By Alexandra Hadfield, Harambee SME Sector Lead
Many small business owners feel daunted at the prospect of hiring new staff, and with valid reasons:
- They’re put off by the risks involved in bringing new people on board
- They often struggle to adequately articulate their unique requirements because they don’t fit into traditional ‘norms’
- They can feel that recruitment agencies are only for large companies and are too expensive
- Recruitment, on-boarding, training and mentoring are time-consuming and few entrepreneurs are able to give the process the attention it needs
- It’s an expensive exercise and mistakes can have a massive negative impact
- The kind of staff who suit their budgets are usually young and often first-timers, increasing the level of risk.
This is where Harambee comes in. As South Africa’s not-for-profit youth employment accelerator, Harambee connects young people looking for their first jobs with employers looking for entry-level staff. We assess, screen and match candidates that would suit an SME environment and job suitability. Where there is a need and suitable demand we are able to provide work readiness interventions. Placement fees are kept deliberately affordable.
Over the past few years we have learnt how to serve small and medium businesses in addition to our traditional corporate market. A2Pay is typical of the start-up businesses we serve. The company sells and installs point-of-sale (POS) devices that are designed specifically for township Spaza owners, as general manager Tina Mason explains.
“A2Pay is a POS system that also provides business owners with all the information they need to run a small retail environment, including details like turnover, gross profit, stock, etc. It’s proving very popular and we’re growing at a rapid rate,” says Mason.
She is the first to admit that entrepreneurial environments like A2Pay don’t have time to mentor and manage, and need people who can get on with it. “Harambee teaches candidates qualities that are important to a small and growing business like ours: willingness, curiosity, timekeeping, get-up-and-go, and a strong work ethic. Harambee candidates are people who want to make a difference.”
From the candidate’s point of view, Harambee is life-changing, as Tebogo Ramogayane describes it. Tebogo was in a temporary job when a colleague told her about Harambee. She says, “I was very excited because they gave me the hope that I would find a job.” Indeed Harambee placed her at A2Pay where she has now been for one year.
Tebogo attended a two-week bridging programme to prepare her for working at A2Pay. She says, “Harambee gave me the confidence which enabled me to get out of my comfort zone. They taught me the importance of punctuality, being eager to learn, to be proactive and multitask. They also taught me how to present myself well. I used to be shy but now I work in the call centre and train customers in how to use our POS machines. I can also fix the machines.”
The pride in her voice is unmistakable when she says, “I don’t need supervision.”
Mason says of her, “I went on a site visit with Tebogo. I can’t get over how well she’s got to grips with our business!”
Desmond Dolamo, a technician who assembles and repairs A2Pay POS devices, has been with the company for just over a year. “A2Pay was my first ever interview and Harambee gave me the confidence to handle it well. When my friends ask me about Harambee I say to them: look at me! I’m successful now because of Harambee.”
Sanelisiwe Sylvia Bukuva, who has also been with A2Pay for a year, trains clients in how to use the equipment and helps them overcome challenges they may face. She’s grateful to Harambee for teaching her how to communicate better, work in a team and present herself with energy.
“My biggest lessons were time management and being focused all the time. I’m proud of being able to work with different clients and overcome every challenge that comes my way. Working in a small business has taught me to work faster and smarter. I have learned to ask many questions.”
Above all, Sanelisiwe is thrilled that she can now drive a car and go to see her clients.
Mason concludes, “I’m pleased to say that Tebogo, Desmond and Sanelisiwe have been with A2Pay for just over a year and I’m really proud to watch them grow.”
About Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator
Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator is a not-for-profit social enterprise that builds solutions to tackle youth unemployment. The organisation partners with businesses to match their entry-level requirements to their network of high-potential work-seekers who have been locked out of the formal economy, typically because they have no networks and come from social grant dependent households. Through scientifically rigorous matching tools and behavioural readiness programmes, Harambee reduces hiring risk and enables new job creation by focusing on churn, skills scarcity and retention, supported by change management with employers. Harambee’s model for change also builds solutions to address system-wide challenges through research, innovation and public-private partnerships.