Or it could be more informal than that – we have met many people who care deeply for their community, and show it through supporting, encouraging and mentoring the youth around them. 
For our work at Grow, community organisations are vital as an entry point into communities. Working alongside well respected community organisations allows us to enter these communities. People may not know us, but they do know the partners we work with, so we gain a level of credibility through them. Our partners are doing amazing work and we are proud to work with them. 

2. Companies want to help fight youth unemployment but they often don’t know how

It doesn’t help that often recruitment companies have a bad name, or irritate HR departments with repeated phone calls. But when we do get far enough to tell people about our focus on unemployed youth in disadvantaged areas, then almost everyone we speak to is interested and wants to know more. We have some amazing people in companies that we work for, who are keen to find ways to get involved. And we know there must be more people out there that would love the opportunity to get involved. 

3. There are some great young people in communities, who are struggling to find work

We have met some amazing young people in communities. Passionate, intelligent, eager to learn, respectful and ready to get started. Some have finished matric, and others didn’t get that far. Some want to be nurses, others want to work in big business, some are fascinated by factories, logistics and how systems work, others love social media and marketing, others are creative and others love computers. Other young people, don’t know what they want to do, but they want to find out. 

4. It’s all about the access to opportunities

The biggest issue we have come across is connecting opportunities to the youth who are ready and waiting. We know the opportunities are out there, and we know the youth are there. But the companies, colleges and organisations with the opportunities often complain that they can’t find the right candidates.
The young people struggle to find out about opportunities – the information just doesn’t get to them. It might be that its just posted on a website, and the young person doesn’t have data, or that they only find out after the deadline. But the biggest thing that holds people back is the ‘expert advice’ that is spread around communities. The entrepreneurial CV writers who use a template to do people’s CVs, that do not sell the candidate and become the ’same’ as the other 300 CVs on the HR manager’s desk. Those that say that the best way to get a job is the get as many CVs printed up as possible, and drop them at an employers, because someone said, that someone they knew, knew someone who got a job that way. 
We have to get better advice, and expertise to our young people. 

5. It’s impossible to think of the future when you are desperate 

It does not matter how amazing or qualified the young person is, if their situation at home is desperate, they won’t be able to think about making strategic choices in relation to their career path. This is why, we aim to get people working as quickly as possible. Only once they are working, some money is coming in – even if it is an entry level position – and the initial panic is over, can we start working them on longer-term career planning. We take this approach, for the same reason that the Harambee Youth Accelerator make peanut butter sandwiches for their candidates – if basic needs are not met, then no young person can be expected to be at their best. 

6. Low marks does not necessarily mean what you think it does

We far too easily judge our young people by their matric certificate, and in particular when it comes to marks for mathematics. For example, the coding programme who only take on youth who have high marks in mathematics and IT. Our challenge to them was what about those young people who have the potential to be expert coders, but who had bad teaching at maths, and happened to go to a school where IT wasn’t an option. What about them?
There are so many factors that impact the marks young people achieve at school. It could be the quality of teaching, it could be the fact that the school was without a teacher for half the year, or the basics in primary school weren’t taught well. Or it could be a home situation, or the fact that they leave for school before 6am and only get home after 7pm. 
As the Chair of a School Governing Body for a school in Salt River, Cape Town and I see situations like these all the time. Some children from our school only get picked up past 5pm, delays with the WCED have meant classes have been without teachers while the paperwork gets sorted, some teachers are great at teaching maths and inspiring children, others aren’t, often due to poor teaching themselves.   
Let not just measure our youth on their matric marks, if in fact they made it that far. It may have been out of control. 

7. Matric certificates aren’t needed for everything

Without sounding too much like we are getting on our soap box, we do get very frustrated by some types of opportunities that are only made available to those with matric certificates. We get it – the pool of unemployed youth is huge, and you want the best – the matric certificate is an easy way to filter candidates. And, with funding available for courses, there are benefits in focusing on those with metrics. 
But when we see courses for shelf-filling, only open to those with matric then we think its gone too far. Not only does it exclude huge numbers of young people who don’t have matric. But we wonder, does it not make the the matric qualification worthless? That all you are qualified for, with a matric, is getting onto a training programme to learn how to pack shelves. 

8. Everyone has a dream

No matter how desperate someone is due what life has thrown at them, we believe that everyone has a dream – even if it’s buried deep in their sub conscious. At some point, even if it was when they were a child there was someone they were inspired to become – a teacher, a fireman, a secretary (one little boy we know wants to be a school secretary). We want to work with each individual job seeker to discover what they are passionate about and where their strengths lie – even if they aren’t sure themselves.

9. Youth need ongoing mentoring

When I think back to when I had our first job, I remember how little I knew and how many mistakes I made. And I had the benefits of a stable home life, great education and role models around me of people who were always in permanent work. Not everyone gets a start like that. My first job was a cashier in a supermarket, then I worked stacking shelves in the equivalent of Clicks. I had access to opportunities that others haven’t. I benefitted from mentors around me. 
All young people – and actually, all adults – benefit from mentoring. Whether it’s someone more experienced at work, a student a few years ahead, or an external expert, having a mentor to reflect on situations with, ask questions of and run through scenarios can greatly accelerate someone’s learning.
We can’t assume that young people, even those who passed matric, have been surrounded by role models in regards to work. In these cases, mentoring is even more important. This is why we continue to support our youth when they are in work. 

10. We are on this journey with some great organisations

We aren’t the only organisation working to fight youth unemployment. We share this space with some great projects doing amazing work – YES, Harambee and Timu are just three. We are grateful there are others, as we each take a slightly different approach, which means we can, together, get even more unemployed youth into work!