Ashara Giordanelli

Insights on youth employment in South Africa

Ashara Giordanelli

Ashara Giordanelli (University College Utrecht - Liberal Arts and Sciences, 2004) has worked on youth employment in South Africa.

I graduated from University College Utrecht, the Liberal Arts arm of Utrecht University, in 2004 with a BA in Social Sciences. Liberal Arts education can be terrifying because there is no obvious career path upon graduation. So my natural first step was to reach out to my network, and almost by chance I landed a job in the field of monitoring & evaluation (M&E, more broadly known as Data Analysis). I have been in M&E ever since, recently completing an MBA. My career has taken me from Amsterdam to Bogota, Colombia and most recently to Johannesburg, South Africa.

20,000 jobs and counting

For the last 3 years I have been working as a Business Insights Manager for a Non-Profit NGO called "Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator". We help thousands of young South Africans from disadvantaged backgrounds who cannot find jobs due to a lack of education and networks. We provide psychometric and learning capacity assessments to match each person to the most suitable job, offer work-readiness training (free of charge), and present the candidates for interviews to over 250 employer partners (including industries such as financial services, BPO, retail and hospitality, manufacturing, etc.). To date, Harambee has placed over 20,000 young employees in sustainable entry-level jobs. My job is to monitor the programme, gather information and insights about what the market needs, and explore how we can help more young people get a sustainable job.

My career has taken me from Amsterdam to Bogota, Colombia and most recently to Johannesburg, South Africa

Ashara Giordanelli

Bridging the gap between demand and supply

Our approach is based on a real business need: companies struggle to find good employees who will stay in their jobs for more than 3 months - finding candidates and training them is far too costly. On the other hand, the unemployed youth don’t know how to look for jobs and don’t have money to print CVs or pay for transport to attend a job interview. And if they do find a job, their lack of understanding of what is expected of them means few are able to keep it. 

The formal economy, explained

In a country with 54% youth unemployment*, Harambee sets out to find young people, match them to the right entry-level jobs, and prepare them adequately to ensure they are successful in their job. The work-readiness training includes things like explaining facts about the formal economy that these young people are not familiar with - they often don’t know anyone in their community who has a job. Facts like “you only get paid once a month, and you need to have a bank account to be on the payroll”, or “many retail and call centre jobs require you to work on weekends or after office hours”, or “jobs in hospitality require you to be on your feet (literally) for many hours”. Knowing these things before they start their jobs makes our candidates more prepared and therefore more likely to stay in their jobs for longer.

Insights with an impact

Through my research I uncovered a lot of insights about the daily lives of our candidates. Some have been fascinating, and some heart-breaking. For example, one research study aimed to understand how people finance transportation to work before their first salary comes in. We uncovered that one candidate slept in the street near the supermarket where he was employed for an entire month because he could not afford the bus fare to go home until his first salary was paid. We shared this story with the supermarket and other employers, and worked with them to develop a plan: for the first month, employers now give new employees a daily advance on their salary to cover transportation.

...what we have learnt about South Africa will forever be in our hearts

Ashara Giordanelli

Promoting employability

Another study wanted to find out why so many candidates were quitting their jobs at a butcher’s. We discovered that they did not have adequate clothing to protect them from the cold in the refrigerated section of the butcher’s and therefore work was unbearable to them. The butcher’s now provides jackets to employees as part of their uniform. Based on insights such as these, Harambee actively tries to influence government policy makers to implement solutions to promote employability. 

Leaving a mark

As my 3-year work visa in South Africa comes to an end, I will be leaving Johannesburg soon with my husband and our 6- month old baby, Valentijn Tijs. We will be relocating to Cologne, Germany. We are very excited to start our next adventure, but what we have learnt about South Africa will forever be in our hearts.

Want to learn more about Harambee? Have a look at their website.

*Source: StatsSA, Quarterly Labour Force Survey: 2016 Quarter 2