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New initiative to unlock SA youth ICT skills potential

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Dr Phil Mjwara, director-general at the science and innovation department, and MICT SETA CEO Matome Madibana.
Dr Phil Mjwara, director-general at the science and innovation department, and MICT SETA CEO Matome Madibana.

The Department of Science and Innovation (DSI) and the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA) have entered into a three-year agreement to build ICT skills for SA’s unemployed youth.

This comes as public and private sector organisations ramp up efforts to equip youth with relevant skills, as the country’s unemployment continues to escalate.

The economy shed more than 270 000 jobs in the fourth quarter of 2021, with the unemployment rate climbing to 35.3% and 7.9 million unemployed people, according to Statistics South Africa.

Signed by DSI director-general Dr Phil Mjwara and MICT SETA CEO Matome Madibana, the agreement aims to build capacity in ICT for unemployed youth in SA, the organisations say.

As a result, youth will be equipped with skills in areas such as cyber security, robotics, coding, content creation, and software and application development.

Madibana comments: “This partnership reflects our commitment to fostering skills development in the MICT sector, which is imperative for creating new sources of income and employment for young South Africans.

“This is another milestone for the MICT SETA, and we intend to grow our digital footprint and leverage technologies that create value, deliver new services, innovate and adapt to the rapidly-changing environment, through our young people.”

MICT SETA is a skills development institution established in terms of the Skills Development Act of 1998, with a mission to generate, facilitate and accelerate the processes of quality skills development at all levels in the MICT sector in South Africa.

The DSI’s Mjwara believes the initiative will unlock the potential of young people, particularly in townships and rural communities, who are eager to embrace new technologies. “No communities should be left behind in the skills revolution, digital economy and 4IR era.”

In terms of the agreement, the two parties are working on a framework to guide the roll out of the skills programme through learning facilities around the country, including Living Labs, mLab Southern Africa centres, and other DSI-funded education facilities.

The DSI will fund the establishment of innovation support infrastructure under the Living Labs programme, while the MICT SETA will fund the skills development programmes.

Zoning in on skills

Meanwhile, higher education, science and innovation minister Dr Blade Nzimande yesterday told Parliament the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) projects this current financial year’s skills levy will increase to R20.6 billion compared to last year’s R18.9 billion.

As a result, the DHET has taken the decision to prioritise the sector by re-allocating additional funds from the National Skills Fund.

“We have begun a process of crafting one country, one skills plan (Master Skills Plan),” notes Nzimande. “This process will promote a more efficient and effective mechanism for our country-wide skills planning.

“As part of my service level agreement with the SETAs, they will incorporate government priorities − especially those that address the triple challenges of poverty, unemployment and inequality as captured in the National Development Plan − in their Sector Skills Plans.”

In addition, the ministry will increase its work-based learning programmes from 78 317 to 107 000 during the 2022/23 financial year.

“We will also increase our learners registered in skills development programmes from 43 885 in 2020/21 to 148 000 in 2022/23 and increase our learners entering artisanal programmes from 10 302 in 2020/21 to 22 000 in 2022/23.”

According to Nzimande, both university and TVET college curricula are being reviewed and strengthened to be relevant to the skills required by local employers, communities and the economy.

“To further ensure the rapid skilling and training of our youth, particularly those in rural and townships, we are going to focus our attention to their training in areas such as agriculture and information and communication technologies.

“Our SETAs will be supporting my Department of Science and Innovation in the development of critical high-end skills in selected technology areas, such as the bioeconomy, space science, technology energy and intellectual property management.”

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