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High levels of competition for talent and a shortage of skills in South Africa make recruiting employees that meet our business needs and our diversity commitments a challenge.

Having explored the root causes of these issues, we found that South Africa’s education system plays a significant role in influencing the talent pipeline. We therefore decided to strengthen our relationships with educational establishments, to promote opportunities for young people who are typically denied access to employment due to a lack of qualifications and/or practical work experience.

We began by forming a partnership with the sector education training authority, which provides opportunities for unemployed young people to gain valuable work experience, boosting their confidence and their employment prospects. As part of an established program, young people, who are paid a fee to cover their travel and expenses, spend one year at a company and, at the end of their placement, they are awarded a national certificate.

In 2017, 53 youth learners, of whom 64% were female, participated in this work program at SGS, with 72% of the learners completing their placements. Of these, 98% were offered contracts with SGS, and at least four young people were offered junior management roles. Not only is this initiative benefiting SGS by enabling us to recruit talent from a pool of young people who have demonstrated their abilities and strong work ethic, it is also providing opportunities for existing SGS employees to develop their skills as mentors.

In 2018, we expect to host a further 45 youth learners through this scheme. In addition, we are piloting a vocational skills training program involving 24 individuals with disabilities. Our aim is to support these young people in developing the confidence, qualifications and skills that enable them to pursue entrepreneurial opportunities.

We have also recruited a further 40 people onto a new venture creation program. This initiative is designed to equip young people with the qualifications and skills to set up their own business ventures. Our vision is for some of these business ventures to become suppliers to SGS.

Through these programs, we are focusing on making a tangible difference to employment prospects within the local community while also serving our own business interests of attracting and retaining talent in our workforce and in our supply chains.