The Ubuntu Concept Note

Ubuntu PicSouth Africa has one of the worst youth-unemployment problems in the world. Every year, over 500,000 matriculants leave school with little prospects of finding employment. The chances of getting any work in the first five years after leaving school are only 25 percent, and the chances of earning the median wage of R4,000 per month are less than 2 percent. Given the dangerously high unemployment levels in the country, as well as skills shortages faced by employers, there is an urgent need for wider access to programmes that train youth in vocational skills and help them find jobs.

The Ubuntu Youth Employment Initiative is a national partnership between unemployed youth, South African private and public sector employers, business associations, recruitment agencies, accredited training institutions, the media and other stakeholders to solve the problem of youth unemployment.

The Initiative is founded on the principle of Ubuntu:an African philosophy based on humanism, or concern for fellow human beings. Ubuntu speaks about our interconnectedness and the need for a spirit of generosity and responsibility for the members of our community and society. It has been described as a philosophy that supports the changes that are necessary to create a future that is economically and environmentally sustainable.


The purpose of the Initiative is to facilitate open access to vocational learning and employment programmes (learnerships) for business and youth in growth sectors of the economy using a privately-funded learnership model.


  • South Africa has the potential to mirror the rapid economic growth of other BRIC countries.
  • There is clear evidence that countries with a strong tradition of combining classroom based and work based education have fewer skills gap complaints despite tighter labour markets.
  • Learnerships have proven themselves to be an alternative way of recruiting and developing people.
  • Companies receive generous tax breaks and can earn BBBEE points by participating in such programmes.
  • Currently most learnership programmes depend on a very limited number of public grants, which limits the scope of such interventions.
Key principles

  • Private and public sector institutions must work together more closely to address the challenge of unemployment and shortage of critical skills.
  • The programme concentrates on learnerships in economic areas where there is genuine growth and where there are decent jobs available.
  • Educational organisations, which provide the classroom based training, should collaborate with companies that offer paid workplace experience.
  • Employers and employees should share the costs of a learnership programme as there are payoffs for both.


The objectives of the Ubuntu Youth Employment Initiative are:

  • To reduce unemployment by providing skills development and employment opportunities to out of school youth
  • To provide youth with a one-stop shop for vocational career development opportunities
  • To promote vocational careers as an attractive and promising alternative to higher education
  • To increase the skills pool in key growth sectors of the economy
  • To promote learnerships as a viable recruitment tool for companies
  • Employer associations and industry-specific recruitment agencies will be financially incentivized to promote learnerships amongst member companies.
  • Business will be able to build learnerships into their recruitment system for entry-level employees. Quality screened candidates, trained on vocational qualifications relevant to their business, will be available to employers at any time and at no cost. Employers will receive tax breaks, earn BBBEE points and can pay “learner-employees” a reduced salary during the learnership period.
  • Accredited public or private FET colleges will provide training on vocational qualifications.
  • Learners embarking on vocational programmes will pay for the training themselves using available student funding mechanisms. A recruitment, placement and project management fee will be built into the cost of the programme.
  • i-Fundi will provide overall project management and learning quality assurance and manage the payment of funds to recruitment, training and placement partners.
  • Employers will pay learners a reduced salary for the duration of the programme which will enable repayment of the study loan, as well as a basic stipend for living costs.
  • The project will be run nationally and expanded within the continent and globally.
  • The project beneficiaries are:
    • matriculants without access to higher education and longer-term unemployed youth;
    • companies seeking to hire skilled labour

The targeted sectors for learnership implementation are key growth sectors in the economy.