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SKILLS DEVELOPMENT IS KEY TO ADDRESSING SA’S YOUTH UNEMPLOYMENT 30 YEARS INTO DEMOCRACY

Kutlwano Rawana

Fostering an integrated and collaborative approach thorough upskilling the sector with the necessary ICT skills

Although South Africa has one of the highest unemployment rates in the world, the country also sits with thousands of vacancies in key jobs, particularly in information communications technology (ICT). Kutlwano Rawana, Group HR Executive at Rectron outlines some potential measures the economy can take to address the skills gap to address joblessness and developmental hurdles.

According to the latest figures (2024:Q1) from Government, South Africa grapples with a 45,5% unemployment rate among young people (15-34). This far exceeds the national average of 32,9%, which is one of the highest in the world, if not the highest.

The country’s worryingly low educational outcomes, especially in previously disadvantaged communities, has led to this dire situation. While many young people struggle to find work, an economy looking to keep up with a fast-digitising world struggles to find skilled labour.

According to the latest Institute of Information Technology Professions (IITPSA) ICT Skills Survey, some of the hardest positions to fill include software developers, computer network and systems engineers and ICT security specialists. One estimate places the skills shortage at around 77,000 high-value digital jobs, with around 300,000 technology jobs currently outsourced to overseas workers.

As the economy comes to rely more on artificial intelligence, new roles in data science and analytics, cybersecurity, artificial intelligence and machine learning will become increasingly vital.

Working closely with government, training institutions and others in the greater ICT sector, Rectron has invested into a comprehensive and multi-dimensional ICT skills development programme, that allows young people interested in the field to learn through formal training.

Graduate Training Programme

Since launching the Graduate Development Programme in 2021, the company has recruited 21 graduates from different universities and colleges around the country. The programme runs for 12 months, during which time graduates are and offered a competitive salary and expected to complete a Work Readiness Programme to assist them with their transition to the world of work.

IT Technical Support Learnership

In collaboration with a local training provider, Rectron provides technical skills to school leavers through an extensive learnership programme. The learnership is open to unemployed youth who have completed Grade 10 and have a passion for IT. The learners receive theoretical and practical training in hardware, software, networking, and troubleshooting, as well as a national certificate in IT technical support. The12 month-long learnership includes a monthly stipend and a laptop.

Drone Academy

Rectron’s Drone Academy, launched in 2019, is a unique and innovative programme that teaches young people how to fly and operate drones. The programme is open to learners who are enrolled in Grade 11 or 12 and have an interest in IT and aviation. The learners receive theoretical and practical training in drone technology, regulations, safety, and applications, as well as a remote pilot license. The programme lasts for 6 months and includes a monthly stipend and a drone kit. To date, the academy has since trained 15 learners from different schools and communities, empowering them on how to use drones for various purposes, such as photography, security, videography, mapping, surveying, and agriculture.

Employee bursary scheme

As part of Rectron’s talent management process, the Rectron Employee bursary scheme supports the education of Rectron’s employees. The programme is open to all Rectron employees to enroll at the institution of their choice, covering all tuition fees. The programme lasts for the duration of the academic year and is renewable based on the academic performance.

Dependent Bursary Scheme

Rectron’s Dependent Bursary Scheme, established in 2022, is a programme that supports the education of the children of Rectron’s employees who are enrolled in tertiary education and have a good academic record. The programme covers the tuition fees, books, and stationery, lasting for the duration of the academic year, and is renewable based on the academic performance of the dependents. This programme has since supported 16 dependents from different levels and fields of study, and some have graduated from tertiary education and secured employment, or further studies.

Today, Rectron has 25 actively involved students in a variety of learnerships and 10 in its graduate programmes, with a total investment of over R20 million to date.

Over the years, Rectron has facilitated the participation of 92 candidates in its Electrical Engineering Learnership, 27 in its Graduate Development System, five in its Work Readiness Programme (a foundation course for those requiring extra training) and 340 in its IT Technical Support Learning Programmes.

With a high level of understanding and strategic planning for the ever-changing technology environment, supported by a targeted and nuanced training strategy not only can we address the most important ICT skills for the South African economy, but we can also future-proof the sector and equip young South Africans with the necessary skills to set them up for long-term success.

 Kutlwano Rawana, is Group HR Executive at Rectron. She writes in her personal capacity.

INFO SUPPLIED. 

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