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DigiLink’s skills programme adds more youth to tech economy

Staff Writer
By Staff Writer, ITWeb
Johannesburg, 23 Nov 2021

The first cohort of digitally-skilled youth have graduated as part of the digital training and mentoring programme introduced by Cape Town-based incubator DigiLink.

The graduates, says DigiLink, have also gained full-time employment with global customer engagement company Clickatell, where they received training and mentoring over the past year.

Pieter de Villiers, CEO and co-founder of Clickatell, says the cohort provides managed digital services such as software testing and development to the company’s clients. “These are jobs that employees in the US and Canada have traditionally done.

“The real beauty of this initiative is that not only does it train and employ young South Africans who had little or no hope of accessing jobs despite being digitally gifted, it also keeps the work – and the associated revenue – in South Africa. So it's a double win.”

Launched in Cape Town last year, DigiLink was conceptualised by Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, SiMODiSA and education provider CapaCiTi Digital Career Accelerator.

The not-for-profit organisation aims to bring unemployed and excluded youth into the tech economy and equip them for long-term employment. It provides young people with the training, mentorship and supervision needed to fulfil entry-level digital jobs, such as software testing and development, desktop support and data analysis.

According to Evan Jones, group strategy director of Harambee, South Africa spends about R10 billion offshore every year on jobs that should be done in the country.

“Research we conducted in November 2020 showed around 44 000 entry-level digital jobs available in this country. Although we have the raw talent available in South Africa, they just need a leg up to be exposed to work readiness and real work experiences to advance their aspirations into the digital economy. The DigiLink initiative bridges that gap.”

Candidates for the DigiLink programme, who come from marginalised backgrounds, are sourced from university graduates and digital academies. Some are self-skilled or have completed micro-courses, but all have evident technical ability and some tech background.

The 12-month programme combines real-world work with technical skills and personal training, giving candidates the essential experience for future employment.

Says Jones: “None of us can solve South Africa’s massive youth unemployment problem alone, but when stakeholders work together to drive a common plan with shared value, they can become engines of inclusive growth.”

Jones explains what's needed now is more employers to get on board to scale the work opportunities for young people. “South Africa does not have enough young digital talent entering the job market to meet the current demand for digital skills in our economy, and few businesses have the capacity to coach and mentor inexperienced people for complex jobs. So we must find ways to bridge this gap.”

According to DigiLink, additional cohorts are already under way, training on the job with multiple partners, and within 12 months, will also be ready for full-time employment.