Speed dating for SMEs gives hope to unemployed youth


The youth unemployment crisis is being highlighted during youth month. Mpho Funeke (21) is just one of the millions of young people in South Africa desperately searching for employment. From Johannesburg, she describes being unemployed as demoralising.

SMEs are important in solving unemployment, but many SMEs find that affording new staff to grow their business is a challenge. Thanks to the first speed-dating event to match entrepreneurs with potential employees held at Lulaway in Sandton recently, 17 SMEs which are on incubation programmes with Raizcorp were able to hire 19 young people who are funded through YES.

Funeke says, “I have a diploma in communications, but haven’t had work in over a year. I have constantly worried that I would never have my own money. I was starting to give up. I couldn’t buy warm clothes for winter, and some days didn’t know what I would eat.”

Funeke received a job offer from HBS Technology, a software-development company focused on e-learning solutions. Until now, the business which employs four people could not afford to hire someone to fulfil administrative functions.

“We would love to grow, but don’t have the cash flow. Hiring a new employee is a big financial decision,” explains owner Brandon Dickens.

The speed-dating event formed part of the implementation of the YES programme for Cell C. Cell C has committed to funding youth through YES, and requires small businesses to host a portion of these youth for the12-month work experience.

Yes2Day, the partnership between Lulaway and leading business incubator Raizcorp, orchestrated the event, helping the entrepreneurs to successfully navigate the hiring of a funded intern.

Just like the fast pace of a traditional speed-dating event, SMEs had just ten minutes to interview each of the carefully selected candidates, and could then offer a position to the most suitable person. The swift process meant that no time was wasted by spending lengthy periods with the wrong candidate.

SMEs also benefited by being able to interview all candidates in one place with all the logistics and background work taken care of. With the extra hands on deck, they can grow their business, and test the viability of the match over 12 months. The industries represented included catering, logistics, printing, IT, HR and software development.

Job seekers, too, benefited by having spent the last month in the newly launched Lulaway’s Youth Incubator, where they were given interview training, work-readiness skills and the opportunity to prove themselves in the workplace environment before being placed into more permanent positions. This bridging period allowed a more accurate selection for final placements based on competencies and traits. As a result, job seekers arrived at the interviews thoroughly prepared.

The preparation and boosted confidence paid off – employers were impressed by the calibre of the candidates, and all 17 companies offered positions to at least one young person.

“Two birds with one stone. The Yes2Day programme in conjunction with YES just delivered a double benefit to our economy. It is wonderful that Raizcorp can play an even bigger part in creating some good for small businesses,” says Allon Raiz, CEO of Raizcorp.

“We’re helping small business grow and at the same time opening the door for unemployed youth,” says Jake Willis, CEO of Lulaway, SA’s leading youth-employment engine. Willis adds that changing the narrative around job seeking is critical to the morale of young job seekers. “The event was buzzing with hope and excitement in a usually despondent and frustrated job-seeking environment.”

Dickens has ambitious plans for Funeke. He believes that employing an intern requires the SME to invest time and effort into upskilling the young person, and helping them grow within the business.

“Mpho Funeke came across as confident, with excellent communication skills and prior education. We are going to give her a chance to prove herself, and are going to train her in web development.”

Funeke’s beaming face reflected the renewed optimism felt by all attendees. “I am so excited to learn about technology, and grow within the company. It’s amazing that I will be able to take care of myself. My mom is going to be so happy.”

Regular events like this are planned nationwide and SMEs can approach Lulaway or Raizcorp to participate.