Pretoria — Investment in youth programmes is a necessity for South Africa, says Deputy Minister for Performance, Monitoring and Evaluation Obed Bapela.
Bapela was speaking at the launch of the Commonwealth Youth Work conference on Education and Training of Youth Workers at the University of South Africa (Unisa) on Thursday.
Bapela said the 2011 Census result has confirmed that the youth population has grown in South Africa, almost 50 percent of the age group between 15 and 35 half the population.
"We need as South Africa and the African continent to really put in resources to invest in preparing for these young people for their bright future.
"The youth are assets who will take the country forward and ensure that there is growth and development, if we don't do so, they are going to be too costly and are going to be a cost to society, instead of developing the country, government will have to give them social grants, this is not how we want to develop our society.
"As leaders within the African continent, we need to put resources on youth programmes without asking questions we need to spend more money in preparing these young people," he said.
Deputy Minister Bapela said ignoring the plight of youth workers will have dire consequences for decades to come, because as frontline workers they have influence on the direction which young people take and the youth in turn also have influence on the direction which society takes.
"The upcoming conference will provide a platform for all practitioners, researchers, policy makers, government, academics and students to provide input on the importance of professionalising youth work," he said.
The international conference will be hosted by the South African government in partnership with the Commonwealth Africa Regional Centre, University of South Africa (Unisa) and the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA). The conference is scheduled from 18 to 20 March 2013.
The purpose of the conference is to engage various public, private, academic and diplomatic stakeholders on the importance of capacity building for youth workers.
The Commonwealth Youth Work Conference presents an opportunity to promote the education and training of youth workers as primary providers of services to the youth.
The Commonwealth Youth Work Conference was launched under the theme, "Towards professionalising youth work" and seeks to highlight the importance of promoting youth work as a viable career choice in preparation for conference.
Commonwealth Youth Programme Manager, Victor Mensah said, "The Commonwealth Secretariat is happy to join hands with the all the partners in launching the International Conference on Youth Development Practice (CYDP 2013).
"This is a landmark event that will help professionalise the work of Youth Development Practitioners around the world."
The NYDA remains committed to facilitating training programmes for prospective youth workers. NYDA chief executive officer, Steven Ngubeni said the development of standards to guide the profession is fundamental to developing youth practitioners.
"We also need to ensure that a Code of Ethics is established to guide the work of practitioners and that the interests of youth are protected.
"The NYDA will be commencing in earnest with the legislative process that will amongst others lead to the creation of the Youth Work Profession Council from next year onwards," he said.
According to Ngubeni, the Council will ensure that the code of ethics is developed and adhered to, youth workers are registered in a comprehensive database, youth workers receive continuous development, occupations are developed for the different levels of youth workers, and career paths are developed.
Currently, there are only six universities in South Africa offering a 'youth work' qualification and these are Unisa, University of Venda (Univen) to mention but a few.
It is envisaged that in formalising youth work as a profession, education and training, increased research activity in youth development and the mastery of specialised knowledge will be achieved.
Unisa Principal and Vice chancellor, Prof Mandla Makhanya said Unisa acknowledges the need for higher education institutions to professionalise youth work, and has demonstrated that stance in its championing of the Diploma in Youth Development.
"Enrolments for this diploma come from many countries on the African continent and it is our hope that participation and enrolments will increase, especially once the profile of youth work is raised through the intended conference," he said.