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Skilling for the fourth industrial revolution

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In South Africa, there are an estimated 829 800 positions for highly-skilled workers that need to be filled, says recruitment specialist Adcorp. Of these, Cisco estimates that 30 000 to 70 000 of these fall within the category of skilled technology workers.
“These skills are just not available,” says Vernon Thaver, chief technology officer at Cisco SA. “At present there is a need for each country to fundamentally change in a digital way, but we lack the necessary human resource skills to do so. It’s also not just about simple upskilling, it’s about building the right skills that the market needs, with a focus on the specialisation in the Internet of Things (IoT).”
This sentiment is echoed by the World Bank’s 2016 Digital Dividends Report, which notes that, “Digital technologies have spread rapidly in much of the world. Digital dividends – the broader development benefits from using these technologies–have lagged behind. In many instances, digital technologies have boosted growth, expanded opportunities and improved service delivery. Countries that are able to swiftly adjust to this evolving digital economy will reap the greatest digital dividends, while the rest are likely to fall behind.”
A pilot project launched this week by Cisco is a step forward in addressing this need. The fulfilment will take a step forward in helping boost the country’s ailing economy, with a market related skills intervention that will see positive results in a year. The programme will result in respectable expert masters specifically in the area of Networking.
The programme, referred to as the Cisco CCIE 360 Learning Programme is part of the bigger Cisco Legacy programme, a collaboration with Telkom’s Futuremarkets, which focuses on driving innovation in the ICT sector by growing access to technology and by offering long-term support to its SMMEs. This ambitious project is a collaboration between Cisco, MICT SETA, NIL Data Communications and Telcolink.
This Cisco CCIE 360 Learning Programme is the largest of its kind in the world. A 75-strong contingent of students, the largest group to be trained in this skill at one go, will spend the next year being up skilled in the sector. “The Cisco Certified Internetwork Expert (CCIE) is accepted worldwide as the most prestigious networking certifications in the industry,” says Lesley Mamaila, project manager for the programme.
“What sets this project apart from other programmes is that it is a demand-based approach,” says Mamaila. Cisco called on their partners and clients to submit the names and achievements of employees that could benefit from the training, after a rigorous selection process 75 of the 186 applications were accepted into the programme.
Martin Camp, regional director for NIL Africa (the Cisco Learning Partner) says that the CCIE 360 Learning programme will be implemented as a planned, structured, and co-ordinated and managed programme that seeks to provide a specialised skill, where a designated mentor supports the selected candidates during the duration of the programme. The CCIE 360 Routing and Switching will serve as a practical programme and assist with the continuous development for future appointment in the labour market.
The second part of the project that warrants attention is the employment of the students after the programme. With a high rate of skills programme concluding after three months, to allow companies to re-apply for additional skills levy grants, these students are already employed and will simply hold a higher position on their return. “There is a dramatic improvement in post-graduation job prospects,” says Thaver.
The employers run across a series of verticals including telecommunications, FMCG, the public sector, financial services and FMCG. Some of the high-profile employers include Vodacom, MTN, Premium Foods and Sita. However, this programme is not limited to the enterprise market, but also seeks to support SMMEs.
As part of Cisco’s SMMEs development programme, Telcolink has been appointed as of the key strategic partner. The role that Cisco will play in Telcolink’s development is to share valuable business expertise and foster skills transfer in an effort to contribute in addressing government’s transformational and developmental imperatives, more so in the Enterprise Development space.
Cecil Mashawana, CEO of Telcolink, says: “Research by Global Entrepreneurship Monitor shows that small businesses are significant contributors to job creation, creating more than 50 percent of all employment opportunities in South Africa. This is why it is imperative for both private and public to invest in small businesses.
“We are grateful to be part of a programme that provides companies like Cisco with an opportunity to play their part in developing SMMEs such as us. And furthermore, we are honoured for the opportunity to play a role in a learning programme aimed at addressing the shortage of critical and scarce skills in the country.”
As for concerns about trained employees leaving for higher paid positions elsewhere, says Thaver, “rather you train them and they go, than not train them and they stay. It is this foundation that will pave the way to the Fourth Industrial Revolution.”