About 270 learnership opportunities are to be created in the environmental and ecotourism sectors through the Youth Environmental Services (YES) Programme. This comes after 81 previously-unemployed youngsters from around the Free State youth graduated from the programme.
Funded by the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), and implemented by the Wildlife and Environment Society of South Africa (WESSA), the YES Programme is a youth skills-training programme that is being implemented across the province. According to DEA’s Ntokozo Sibeko the programme aims to create 270 learnership opportunities in the environmental and ecotourism sectors for unemployed, disadvantaged youth between the ages of 18 and 35.
The graduates took part in the programme for a year during which they were placed with local host organisations to gain marketable skills and work experience. These include Rustfontein Nature Reserve, various municipalities, EnviroWorks Consultancy, NSPCA, Kopano Kopeng Country Lodge, Aha Hotel, and Tempe Golf Course among others.
Free State MEC of Environmental Affairs, Limakatso Mahasa, expressed concern over high levels of unemployment throughout the province. According to Mahasa the graduates have earned for themselves a place in the green economy, helping to develop a more sustainable future for themselves and for their local communities.
A number of the young people who have exited the programme over the course of the year, left to start their own small businesses, returned to tertiary education or took up full-time employment. – Nomaqhawe Mtebele