Alex youth engage with Mayor Tau and his team

Alex youth engage with Mayor Tau and his teamMembers of the My Alex 15 join other youngsters from Alexandra at an engagement with Mayor Parks Tau and his executive team. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)

City of Joburg Executive Mayor Parks Tau took time off during a packed two-day tour of Alexandra to speak with young people about issues affecting them at the Alexsan Kopano Multi-Purpose Centre on Wednesday, 15 June.

Executive Mayor Parks TauExecutive Mayor Parks Tau stressed the importance of education, mentioning a number of steps the City is taking to bridge the gap between schooling and the jobs market. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)The engagement gave youths between 14 and 25 years the opportunity to share their views on a wide range of issues with the Mayor and his executive team.

Among the crowd present were the My Alex 15, a group of youngsters who were preparing for the June 16 opening of an exhibition showcasing youth perceptions of Alex - part of a youth engagement initiative driven by the Johannesburg Development Agency (JDA).

Issues that were raised in Wednesday's meeting included the shortage of sustainable job opportunities, the lack of recreational spaces, libraries and internet connectivity, dysfunctional sporting facilities, and the deterioration of industries supportive of Alex's economy.

Young population 'Joburg's greatest asset'

The meeting is opened to the floorThe Mayor and his executive team take notes as the meeting is opened to the floor. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)In his opening remarks, Tau said the City regarded the youth as the most critical part of their work. "The greatest asset we have in this city is a youthful population. It's the energy and guts that we should embrace to develop our society."

Tau said the City had implemented the Vulindlel' eJozi programme, a youth skills empowerment partnership between the City and the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator that explores ways of tackling youth unemployment.

Vulindlel' eJozi is designed to break down barriers to jobs by creating pathways for young people to access skills training programmes and entry-level employment. To date there are 160 000 youths registered on the Harambee database.

"Our responsibility is to ensure that we bridge the gap and prepare young people for the job market," Tau said, noted that young people were struggling to acquire the education that gave them the right knowledge and skills set.

Matric rewrite programmes, access to online courses

Alex youngsters stressed their readiness to step upAlex youngsters stressed their readiness to step up and be active, saying it was lack of opportunities that was blocking them. (Photo: Rudo Mungoshi)The biggest obstacle facing most young people entering the jobs market was not having a matric certificate in their names. "By getting a better education, you are opening up doors that will otherwise remain closed if you have no qualifications," the Mayor said.

In order to address this, the City was making concerted efforts to introduce matric rewrite programmes.

At the same time, the City was working to launch open online courses with reputable international universities which the youth could undertake at their local libraries. "Digital technology is continuing to change the world of learning, and nowhere is this more apparent than in the huge range of open online courses," Mayor Tau said.

Adolph Marema, one of the young people who spoke during the engagement, called on the City to provide platforms for professionals to plough their skills back into communities.

Keith Makgotla, another participant, encouraged the City to introduce a special incubation programme for emerging entrepreneurs, especially in the green economy.

"The red tapes need to be loosened bit so that we can have access to the green economy," Makgotla said, arguing that green entrepreneurship opportunities could provide some of the answers to City's unemployment problems.