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Sharmi Surianarain: Creating Inclusive Jobs and Accelerating Employment

Sharmi Surianarain: Creating Inclusive Jobs and Accelerating Employment

Guest Profile:

Sharmi Surianarain serves as the Chief Impact Officer for Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator in South Africa. Sharmi is a fierce advocate for opportunity and social justice for young people and women across the African continent, and is a keen analyst and thinker on the future of work. Sharmi leads on Harambee’s impact,and systems change agendas and oversee Harambee’s work in new markets. Sharmi is the Founder of Making Caring Count, a social enterprise that aims to build impactful solutions around care work in Africa. Sharmi brings extensive experience in human capital management, education, and facilitating links to employment across Africa, India, and the United States. Prior to Harambee, Sharmi served as Vice President of Lifelong Engagement at African Leadership Academy (ALA). She oversaw a network of 2,000 young African leaders and managed ALA’s Mastercard Foundation Scholars Program, Africa Careers Network, and ALA’s alumni engagement team. Sharmi is an Aspen African Leadership Initiative Fellow, Class of 2020, an RSA Fellow, and sits on the Boards of Emerging Public Leaders, Metis, Instill Education and is on the 2021 G7 Impact Task force. Sharmi’s work has been featured in The Huffington Post, The Daily Maverick, The Mail and Guardian, and The Economist. Sharmi holds a B.A. from Harvard University, a master’s degree from the Harvard Graduate School of Education and a master’s degree from Northwestern University’s Kellogg School of Management.

Episode summary:

In this conversation, Sharmi and I discuss the purpose and work of Harambee Youth Accelerators and the overall unemployment situation. Harambee focuses on systems change to support reskilled Youth and work with partners and the Government to create inclusive jobs. Despite the impact of COVID, they have been able to support job creation in multiple sectors. With the future of work and jobs evolving, Sharmi’s plea is that we need to solve these problems together, and one of the focuses should be for employers need to reduce barriers such as degree’s where they are not required to help people secure jobs

Key questions and topics covered:

1. What is an employment accelerator,and what is the purpose and mission of Harambee?

2. The context of South Africa and the unemployment situation

3. How do you see the role of partnerships in driving systems change?

4. Harambee’s approach to inclusive reskilling and inclusion job creation

5. Sectors where jobs have been created and new sectors in focus

6. Harambeehas a zero data Mobisite and a call centre to engage and support youth

7. Sectors where jobs have been created and new sectors in focus

8. If you had a magic wand, what changes would you like to see?

Sound bites from the podcast

(please listen to the podcast for full context)

  • ‘South Africa is kind of like epitomizes the problem. It’s a microcosm of that issue. It’s the most unequal country in the world

  • ‘partnerships are like the DNA of Harambee,and I think interestingly Harambee the word is Swahili for we pull together.’

  • think what would be really powerful is to amplify the message about firstly, the world of work is changing. It’s no longer linear and, you know, enabling young people to get into work quickly and thinking of putting the young person at the heart of it’

  • you and I are going to be out of some elements of our work as well as much as a young person is so understanding that we are all together and we’re actually solving for all of us, not just for an excluded person.’


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