VIDEO: DigiLink targets more youth for tech work opportunities

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 19 Jun 2024
IT upskilling vehicle DigiLink sets its sights on more youth absorption into entry-level high-value tech jobs. #harambee #sayouth #Digilink

Youth-focused IT upskilling vehicle DigiLink is looking to scale-up its operations to fill the more than 60 000 digital jobs currently available in South Africa.

This is according to Tshepo Makhanye, candidate support manager at DigiLink, speaking to ITWeb during a media tour of the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator in Braamfontein, Johannesburg, in commemoration of Youth Month.

Powered by Harambee, DigiLink is a non-profit, tech-focused work integrated learning programme introduced in October 2020, in line with efforts to upskill unemployed youth so they can participate in the tech economy.

Initially started in Cape Town and now also operational in Johannesburg, DigiLink connects employers with supervised, entry-level digital talent, with the aim to augment and support their digital delivery teams, while bridging the skills gap and bringing young people into the economy.

Youth employment accelerator Harambee has enabled 1.1 million opportunities for work-seekers.
Youth employment accelerator Harambee has enabled 1.1 million opportunities for work-seekers.

So far, its partner network includes Absa, BMW, Capitec, Clickatell and RMB. DigiLink also partnered withnon-profit ICT organisation GirlCode.

“We know that we can’t do this on our own; we need to partner with other stakeholders – employers, government, as well as other not-for-profit organisations,” commented Makhanye.

“How we scale is important, so we can reach as many young people as we can. For the past three years, we’ve learnt quite a lot and what it takes to run such a programme, and we are able to ensure many young people go through this programme.”

He said 160 youths have participated over the past three years. “If there are more than 60 000 guaranteed jobs…I think we need to put through as many young people as possible. If young people in South Africa are here, capable and able to do the jobs, we should put them in these jobs.”

According to Harambee, SA has approximately 66 000 digital jobs available, 60% of which are suitable for first-time, entry-level workers.

DigiLink gives work-seekers 12 months of on-the-job training to access and succeed in the world of high-value tech jobs. The initiative focuses on four streams: software development, software testing, data analysis and infrastructure operations.

Makhanye revealed the programme has a 98% absorption rate, with many taking up junior roles within the organisations they have been placed.

Work-seeker strides

Now in its 13th-year, youth employment accelerator Harambee partners with government, business and civil society to increase the participation of young people within the economy.

In 2021, it was appointed as the national pathway manager by the Presidency under the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention, which gave rise to jobs portal

SA Youth is a centralised platform where young people can see employment opportunities, while partners can showcase these opportunities to young people. There are 4.8 million young people registered on the platform and 3.9 million young work-seekers actively engage with it. The female and male ratio is split 66% and 34%, respectively.

In addition, the platform has 1 386 employer partners that are active, upload jobs and hire some of the young people registered via the platform.

Sandile Ngakane, marketing administrator at Harambee, said more than 1.1 million opportunities for work-seekers have been enabled, including learning and earning opportunities, jobs, internships, learnerships, as well as multi-faceted programmes. This has resulted in R24.9 billion income for work-seekers, he stated.

“The R24.9 billion is earnings that have been generated during the 13-year period,” explained Zengeziwe Msimang, chief communications officer at Harambee. “As we grow as an organisation and learn more about some of the challenges that young people face and the employment landscape…we are trying to manage their pathway, careers and how they move from one place to the next.

“Given that the economy is growing at a much slower rate than we need, we need to ensure to absorb the number of young people across the formal, informal economies and public employment programmes. This is really about how do they trampoline from one opportunity to another. For example, if we start at public employment, we must work to get them to become entrepreneurs, etc.

“A big part of our work is to keep young people engaged. Admittedly, there aren’t enough formal sector jobs, but we have to make sure young people are earning and learning…and stay within the employment system.

“For us, engagement is everything. We want young people to stay searching and find opportunities, even if this might be short-term. Go into another one, learn how to be an entrepreneur and stay within the system. Once young people are disengaged, it is a problem for all of us.”

The Harambee facility also features what it calls a ‘smartworks’ room where smart clothes are provided to young people to wear for work interviews.

According to Ngakane, a lot of the young people don’t have formal clothing for their first interview. “Young people are assisted from the time they register on the network right up to the time they are called for an interview that could potentially change their lives. The clothing is available to the young people and they get to keep it afterwards.”