IBM, National Youth Development Agency in digital skills pact

Arvind Krishna, IBM chairman and chief executive officer.

IBM has joined forces with the National Youth Development Agency (NYDA), in a push to enhance digital literacy and prepare South African youth for the 21st century workplace.

The partnership with the South African organisation forms part of more than 170 new academic and industry partnerships IBM announced today, as part of a global plan to skill 30 million people by 2030.

In a statement, the computing giant says the effort will leverage its existing programmes and career-building platforms to expand access to education and in-demand technical roles.

“Talent is everywhere; training opportunities are not,” says Arvind Krishna, IBM chairman and CEO. “This is why we must take big and bold steps to expand access to digital skills and employment opportunities so that more people – regardless of their background – can take advantage of the digital economy.

“Today, IBM commits to providing 30 million people with new skills by 2030. This will help democratise opportunity, fill the growing skills gap, and give new generations of workers the tools they need to build a better future for themselves and society.”

On the South African front, IBM and the NYDA will run a series of educational boot camps through NYDA's regional offices to digitally empower youth, according to the statement. The NYDA currently has programmes which it envisages would be mutually beneficial to both parties, it states.

Says Ria Pinto, acting GM, IBM Southern Africa: “The country has set itself the task to take quantum leaps towards ushering in the digital economy. As digital skills are critical for future success, partnerships that will help young people to take advantage of the opportunities presented are increasingly important. Through our partnership with the National Youth Development Agency, IBM will help prepare our young people for the jobs of the future and contribute to building a workforce equipped with a new generation of skills.”

Figures from Statistics SA’s Quarterly Labour Force Survey paint a grim picture of unemployment in the country – showing there were 7.8 million jobless South Africans in the second quarter of 2021, representing 34.4% of the population.

It further highlights that youth aged 15-24 years and 25-34 years have the highest unemployment rates of any age group, with 64.4% and 42.9%, respectively.

To address the scourge of unemployment, particularly among the country’s youth, there’s been concerted effort from both government and industry to prioritise programmes that will create employment opportunities, boost digital skills and digital capacity.

According to IBM, its programmes range from technical education for teens at brick-and-mortar public schools and universities, and extend to paid, on-site IBM internships and apprenticeships. In addition, its skills and education programmes also pair IBM mentorships with learners, and provide no-charge, customisable online curricula to aspiring professionals.

“Youth unemployment is a national crisis that demands urgent, innovative and coordinated solutions. Young people hold the key to transforming our economy, boosting growth and fostering creativity and innovation. They are essential to increasing productivity and improving the livelihoods of all South Africans,” states Waseem Carrim, NYDA CEO.

“The youth unemployment rate is over 40%, according to the most recent statistics. We welcome the initiative by IBM and are proud to be a partner to the programme. Estimates indicate a shortage of 60 000 digital skills in the South African economy and this programme can be a catalyst for change.

“Effective solutions are being pioneered through this partnership through access to skills and we must therefore support and give prominence to what is working in the system, encourage innovation, and catalyse changes in the system that benefit tens of thousands of young people over the next decade,” he adds.

To learn more about the commitment, click here.

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