It's vital for South Africa to train up as many young people as possible to meet the challenge of global competition for scarce skills. This was one of the messages from President Thabo Mbeki, speaking at the launch of a major new training and skills development organisation.
President Mbeki described the e-Skills Academy as an inspiring story of a partnership founded on a shared commitment to address the critical challenge of skills and human development as part of a national effort to confront the broader tasks of the development and reconstruction of the country.
“This auspicious occasion serves as an opportunity for me to pay tribute to the members of the Presidential International Advisory Council on Information Society and Development (PIAC) who took the lead, working with our Department of Communications, to address the serious shortage in e-skills identified during meetings of the advisory council.
“When we established the council, we explained to members that we sought to access their expertise and experience to assist us to better understand modern information and communications technologies and to rapidly spread the use of these technologies in this country based on proper understanding of their application in all areas of human activity.
“The e-Skills Academy constitutes yet another concrete outcome of the seriousness with which members of the council responded to this earnest appeal."
President Mbeki says South Africa has the potential to address many critical areas that are part of a modern technological society.
“This is because we have a relatively sound technological and scientific infrastructure that allows for further innovation and improvement.
“With the correct focus and through appropriate partnerships, it should be possible for us to catch up with global leaders in theses fields. This is critical to the achievement of the goals of economic growth and shared prosperity, the upliftment of our people, the creation of jobs and the realisation of a better life for all South Africans,” he says.
He notes that the academy, based on a commitment made to the PIAC by Oracle, was established after extensive consultation and collaboration among all stakeholders, including technology users in both the public and private sectors, multinational vendors, tertiary institutions, government departments and national training authorities.
“This kind of partnership is what South Africa and young people need. We require this initiative because it will help our students to develop the technology and business skills demanded by contemporary society and the modern economy.
“This collaboration further suggests that all stakeholders have accepted unconditionally that they share an obligation to alleviate unemployment and poverty, both of which are still at unacceptably high levels in our country,” he says.
President Mbeki says that one of the major challenges facing South Africa and other developing economies was the intense, global competition for skills.
“Given the global competition with developed countries it has always been difficult for developing countries to retain sufficient number of these highly sought-after workers. This impacts negatively on the growth and development of these countries. Accordingly, it is important to train as large a number of skilled workers as possible so that even in the event of migration of skills to developed countries, the developing economies would themselves be able to maintain a competitive edge,” he says.
President Mbeki says the sustainability of the academy as a training initiative was not only guaranteed within the framework of undertakings made by Oracle and other multinational vendors to PIAC and the e-Skills Council, but also by the fact that the institution had been established as a commercial venture.
Urging government, business leaders and communities to explore ways of using the academy’s programmes to prepare the country’s youth to join the ranks of ICT professionals, President Mbeki says the continued success of ICT operatives would depend on ensuring that ICT ceases to be the preserve of the privileged few to become a tool with which the poor liberate themselves from the wretchedness and enable people to progress from the “second” to the “first” economy.