Xylem joined South Africans and people across the globe to celebrate World Youth Skills Day on 15 July. It was a welcome opportunity to celebrate the strategic importance of equipping young people with skills for employment, decent work and entrepreneurship.
World Youth Skills Day is not only about celebrating youth skills but also asking what we can all do to contribute. Xylem, the world’s leading provider of pure water solutions, invests in local skills development and inclusion as a strategic imperative. We want to be responsible corporate citizens and use our resources to make a difference. Xylem’s future success links closely to the growth and opportunities of communities. For us, a better world and a growing market are the same things.
“It’s vital to expose young people to the issues of the water sector, and the importance of water for socio-economic development and livelihoods,” says Sibusiso Khoza, Director: Parliamentary and Cabinet Support in the Ministry of Cooperative Governance and Traditional Affairs, and a judge in the regional finals of the Stockholm Junior Water Prize. “Learners are then able to chart careers in the water sector, and beyond having utilised these platforms as a springboard.”
Xylem agrees and we take social investment very seriously, pursuing a progressive development agenda. Xylem is constantly learning and building a continually growing innovation pipeline. This World Youth Skills Day is an opportunity for us to reflect and engage on where Xylem helps to empower Africa’s youth.
- Youth development: Xylem engages in numerous activities that support youth development, beginning at foundation phase education and guided by the UN’s Sustainable Development Goal 6 outcomes: clean water and sanitation for all. We capture the attention of young children in terms of preserving water and thinking about water as a strategic resource, using formats such as Splash the Amazing Water Wiz, a new local children’s book funded by Xylem that teaches kids about water and becoming water custodians.
- Stockholm Junior Water Prize: Xylem is a proud sponsor for the Stockholm Junior Water Prize’s regional events. The prize challenges high school students from across the world to come up with innovative water projects. This year, Kenya joins South Africa, Sierra Leone, Benin and Nigeria as participants in the prize, and the global winners will be crowned in Sweden later this year.
- Community development: Xylem invests in projects to improve communities, such as developing community gardens and parks, providing clean water systems for students, community recycling projects, and repairing infrastructure at undeserved schools. Most recently, Xylem worked with entrepreneurs at Kusini Water in South Africa to build a mobile, self-contained water treatment system with tanks for clean water to support communities in flood-ravaged areas.
- Corporate development: Xylem strives to support and develop graduates and suppliers. We participate in African youth employment programmes, hire and train interns, and support tertiary education students with bursaries and cost-of-living support.
These actions represent part of the development and innovation pipeline we build and evolve at Xylem. We strive to help children access clean water, enjoy safe educational facilities, and bring the message of water to them at their level with books such as Splash. Our support for water-related contests helps teenagers see the value of water around them and introduces them to careers in the water resources sector. Xylem and our CSI division, Watermark, continue to engage with community projects that support those on the ground to help those around them. And we take these values into our corporate culture and development.
“There are so many opportunities to leverage social investment and improve the lives of ordinary people. Even helping one student or changing the mindsets of one community around water has far-reaching positive impacts,” says Craig Kensley, Executive Director of GrowZA Social Investment Agency. “It has been fantastic working with Xylem on a range of projects that drives sustainable change on the ground.”
Supporting development is an intentional part of Xylem’s mission and is integrated across our business. From the work of Watermark volunteers to hiring interns to bursaries for tertiary education, Xylem works to support youth skills development at every step.
“Water is crucial for development and safety – it’s a fundamental resource that when treated right pays huge dividends to surrounding communities,” says Chetan Mistry, Xylem Africa’s Strategy and Marketing Manager. “For Xylem, it’s critical that we support initiatives that create skills, jobs, businesses and custodians to protect and improve water. What would happen if water is no longer available? That would be catastrophic. But the efforts of communities and students will make sure that day never comes – and Xylem will always aspire to support their hard work.”
The more we empower our youth, the more they can achieve, living the values supporting clean and responsible water culture. We continue expanding Xylem’s footprint across Africa, recently opening permanent offices in Kenya and Egypt. As we grow with the continent, so do our efforts to expand youth skills and create safe environments for them to learn, live and thrive. On World Youth Skills Day, let’s celebrate the gains so far and look for the next opportunities to empower Africa.