Further emphasising the need for the private and public sectors to work together in addressing the skills shortage in South Africa, deputy president Phumzile Mlambo-Nguka says skills transfer is the single most important factor in alleviating the country's main problems of unemployment, poverty and crime.
Speaking at an event held to mark the skills development initiatives implemented by Business Connexion (BCX) in partnership with the Isett Seta over the past two years, Mlambo-Nguka says: "Skills transfer is the single most critical intervention we can make, which will address 90% of the issues we face."
These issues, she adds, include unemployment, poverty and crime.
"These initiatives have made a valuable contribution to Jipsa (the Joint Initiative on Priority Skills Acquisition) and we appreciate that contribution."
Jipsa, which aims to accelerate the acquisition of priority skills in the country, has recognised that the mismatch between the skills of graduates and the skills demanded by the economy contributes to graduate unemployment.
According to a report covering the period from March to December 2006, the skills that come with formal qualifications frequently fall short of industry expectations.
Mlambo-Nguka emphasised the importance of the ICT industry and says that the recent Presidential International Advisory Council (PIAC) on Information Society and Development discussed the need for digital migration, improving access to and the affordability of broadband, unbundling the local loop, and creating an eSkills Council to support and advise government on training requirements going forward.
"It is spring for ICT in South Africa – I don’t want to see us lose the momentum," she says.
Over the past two years, BCX has run internship and learnership programmes aimed at addressing the national skills shortage by grooming participants for employment in the ICT industry. The programmes, which were supported and funded by Isett Seta and are in line with the aims of Jipsa, will release 170 learners and 139 interns into the economy.
Oupa Mopaki, CEO of Isett Seta, says: "Business Connexion is one of our valued partners and has done extremely well in not only creating learning opportunities, but also permanent employment for young learners who have successfully completed their skills programmes. It is a great pleasure working with Business Connexion."
BCX distinguished its learnership programme from its internship programme by the focus the former took on school leavers instead of graduates.
The learnership programme took unemployed school leavers through three different National Qualification Programmes at NQF level 5. These included desktop support, system development and systems support. At the completion of the theoretical phase of the programme learners were placed within Business Connexion and given the opportunity to gain the workplace experience required by the qualifications.
The internship programme focused on final year IT graduates with the aim of developing them so that they would be eligible for full time employment in the ICT industry. Line managers identified entry level vacancies for graduates that included junior customer engineer, junior support engineer, junior call desk agent and junior consultant, and the interns were placed within the organisation.
Each was assigned a mentor and was taught technical skills relevant to his or her position, which covered A+, MCDST, MCSE, MS Office, N+, Oracle, Remedy, SAP, SQL Server and SUN. Soft skills training, including personal development, effective communication and business ethics was also provided.
BCX CEO, Benjamin Mophatlane, says that the company recognises the need to invest in skills development, not as a CSI initiative, but as a business imperative.
"Skills are the foundation of our business," Mophatlane says. "It is vital that we contribute to skills development, particularly in the increasingly competitive ICT environment, or we will be left behind in a global market.
"I am proud that we have been able to work with Isett Seta to touch the lives of so many people, in a way that will benefit the South African ICT industry as a whole."