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Mainstreaming disability in ICT adds to value chain

By KHETHIWE NKUNA, Head of Corporate Citizenship and Inclusion & Diversity Lead for Accenture, Africa

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Left to right: Khethiwe Nkuna, Head of Corporate Citizenship and Inclusion & Diversity Lead for Accenture, Africa, Percy Maimela graduate from the EmployAbility Cadet Programme and Lyn Mansour, CEO of KLM Empowered.

Every eight in hundred people in South Africa are living with disability. This is according to the South African Human Rights Commission (SAHRC) which states that the national disability prevalence rate is 7.5%, translating to nearly 4.3 million South Africans who are disabled. As defined in the Employment Equity Act, people with disabilities are “those who have long-term or recurring physical, sensory, or mental impairment which substantially limits their prospect of entry into or advancement in employment” (EE Act no. 55 of 1998). Although 4.3 million is a significant number, they make up much less than 1% of all people employed in our country, and with the employment rate already low, their prospects are even lower. Why could this be?

Discrimination against people with disabilities is still entrenched in today’s society, especially in the workplace and as such, they are either not fully accommodated, or are left entirely out of employment opportunities. This discrimination often starts earlier than when they enter the labour market. Many of them are not able to access certain courses, especially at the tertiary level for different reasons. Schools may not be disability-friendly or may not offer special teaching options; thus excluding many students from the education system and further reducing their chances of employment. With the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) already taking over the workplace, one can only imagine how increasingly challenging it may get to find employment without the necessary skills needed for the future of work, particularly for someone with a disability.

Success story – disability is still EmployAbility

At Accenture, developing skills has always been a priority. We welcome people with different capabilities, perspectives, and experiences because we believe that this diversity emanates in novel ideas and approaches to business challenges, a higher level of innovative thinking and more varied tactics that help achieve greater levels of success.

Our Skills to Succeed initiative – launched in 2009 to advance employment and entrepreneurship opportunities – is one of our proudest accomplishments. It addresses the global need for skills that open doors to employment by drawing on two of Accenture’s unique capabilities: our training talent and our ability to convene powerful partnerships.

On recognising the need for specialised future skills training for people with disabilities, Accenture initiated the EmployAbility Cadet Programme. This three-year programme which benefits ten learners living with disability offers accredited training to pursue career opportunities within the Information and Communications Technology (ICT) sector.

The participating candidates receive not only formal education but also practical experience and mentoring in a real work environment, so that they are confident and knowledgeable, able to interact comfortably in any working environment, grow their business skills and establish a strong work ethic. Each graduate will complete an 18-month internship programme in the Delivery Centre within Accenture Technology. With this, we believe they will be empowered, highly motivated, skilled digital artisans. This practical approach is the best way of attracting and retaining people with disabilities into the ICT sector and ensuring that the programme creates sustainable and career-focused employment as opposed to ad-hoc temporary work opportunities.

Through the EmployAbility Cadet programme, Accenture has successfully supported disability inclusion in the ICT sector. As we kickstart the countdown to 50 years of adding meaningful value to South Africa, the success of this initiative is highly celebrated. Over the course of the three year learnership programme, candidates completed a project management qualification (NQF4), advanced project management (NQF5), as well as a National Certificate in Information Technology.  During the same period, the learners obtained practical experience and the opportunity to put the theoretical knowledge into practice. On 4 December 2019 the first intake of the EmployAbility Cadet Programme graduated.

Disability inclusion adds to the value chain

Accenture unlocks Africa’s abundance for all, improving the way our world works. This is reflected in our core values and comes to life daily through the decisions and actions of our people. By creating opportunities that impact the lives of South Africans positively for 50 years as champions of business and workplace transformation, we have been intentional in making disability inclusion in the workplace a priority. In the 2018 financial year alone, we spent more than R38 million on skills development for black employees and learners with disabilities, and our goal is to develop leadership and management skills, as well as professional skills associated with specific career paths.

We proudly support the Leonard Cheshire Disability Soweto Livelihoods Resource Centre. This is a community-based rehabilitation programme of Cheshire Homes South Africa in partnership with Leonard Cheshire Disability International. The centre has been set up to help people with disabilities fully participate in sustainable livelihoods and opportunities. It aims to promote inclusive and sustainable development through mainstreaming disability in the workplace. It focuses on enhancing their capabilities with training, work exposure and placement in different sectors and industries.

Unlocking ability in all people for the future

In 2015 the SAHRC produced the Disability Toolkit on “Promoting the Right to Work of Persons with Disabilities” for the private sector. The Toolkit is intended to promote awareness and assist employers in the private sector to advance the right to employment for persons with disabilities. This, along with Government’s Broad-based Black Economic Empowerment (B-BBEE) policy aims to ensure that all South Africans can participate meaningfully in the mainstream economy. Accenture fully supports this and believes that to build a sustainable economy, the private sector must work together with the government to maximise the potential of the country’s people and enterprises.

Our investment efforts are crucial to grow the pool of future skills available to the South African market, help people secure employment and start businesses and, ultimately, to sustain Accenture’s success as a high-performance business. This year Accenture has once again achieved a Level 1 B-BBEE status and performance. Our transformation initiatives go beyond B-BBEE compliance, and we are proud to invest in people and causes that make people prosper.

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