Cybercrime is one of the biggest threats facing businesses and consumers in 2021. It is estimated that it’s going to cost the world’s businesses and consumers $6-trillion this year, and more than $10-trillion by 2025.

To fight this scourge, the world currently needs 3,5-million cybersecurity professionals – and this offers a real opportunity to create jobs for thousands of young South Africans, says leading email security and cyber resilience company Mimecast.

South African talent must be given the relevant digital and technical support skills, and investment and support from the private sector is critical to making this happen, says Mimecast’s vice-president for Africa, Paul Stafford.

Mimecast recently signed a partnership with the Youth Employment Service (YES) to give 40 learners 12-month work experiences with the National Financial Literacy Association (NFLA). This will give them in-demand skills and experience in the ICT sector while earning a monthly salary. The skills they are learning include data analysis, cybersecurity, IT technical skills and systems engineering.

“South Africa’s abundant youth population, strong work ethic and high levels of digital maturity make the country an ideal location for outsourced digital services to the rest of the world. We have a tremendous opportunity to harness the country’s vast skills and energy in the service of building more resilient businesses and communities,” says Stafford.

He says the YES model of giving young people 12 months of valuable work experience with community-based NGOs was critical to break the current catch-22 cycle of unemployment, in which unemployed youth can’t get a job without experience, but can’t get the necessary experience without a job.

YES is a not-for-profit joint initiative between business, government and labour that aims to address the youth unemployment crisis in South Africa. Since being founded just over 130 weeks ago, YES has worked with 1 559 South African companies to create more than 57,500 work experience positions, with funding entirely from the private sector. In the process, the youth have collectively earned more than R3,2-billion, which benefits extended families and entire communities.

Leanne Emery, acting co-CEO of YES, said the social impact of creating jobs for the youth was “almost immediate”. A significant 88,4% of YES Youth placed in work experience positions come from grant recipient households, meaning that one youth income almost immediately has ripple effects across an entire community.

“That critical first job for a young adult is the trigger to an economic cascade of events and is the only way to address inequality quickly. By exponentially increasing their job placement ability, companies like Mimecast will not only drive their own growth but help reignite the entire economy. This will also be key in the country’s ability to rebound from the economic effects of the pandemic,” says Emery.

Over and above its partnership with YES, Mimecast’s year-long graduate programme employs, upskills and empowers dozens of young South Africans annually, who apply their skills and expertise to support the company’s customers while also taking their first steps toward a lifelong career.

Through initiatives like these, Mimecast and other private sector organisations are helping to upskill young South Africans, making them ready to compete for work both locally and on the global stage – and possibly becoming one of the 3,5-million cybersecurity professionals needed in countries throughout the world.

“Africa has the talent to compete on a global scale. We just need the right technology, connectivity and continuity to make it happen. If your entire workforce is working from home and collaborating using technology, what’s to stop you from hiring for a role in South Africa?” says Stafford.