Meeting Current And Future Skills Needs
New technologies have changed how we live and work, and government, corporates and individuals are all trying to find their own paths through the changes the 4thIndustrial Revolution (4IR) is bringing.
From initiatives such as broad re-skilling programmes for current staff to technology training programmes, an increasing number of organisations have made skills development a priority. However, while companies are trying to navigate the technology-driven demands of the 4IR, the far-reaching consequences of Covid-19 are making themselves felt in the worst economic downturn since the Great Depression.
Even before this crisis, many young South Africans had little hope of entering the job market at all, much less holding positions that require an understanding of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and other 4IR technologies, says Johan Engelbrecht, Group CEO at Atvance Academy.
“We should not lose sight of the current economic reality in the push towards the future of work. Despite South Africa spending more than 6% of GDP on education, about half of learners drop out before completing high school. Fewer than 5% who start primary school end up with a university qualification. These young people are already struggling to find work, and as the 4IR continues to gain momentum in the wake of the remote working trend Covid-19 forced on us, they will fall further and further behind,” he says.
“Many corporates have created training programmes to help fill the gap, but the youth still make up 63,4% of the total number of unemployed people in this country. We need to make a concerted effort to work together to solve this challenge.”
This was highlighted by President Cyril Ramaphosa in his State of the Nation address, when he said: “The government cannot solve our economic challenges alone. Even if we were to marshal every single resource at our disposal and engage on a huge expenditure of public funds, we will not alone be able to guarantee employment to the millions of people who are today out of work.”
Engelbrecht points out that in addition to employer efforts, institutions such as community colleges and vocational schools remain a key avenue to providing access to high-quality jobs. “A number of successful partnerships are underway between community college systems and local employers to ensure that curricula are tailored to current and future workplace needs and that students preparing to enter the workforce have access to employers who value the skills they are building.”
Among these is the work that Atvance Academy is doing. Partnering with South African corporates, Atvance Academy has built campuses across the country to upskill South Africa’s youth, with a particular focus on scarce skills. More than 30 000 learners a month attend Atvance Academy’s SAQA-accredited training programmes, at no cost to them.
“Our methodology is proving immensely successful. We now have over 170 campuses – all based in the areas where the learners need them – and have helped thousands of young people find work. We work closely with the communities we operate in, partnering with community leaders, community centres, libraries and schools to empower and educate – and uplift the community as a whole,” explains Engelbrecht.
“These social partnerships are only one half of the equation. We also partner with companies that are proactively looking to make a difference. These partnerships enable us to provide free education to those that need it the most, while at the same time helping them meet their preferential procurement, skills development and socio-economic development B-BBEEE objectives. By encouraging the development of solutions that benefit the youth and corporates alike, we are proud to be helping create a better South Africa.”