Saint-Gobain’s YouthBuild Academy drives artisanal skills development and aims to help reduce unemployment with South African youth

Saint Gobain 2018 Graduates

Through its YouthBuild Academy, Saint-Gobain South Africa is addressing two key crises faced in South Africa: the rising numbers of unemployed youth as well as a decrease in the number of trained artisans within the construction industry.

According to Matthew Baney, National Academy Manager at Saint-Gobain, South Africa’s alarming 45% high school dropout rate has fuelled a national youth employment crisis which ranks sixth highest in the world. “There are roughly 7.5 million young people between the ages of 15-34 years old who are categorised as NEET youth (not in employment, education or training) and the Saint-Gobain YouthBuild Academy was born out of the need to tackle this ever-growing problem.”

The Academy is the only CETA (Construction Education Training Authority) Accredited training provider with accreditation to facilitate the National Certificate: Ceiling & Partition Installation NQF 3 in sub-Saharan Africa. The Academy provides intensive basic education while building a pathway directly into the labour market with an emphasis on the construction sector, and with particular focus on environmentally sensitive “green building” techniques. The programme concentrates on the essentials of literacy and numeracy which supports further education and preparation for jobs and self-employment.

Through this programme we are aiming to help young South Africans find a place for themselves within the workforce. It is not about just teaching the learners a trade, it is about so much more: showing them that they can do something worthwhile, helping them find a way to provide for their families and feeling confident within themselves,” says Baney.

The Saint Gobain 2018 Graduates

The Academy runs a four and twelve-month programme through its two training centres in Samrand and in Germiston, and offers opportunities to unemployed people wanting to obtain a qualification in drywall and ceiling installation. The learnerships offer an integrated opportunity for individuals to gain education and work experience in drywall and ceiling installation at a NQF level 3. (Equivalent to grade 11).

Once a learner has been selected by the Academy, they are required to achieve competency in 132 credits. These credits are clustered into four subjects which include, drywall and ceiling installation (safety, tools and assembly of components), communication such as written and oral communication skills, applied mathematics (calculating quantities and costings) as well as workplace skills like understanding HIV & AIDS, first aid basics and business plans. The competencies are based on a combination of practical and theoretical assessments and the practical activities are aimed at uplifting the communities from which these young men and women come from. The learners go into these communities and practice their skills by repairing and fixing crèches, schools and community halls in need.

The Academy has been running for 15 years and to date has seen 978 learners graduate from the programme. There is a dedicated focus on entrepreneurship within the Academy, with Saint-Gobain mentoring young business men and women through an incubation programme which will equip them to become successful business owners.

This programme is one small way that we are trying to help empower the youth and make a difference. We are incredibly proud of all the learners who have come through our Academy doors and to have watched so many young men and women enter the workforce has been an honour. We hope to expand on the Academy in the years to come and for other industry players to follow suit in helping to create more opportunities for the youth to join the workforce,” concludes Baney.

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