The Youth Environmental Services (YES) programme is contributing to reducing the country's high unemployment rate, says Environment, Forestry and Fisheries Deputy Minister Maggie Sotyu.
"While it is not a special employment programme, it is part of our government's interventions to reduce the runaway unemployment rate, not least the National Youth Service," said the Deputy Minister.
Speaking at the graduation ceremony of 124 graduates who participated in the Department's Youth Environmental Service (YES) programme where they completed their clothing, textile, footwear and leather manufacturing L2 training in Marble Hall, Limpopo, Sotyu said the success of the YES programme will go a long way to addressing youth unemployment.
"One of the greatest challenges we have is the growing number of unemployed youth in our country," she said on Thursday.
More than half of South Africans between the ages of 15 and 24 are unemployed. Through the YES initiative, the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries, expose unemployed and disadvantaged youths aged between of 18 and 35 years to work-integrated learning opportunities in the natural resource and environmental management sectors.
The programme is implemented by the Department's Environmental Protection and Infrastructure Programme (EPIP) and involves young people in activities which provide environmental service that benefit the community, while providing the opportunity to develop skills through accredited training programmes.
It prioritises young women, youth with disabilities, unemployed youth, youth in rural areas, youth at risk, youth headed households, youth in conflict with the law among others.
The 124 youth that graduated from the Sekhukhune TVET College in Marble Hall are part of a target of more than 2 300 young people who participated in the second phase of the YES programme.
The graduates from the Capricorn and Sekhukhune District Municipalities were trained over a year in clothing, textile, footwear and leather manufacturing processes, as well as Occupational Health and Safety, first aid training and health and safety in the environment.
The Department had invested R11 million in the training programme, of which R4 million was allocated for the payment of wages over the past year.
As a service and skills development initiative, this was the first group of participating youths in the YES programmes to receive an allowance.
"The monthly stipend has been based on the premise that we all need to work for the environment in order to have the environment work for us and the future generations," the Deputy Minister said.
Sotyu said the programme responds to the multiple needs of young people.
At Thursday's graduation, students received their NQF Level 2 certificates and a sewing machine.