A new initiative that trains unemployed South African youth to work in the booming business process outsourcing (BOP) sector has seen more than 550 youth get trained in the past year – and that number is set to double in the coming year.
The Impact Sourcing Academy (ISA) – a partnership between Maharishi Institute, the Rockefeller Foundation and Aegis Outsourcing SA – started operating a year ago and was formally launched this week. It creates work-ready skills for available jobs with clients in the BPO sector, providing unemployed youth with guaranteed jobs after completion.
The ISA is the brainchild of the Community Individual Development Association, the pioneers of the ‘Free Tertiary Education’ movement in South Africa, which created the Maharishi Institute that won a global award as the most innovative education programme in the world in 2010. The organisation, through the organisations it has founded, has educated some 6 000 disadvantaged youth in the past 14 years.
ISA head Dr Taddy Blecher says more than 550 youth have benefited from training programmes in the past year, including the national Level 2 qualification for 130 youth funded by the DTI’s Monyetla Programme. Graduates have been placed with 10 different companies, including Invincible Outsourcing, Aegis, Barclays, ABSA, Teleperformance, FNB and MTN.
Blecher says the program represents a “paradigm shift” in education and training for the unemployed. The model is unique in that beyond the theoretical training, all ‘agents’ get the opportunity to work in real ‘live’ campaigns in Invincible Outsourcing, a call centre staffed and run by students in all areas.
This practical component in turn helps to fund the training itself, so that all students go through the training free while earning stipends. By getting practical experience in their chosen field, they fund their own schooling in the process.
“The goal is to create a fully ‘self-funding’ educational model, whereby students ‘Learn and Earn’ to pay their way through their studies and earn money to support their families and cover daily transport costs. At the same time, students fund the cost of their own non-profit educational institution,” says Blecher.
The MD of the Rockefeller Foundation, Mamadou Biteye, says that Impact Sourcing Academy launched by the Foundation is an essential component of the Digital Jobs Africa initiative, ‘DJA’, which was launched at the World Economic Forum in Cape Town last week.
“Digital Jobs Africa aims to impact a million lives through skills training and job creation over the next seven years, and Impact Sourcing Academy is proving that these jobs can be created and the lives of many South Africans can be enriched.”
The Rockefeller Foundation’s Lillian Chege says South Africa’s position as a springboard for expansion into the continent makes the BPO sector a natural partner for job-creation initiatives.
“South Africa’s BPO sector is perfectly positioned to make a real social impact by employing young people,” she says.
Aegis SA country manager Kobus van der Westhuizen says the BPO industry continues to be one of the key engines for creating jobs in South Africa, with thousands of young people using the industry as a springboard into meaningful employment every year.
“The BPO industry provides a sound platform for any young person looking to forge a variety of careers,” says Van der Westhuizen. “Apart from the ample opportunities within the industry, the skills and experience gained as a BPO agent often provide the ideal platform for young people to gain employment in other sectors.”
Blecher says there are several ways for companies to get involved in the initiative, including helping train people for call centres and Business Process Services division, and providing BPS work to Invincible Outsourcing which will simultaneously cut costs and train unemployed youth.