The youth are the future, yet with South Africa’s sky-high youth unemployment rate, youth often feel like they have no future in our beautiful country. Mr Price Foundation is on a mission to drive social change by empowering youth through its innovative education and skills development programmes.
Mr Price Foundation was established in 2005 as a non-profit organisation (NPO) to positively influence and actively support South Africa’s national development priorities of youth unemployment and access to quality education.
In the 2022 financial year, the foundation invested R17.1 million into youth skills development through its JumpStart and HandPicked programmes, and R12.5 million into providing learners with quality education through its EduRise programme.
“JumpStart was launched in 2007 to unlock career potential for unemployed youth in the greater retail value chain. The programme is successful as it identifies suitable candidates and provides them with a blend of industry-specific theory, life skills and hands-on work experience with our employer partners. Critically, we also close the loop by connecting candidates to career opportunities,” says Karen Wells, head of Mr Price Foundation.
Almost 23 490 youth completed JumpStart’s two week Retail Frontline Programme (RFP) in the past five years – 52% went on to find employment with the foundation’s employer partners, including Miladys, Mr Price Home, Mr Price, Sheet Street and Mr Price Sport, as well as SPAR.
“Our ultimate goal is for youth to use these skills to break the cycle of poverty through employment. In FY2022, the RFP developed 6 149 youth – of whom 3 069 (50%) found employment,” says Wells. The annual Professional Retail Programme (PRP), which offers an incredible skills development and internship opportunity to a handful
of select tertiary graduates, has trained 69 youth since 2018. Of these, 82.6% have found employment.
“The PRP has been running for five years but 2021 was the first year that the curriculum focused purely on retail operations. We moved into this space in response to demand for retail management students. Market forces are key to our skills development programmes: we match training with demand. If there is no demand for training in a particular area, we will not train. This is what differentiates us from other skills development programmes,” says Wells.
This applies to JumpStart programmes as well as HandPicked, its new agricultural skills training programme. “HandPicked was launched because there are not enough formal opportunities for youth in the retail value chain. We created HandPicked in partnership with Fresh Life Produce to connect youth with economic empowerment
and employment opportunities in agriculture.”
HandPicked focuses on growing and supplying fresh produce in line with demand in local communities. “We want our HandPicked graduates to go on to find employment or have the ability to create their own economic opportunities and/or sustain themselves. Our programme does not start and end with training. We want training to boost economic life, to take youth out of their predicament and help them unlock their enormous potential,” says Wells.
The bedrock is education
The bedrock of a successful nation is education, and that’s where the foundation’s EduRise programme comes in. This holistic schools programme has been active in 98 lower socio-economic primary schools in Tongaat, Hammarsdale, QwaQwa, Soweto and Mitchells Plain for the past four years.
“It is deeply concerning that an estimated 78% of grade 4 children in South Africa are unable to read for meaning in any language; and over 60% of grade 5 children cannot add and subtract whole numbers. There is also a direct link between quality of education and economic opportunities post schooling.”
Through educator empowerment, mentorship of the school management team, and parent and community collaboration, EduRise helps schools deliver quality education. The programme is designed to unlock the full potential of learners through physical education, mathematics, science, English, creative arts and environmental awareness programmes.
EduRise-supported schools are now entering the sustainability phase where they have the tools to run the programme independently. “We believe that by giving children a good education, we can drastically improve their chance of going on to become self-employed or find meaningful jobs. Research shows that the formative years of a child’s education are the most important,” says Wells.
“This is where crucial learning blocks of reading and numeracy are developed. It’s essential that we set the basic learning blocks in place so that all South African children, regardless of their background, have an equal opportunity to complete a quality education and unlock economic opportunities. With this in mind, EduRise will be focusing more closely on early childhood development.”
Wells says that everything the foundation does is with the aim of breaking the cycle of poverty and inequality. “Our programmes align with a number of the United Nations 17 Sustainable Development Goals as well as South Africa’s National Development Plan 2030,” she points out.
Agri-training yields green shoots
Mr Price Foundation launched its HandPicked agricultural skills development programme in October 2020, when South Africa was in the grip of the Covid-19 pandemic. This was in response to growing unemployment and declining formal job opportunities.
The programme sources interns from agricultural tertiary institutions and community engagements for a 12-month course. Beneficiaries receive life skills and agribusiness training and learn the technicalities of using the African Grower vertical growing technology. They can go on to become self-sufficient food gardeners, establish food hubs, or pursue careers in agribusiness.
“The aim of the programme is entrepreneurship: creating economic opportunities for youth and empowering food consumers to shift to food producers. A by-product of the initiative is food security, as participants can grow food for their communities and use any surplus for their own tables,” says Wells.
This marks the first time that Mr Price Foundation has invested in skills training in the agricultural sector. It is funded primarily by Mr Price Group, with Veldskoen™ and CHEP coming onboard as partners to scale the programme for greater impact. The implementation partner is Fresh Life Produce.
HandPicked is showing encouraging early results. Twenty-four home growers have completed training and set up 30 growing tunnels at households and community centres; and 10 youth from agricultural tertiary institutions have bolstered their theoretical knowledge with valuable practical and business skills. Two micro-agribusinesses and two seedling nurseries have also spun off from the programme.
The first agribusiness is a 0.2ha growing hub at Mr Price Group’s support centre in Durban. They plan their crops according to the demand of the onsite canteen and market days. The second micro-business is Amagalelo Agribusiness, on 0.5ha in Hammarsdale. Amagalelo is a dual model utilising both soil farming and vertical farming, with four greenhouses kitted out with 24 growing towers, as well as a seedling nursery. Since introducing tunnel farming, Amagalelo has seen yields increase by 71%.
Market forces are key to HandPicked and it pays close attention to matching supply and demand.
“HandPicked is very small and very new so the impact is not fully tested. However, the programme can scale very well and it is cost effective. Agripreneurs are generating monthly income and are evolving towards their own
financial sustainability,” says Wells.
Mr Price Foundation is a Level 1 B-BBEE public benefit organisation (PBO).
Donations are tax deductible with Section 18A certificates being issued.
Photos: Mr Price Foundation / Pierre Tostee / Light + Lark Photography
Impact in 2022
6 149 Youth developed
50% Employment rate
3 069 Youth employed
R17.1m Invested in youth development
789 School governing body members reached
3 515 Educators impacted
63 927 Learners impacted
98 Schools impacted