Empowering township youths with future skills

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Khethiwe Nkuna | Head | Corporate Citizenship and Inclusion and Diversity Lead | Accenture Africa | mail me


Youth unemployment is a national crisis affecting millions of South Africans. According to Stats SA, the burden of unemployment is concentrated amongst the youths (aged 15-34 years) as they account for 63,4% of the total number of unemployed persons in 2019.

Furthermore, those with little to no formal education and training account for 69% of unemployed youth. This means that education is still the key to these young people’s prospects improving in the South African labour market.

The world is converging and the 4th Industrial Revolution (4IR) is here. Youths become even more vulnerable to unemployment if they are not equipped with the skills needed for the future of work.

There is a large discrepancy between what the youths are being taught and what employers expect them to know. This is why as an industry leader, with an enduring commitment to prepare young people for the 4IR, we have made skills development our priority.

We believe it is crucial to grow the pool of future skills available to the South African market and, ultimately, sustain our success as a high-performance business. Therefore, we have focused on teaching ICT skills and providing work in the field especially for vulnerable youths.

Every child should learn how to code

ICT is a fast-moving industry demanding investment in both infrastructure and relevant skills development. Between 2011 and 2018, we invested over R200 million in future skills development and in the 2018 financial year alone, we spent more than R38 million.

If South Africa should compete in 4IR, we need to have our people well equipped with future skills and coding is one of the basic enablers allowing access to opportunities within the digital economy.

There has been huge emphasis on coding for the last year or two in South Africa with a national proposal that coding become our 13th official language, sign language being the 12th. However, when we compare ourselves to other BRICS countries, we are still punching below our weight when it comes to technology mainly because of our education system.

In India, for example, coding and technology education are entrenched and start early. There’s definitely an opportunity in South Africa that needs to be accelerated. Last year, we trained 1,700 young people and placed them in employment – the majority in coding and programming. We continue to see the demand for those skills.

For the last 13 years, we have partnered with Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct and the Joburg Centre for Software Engineering (JCSE), to provide both training and job opportunities.

Through the partnership, we started a Coder Dojo for Johannesburg’s children hosted at our Harrowdene offices, teaching 6 to 18 year-olds code. In 2018, the year’s activities culminated in Hour of Code, a coding workshop hosted at the Tshimologong Precinct which was attended by 65 youths from across Johannesburg.

A young man in Grade 10 developed an app to help with the reporting of fires in shacks. We helped him refine the concept and he later won an award for his work as a young entrepreneur. For us, Hour of Code is all about creating that basic awareness and interest in coding and the STEM world – it’s that first spark.

Helping township youth participate in 4IR

Accessibility to future skills training is often a problem for youth in townships. Many of them have the ambition and need to participate in the labour market, however economic constraints often cause them to be restricted in their access to the right education and training.

This frustration can lead to risky behaviours in the community leading many youth to taking recreational drugs, abusing alcohol, committing crimes and some ultimately ending up in prison, further reducing the workforce pool which could grow our economy.

Youths with a criminal record have greater challenges in finding employment and are often at odds on what else to do in order to avoid going back to a life of crime. This is how we got involved in the Quirky30 initiative.

Founded by two former inmates as a disruptive solution and a pathway out of poverty, inequality and crime for South African youth, Quirky30 teaches coding and entrepreneurship skills to the unemployed and disadvantaged youth of Langa township and its surrounds in Cape Town.

Quirky30’s work is aligned with the framework of the UN Sustainable Development Goals for 2030, and a bold vision to turn impoverished communities and prisons from gangster-ridden crime hubs into dynamic, vibrant tech hubs with a positive national and global impact.

We are passionate about developing township youth into ICT digital artisans. As such we are also part of the Mentec Foundation which is a South African based but global-aspirant NGO focused on industry-specific ERP training, ICT innovation and live experience. Mentec Foundation trains young people in townships and rural South Africa in C# and Java and has created work opportunities for more than 20,000 beneficiaries since inception.

Youths are the key to unlocking Africa’s abundance

We are a real South African firm with the country’s interests at heart, providing relevant solutions to South African challenges.

Our transformation initiatives go beyond B-BBEE compliance, and we are proud to invest in people and causes that make people prosper. Transformation is a business imperative and not just a compliance measure.

By developing our youths, we believe that we are actively contributing to making South Africa relevant and competitive amidst a growing and changing landscape.

We are proud of having achieved our Level 1 B-BBEE status and performance, with a 135% procurement level, and top scores in black ownership, skills development, social investment, enterprise development and preferential procurement.


 



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