Are you feeling stuck about how to go about looking for work? There are so few jobs out there and you just don’t know where to start? What action can you take to help yourself during this difficult time when face-to face communication is so limited?

I had the opportunity to chat to Nokubonga who works for Harambee (a not-for-profit social enterprise) about how their Youth Employment Accelerator helps empower and connect entry-level young work-seekers to employers. Despite the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic, Harambee is still able to reach many potential work-seekers and offer them assistance.

Noku, as she is known by her colleagues, filled me in about Harambee and what it offers young people.

1. What opportunities does Harambee offer young people who are looking for work?

Harambee offers young people a free opportunity to join our network which serves as a bridge between young people and employers. It empowers young people by giving them information, advice, tools and guidelines and refers them to other resources to enhance their employability. We partner with government on various levels as well as businesses and we see our young people as partners too. We learn a lot from them and the barriers that they experience in either the formal or informal economy.

2. Do you place young people into jobs?

In the work we do with government and businesses, there’s always a chance that something comes up and then, based on the young person’s profile, we can recommend them to go into those opportunities.

3. What role do you play in Harambee?
It’s very interesting because our face-to-face operations are closed. My title is a Work-seekers Manager. I support our teams across the country but since the lockdown I look at all our face-to-face work and condense and package them to the channels that we have now (online platforms and phone). This means that young people don’t need to sit and wait for Harambee to continue face-to face contact. We keep supporting them with advice and tips. They can do things on their own at home to build their employability or earn money.

I actually joined as a young person in 2012 as a candidate to figure out my own journey and then came back to work as a Harambee staff member and have progressed since there.

4. So you have grassroots understanding of the youth?

Yes, that’s why we see young people are our partners. Our high level strategy is grounded on what young people tell us. We have an entire section called ‘Youth Voices’ which means that we can respond appropriately to what they are telling us.

What we learned during lockdown was that we still have the power to reach young people individually. Not everyone is looking for the same thing. People are starting at different levels of their journey. We’re lucky that we can work from home and we now have a team of more than 100 people phoning work-seekers and we will have an inbound phone number soon for them to contact us.

We’re big on using technology to solve this young unemployment issue.

We’ve had offices in the main centres in South Africa but by pivoting to the phone and online we have the opportunity to leave no young person behind, no matter where they live.

5. How do young people interact with Harambee at the moment?

We call young people on the phone to give them support and help them build their profile on our system. Then we try to find out more about who they are and what support they need as an individual.

We have lots of resources available on our data free mobi site. This contains really curated content on coronavirus which is available in different languages. We also house our work-seeker content here. For example, ‘What do I do if I’m looking for a job?’. The site gives you links to job sites and banks of resources that are easy to use. Young people are also concerned about looking after their own wellness and so there are links to counselling and support sites and data costs aren’t an issue.

In most cases, what you will see on our Facebook page is that, if a resource is in the form of a video, we follow this up with a text or transcript so that it is assessable to young people without using loads of data. Our information is also in bite sizes so that it is something to use for the here and for the now.

Our free mobi site is also used to create and update work-seeker’s profiles. If your phone number, your address or anything else changes you keep us informed. It also houses our content and resources. I encourage young people to go and interact on it. We update it daily. Our mobi site is a cool fun place to engage with our content.

Another channel we use is Facebook. We push out work-seeker content on a daily basis as well as information around wellness and coronavirus. We build a community of empowered young people who know that they are not alone on their journey.

6. What suggestions do you have to young people who want to get themselves work ready at the moment?

The biggest thing is to join our network. I say this for various reasons. There are many benefits of being in the network.

The biggest one is to connect with others. We’ve supported more than 800 000 young people since we started. We want to scale that up to include many more. You don’t want to feel isolated when looking for work because it can be quite lonely and hard.

Another reason to join the network is to feel empowered. Being in a network is never a one-way thing. You, as a young person, also have value to bring to network. You will have access to lots of tools and information and we trust you as a young person to keep your dream in mind and take what’s relevant to you. You need to engage with our content and then we begin to learn from you about what you need so that we can give you more of it.

It’s important to engage on different channels so you don’t just wait and not know what to do.

We also have a WhatsApp chatbot which operates for 24 hours a day so you can engage with it anytime. Just say, ‘Hi’ to the chatbot and start a conversation.

What we’re saying at Harambee is that you shouldn’t sit and wait for a job. On our network you’ve got access to all this information so use it. Use resources and keep building your employability and stay ahead of the game. You need to take the lead and tell Harambee where you want to go.

Most young people have a passion of wanting to hustle – people just want to get busy – but they don’t know where to start. We give them resources on where to start. We give them access to other networks as well as resources from our partners. You won’t find things ready-made but you will find shelves that you can pull things from. In our wider ecosystem we advocate for young people to be employed.

7. Do you have any other advice on how to be innovative and to hustle?

The biggest thing that we’ve realised is that young people are stuck with this grand idea of work. Our philosophy is that youth can solve issues and create work. We have a section called, Youth Solving Issues. if you have a problem in your community and you have an idea of how to solve it, just start there. Start by getting busy and solving issues and most of your opportunities will come from there. People start to recognise you as you get busy.

8. What kind of jobs should young people be focused on in the 21st Century?

The traditional way of looking at work as permanent and full time is really a thing of the past. It doesn’t work like that anymore. Work is flexible and fluid. Don’t be too attached to a title and push yourself into different spaces. I do many things at Harambee and I really push myself to be in different spaces because you never know what your contribution will be and there is also so much to learn.

Work is never now going to be about sitting in a fancy buildings for 8 hours. As long as you have right behaviours and discipline to deliver whatever you need to you can work from anywhere. We are lucky that we now have IT tools to do this and we don’t need to travel to a space to do the work.

Use what you have and don’t underestimate the power of a smartphone. There’s so much you can do with your smartphone. There’s definitely a shift of opportunities: to work from home by moving into a digital space.

9. Have you got any other advice for young people?

In order for young people to be able to navigate life with a better approach, they need to be curious. Ask a lot of questions. Find out what’s available and what’s possible and then just be brave enough to follow through with your dreams.

Find more opportunities by getting your hands dirty and figuring things out (this is a form of asking questions). This work so much better than just sitting at home and watching from the outside.

10. Any final words for our readers?

We are a free network of opportunities and we’re passionate about young people finding work and being empowered to navigate this harsh and complex environment. We put young people at the centre of the conversations we have.


Mobi site:
Email for youth:
Phone: This will be available soon

It was really fascinating to chat to Noku and to discover how much support Harambee offers to young people who are looking for work. Not only do they have so many resources available for young people but they also contact you individually and guide you through the process so that you don’t feel alone when looking for work.