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ITWeb TV: BCX, Alibaba Academy create cloud workforce

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 28 Mar 2024
Hope Lukoto, chief human resources officer at BCX, unpacks South Africa’s chronic ICT skills shortage and how the BCX-Alibaba partnership seeks to help create a pipeline of skills for local firms. #itwebtv #bcx #recruitment

Telkom subsidiary BCX is seeing growing demand for Alibaba Cloud Academy courses among South African students, executives and professionals, with plans to train hundreds more over the next year.

The JSE-listed ICT provider last year signed a partnership deal with Chinese multinational cloud company Alibaba Cloud, to expand the Alibaba Cloud Academy to SA, to upskill youth and C-level executives in cloud computing.

The academy provides over 300 online and in-person certification courses that prepare customers, partners and developers to tackle cloud solutions with Alibaba Cloud products, among other IT-focused programmes.

The e-learning collaboration is part of a broader deal that saw the companies bring Alibaba Cloud to Africa, under the Africa Local Public Cloud service, which is operated from two Johannesburg-based data centres.

During an interview with ITWeb TV, Hope Lukoto, chief human resources officer at BCX, noted the BCX-Alibaba partnership seeks to help create a pipeline of skills for local firms of all sizes.

Last year, BCX and Alibaba Cloud partnered with the University of the Witwatersrand to empower its students with cloud computing skills, in preparation for Africa’s digital economy.

“Courses available on Alibaba Academy are offered to clients, universities as well as our own employees and partner ecosystem,” said Lukoto.

“Through the online portal, we offer over 300 opportunities and programmes, and a certification for those who complete the programmes, including educators. At Wits, we have already certified 37 students and this year we are aiming for another 100. We are engaging other universities regarding introducing the academy as part of their syllabus.”

The collaboration saw Wits become the first local university to adopt the Alibaba Cloud Academic Empowerment Programme for third-year students in the School of Computer Science and Applied Mathematics.

According to Lukoto, organisations still face difficulties with attracting, retaining and upskilling suitably-skilled employees, as the IT skills gap continues to widen. This often results in companies fiercely competing for skills – with many professionals job-hopping within the same ICT firms.

While there is a wide range of highly sought-after tech skills, those most in-demand are associated with the current set of emerging technologies, she pointed out.

Hope Lukoto, chief human resources officer at BCX. Photo by Lesley Moyo
Hope Lukoto, chief human resources officer at BCX. Photo by Lesley Moyo

“Some of the skills that we are always on the look-out for are cloud, cyber security, data analytics, solutions architect and software developers. We are always looking for people that understand specific industries; for instance, being able to apply that IT skill to financial services or to mining, health or the retail sector.

“With the global market being open to everyone, in light of remote working, software developers − for instance − can work for anyone anywhere wherever they are, so it has become even more difficult to source those skills.”

In seeking practical long-term solutions, there needs to be engagement and collaboration between HR communities, the public and private sectors, to approach the skills scarcity issue as a South African problem, and not as a problem faced by organisations in isolation, she said.

BCX’s human resources unit has introduced upskilling, re-skilling and mentorship programmes for internal staff. For ecosystem partners, the company has additional initiatives to help employees.

“The IT skills shortage is a national problem, not a BCX problem, and therefore we can only resolve it if we approach it as a national problem instead of poaching and rotating talent across one another.

“Through our partner ecosystem, which includes WeThinkCode and the ExploreAI Academy, we are playing an important role in being part of resolving the South African skills shortage challenge for organisations, by creating ubiquitous access to critical skills,” she concluded.