Microsoft, PSETA invite youth to apply for digital skills training

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 29 Apr 2021
Thulani Tshefuta, chairperson of the PSETA Accounting Authority.
Thulani Tshefuta, chairperson of the PSETA Accounting Authority.

Microsoft has partnered with the Public Service Sector Education and Training Authority (PSETA), to extend its global skills training initiative to provide 20 000 additional young South Africans with critical digital skills.

An entity that reports to the Department of Higher Education and Training, PSETA is one of the 21 Sector Education and Training Authorities established in accordance with the Skills Development Act No 97 of 1998.

Launched in June last year, in the middle of the COVID-19-induced lockdown, the Microsoft global skills development initiative was aimed at helping to create employment opportunities by training 25 million people worldwide in digital skills by the end of 2020.

As part of the initiative, the tech giant had partnered with several stakeholders, including its subsidiary LinkedIn, e-learning platform GitHub Learning Lab and youth development NPO Afrika Tikkun, which hosts and facilitates access to its e-learning programmes.

PSETA will support unemployed learners to access this opportunity and promote the initiative through its networks to ensure as many unemployed learners as possible have free access to the best resources, to improve knowledge and capabilities, according to Microsoft.

This includes leveraging partnerships with other public sector entities in opening up access to libraries, computer labs, community halls and Technical and Vocational Education and Training colleges, as well as assisting with the Internet connectivity needed to participate in, and complete the training and certifications that will help their employability by bringing them into the digital economy.

“When young people are not able to enter the labour market or find opportunities for further education or training, we are losing the potential of these youth to contribute to our economy, productivity and growth,” says Thulani Tshefuta, chairperson of the PSETA Accounting Authority.

“Government’s Economic Reconstruction and Recovery Plan seeks to actively change the economy towards positive growth. This requires an active and immediate adaptation by the post-school education and training system and will require a range of stakeholders, including government, private sector and educational institutions, to engage in continuous, structured consultation, collaboration and co-ordination.”

This latest partnership builds on the momentum of Microsoft’s global skilling initiative, which the company says has helped nearly 300 000 people in SA gain access to digital skills like software development, data analysis and customer service specialisation since last June.

In October last year, Microsoft South Africa provided a $150 000 (over R2.5 million) grant to Afrika Tikkun, which helps young people from underserved South African communities through its holistic cradle-to-career model that includes skills development and work readiness programmes.

This grant, according to the company, was used to extend the reach of digital skills to more South Africans by recruiting job-seekers into the global skills initiative programme; assessing job-seekers to determine the best learning pathway for them, as well as supporting and incentivising them to access and complete at least one learning pathway; enrolling and helping job-seekers with formal certification; and sourcing work experience, job placement and entrepreneurial opportunities.

“South Africa’s youth, particularly those from underserved communities, have borne the brunt of the economic crisis precipitated by the pandemic,” says Onyinye Nwaneri, CEO of Afrika Tikkun Services.

“Unemployment has risen to 32.5% − 7.2 million people unemployed in the fourth quarter of 2020 – and many of these are young people desperate to gain future-ready, relevant skills that will help make them more employable.”

Lillian Barnard, MD of Microsoft SA, points out that digital skills are the key to employability and economic growth.

Research has found that the most critical future skills that businesses will continue to require in the next five years are all digital, with data analysts, data scientists and machine learning specialists topping the list of the most in-demand roles.

“By providing youth with the learning paths of the skills that are most in demand, the initiative is helping create employability and bridge the skills gap in the country. It is extending the footprint of Microsoft’s global skills initiative by harnessing the power of partnerships and enabling more widespread access to critical digital skills training,” notes Barnard.

Young South Africans interested in accessing these digital skills training programmes can learn more on the Microsoftmicrosite. All of the resources for the global skills initiative are also available on the job-seeker’s portal.