Empire Foundation provides national skills matching

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Joanna Govender, co-founder of Skills Blackboard.
Joanna Govender, co-founder of Skills Blackboard.

To mark Youth Month, Empire Partner Foundation (EPF) has partnered with three tech start-ups to embark on a national campaign to match the skills of young people to job opportunities.

This week, the EPF, the Good People Data Company, Skills Blackboard and Ashanti AI unveiled a free digital talent platform, which aims to improve young people’s access to job opportunities.

The group – led by the EPF, a non-profit tech foundation – says it is focused on using digital solutions to reduce the graduate unemployment rate and the objective is to provide young South Africans with a user-friendly, efficient platform to showcase their talents.

EPF’s national skills matching campaign comes as the country sees increasingly high numbers of young people without jobs.

Stats SA’s Labour Force Survey for the second quarter paints a grim picture of unemployment in the country – showing there were 7.8 million jobless South Africans, representing 34.4% of the population.

Now, the four companies say several interventions can be deployed to ameliorate the economic and social plight of youth in SA, including their free skills matching platform.

“We are conscious of the plight that many graduates and experienced workers in South Africa cannot find jobs and the ensuing frustration they face. There is no national skills database where they can load their CVs onto to provide them with relevant opportunities,” says Joanna Govender, co-founder of Skills Blackboard.

“There is no platform to showcase or match graduates and students to internships, learnerships or jobs. There is no platform that identifies the skills shortfall for candidates in order for them to upskill or improve their qualifications. We aim to improve the candidates’ access and visibility of viable opportunities through our data science platform. We are focused on using tech to reduce the graduate unemployment rate.”

According to Govender, each year the country experiences a dynamic increase in the number of graduates entering the market but there isn’t enough access to opportunities.

“Our research has indicated there are many students that require work-based learning programmes and work integrated learning in order to graduate, and only 21% of the graduates are absorbed into the formal market each year, representing a high graduate unemployment rate.”

JK Du Toit, CEO of Good People Data Company, notes the South African skills gap is a growing problem and with the disconnect between “our youth and practical training opportunities exponentially growing”, the need for new solutions is critical.

He explains: “A key part of educational strategy is connecting classroom studies with practical work experience where learners have the ability to practically apply their learnings in a workplace. Unfortunately, this remains a major challenge for South Africa’s future talent, with young talent unable to connect to workplace opportunities in a structured, unbiased and automated manner.

“Using machine learning and AI [artificial intelligence], Skills Blackboard was designed and built to solve this problem by seamlessly connecting learners with companies who have learnership opportunities, connecting our future leaders with companies and roles aligned and matched to their work-integrated learning requirements, and creating a skilled, professionally-equipped future workforce.”

Takalani Madzhadzhi, CEO of Ashanti AI, says: “Given the changing skills requirements due to technology and the 4IR [fourth industrial revolution], having a skills database can enable the young people to assess if they are equipped for the future and what gaps need to be filled to be ready. We are positive about the national campaign.”

Mikhial Mariemuthu, senior manager at EPF, comments: “The Empire Partner Foundation is excited to work with Skills Blackboard in an effort to build a national skills database, as well as providing the unemployed youth of South Africa with an innovative platform for them to find employment opportunities. As technology keeps evolving, so should the way in which we provide opportunities to the youth.”

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