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#WorkersDay: Narrowing gap between skill and opportunity

The staggering shortage of opportunity for youth skills development could be a real opportunity for South Africa, writes JESSICA HAWKEY, MD of redAcademy

Data published by Statistics South Africa at the end of March this year showed that the country’s official unemployment rate rose 0.4 percentage points to a record 35.3% in the fourth quarter of last year. Couple that with an ailing economy that’s seemingly worsening and the outlook for the country’s youth looks quite bleak at first glance. South Africa’s redAcademy, however, is one organisation that’s taking the skills and unemployment crises head-on. They’re on a mission to fast-track careers in the real world, through what they term a career sprint, that’s destined to narrow the gap between skills and opportunities.  

Jessica Hawkey, Managing Director at redAcademy, says, ”When contemplating the unprecedented unemployment levels that we’re currently facing, one of the main things that need to be highlighted is the mismatch between the skills and the opportunities that are available.”

In keeping with the old adage that says there’s opportunity in every crisis, the staggering shortage of opportunity for youth skills development and the current worldwide shortage of IT skills could be a real opportunity for South Africa. This is the belief that led to specialist enterprise retail software developer, redPanda Software, initiating the formation of redAcademy, a training organisation that’s geared to drastically change the way training occurs in the high-demand software development space.

redAcademy is creating and operating in an area where there is a dire skills shortage. The academy is confident in its ability to upskill and bridge the gap between skills and opportunities for employment. Job placements are guaranteed to all students who complete the course.

The organisation is deliberate in its endeavour to address unemployment, especially amongst the youth as this will address an urgent need that the country is grappling with. To achieve this, the organisation believes that a paradigm shift is required in the way of learning. The academy is offering matriculants more than just skills. Dedicated lecturers and ongoing support and mentorship, from individuals that currently occupy software developer roles, are available to trainees throughout the programme so that they don’t enter the job market with a gap between their knowledge and the immediate ability to effectively perform in the workplace. Key to achieving this is that redAcademy operates within a software organisation that offers the opportunity to leverage the resources of its partner company and that of its clients.

Hawkey says that team interaction, soft skills and the lack of work experience are chief amongst the obstacles that stand in the way of skilled individuals trying to enter the job market. They may have the certifications and qualifications but lacking the “doing” element prevents job placement. redAcademy, therefore, prioritises “the doing element ” as part of its programme.

“Adapting, growing, creating and training for problem-solving are lifelong skills relevant to the modern workforce. We are creating the platform and opportunities for matriculants to practise and mould themselves through a new way of learning and thinking – in addition to the skills for coding languages – to enter into a sustainable career, “ says Hawkey.

The academy’s stance is aligned with the Government’s plan for 4IR, as outlined in the report of the Presidential Commission on 4IR (PC4IR).

PC4IR cited the fourth industrial revolution as “an opportunity for SA to achieve Vision 2030 and beyond” and went on to recommend investing in human capital, noting that its people are SA’s greatest opportunity and greatest resource.

The report further stated that “The 4IR gives us a rallying point of urgency and an opportunity to redesign, streamline and align the education system through a co-ordinated, robust, multi-stakeholder process. The purpose of the next version of our skills ecosystem will be to leapfrog our youth into productive work and reskill current workers for job retention and ongoing productive work in the economy.

“Reframing the process of training software developers so that they gain the skills and experience necessary to launch into a career immediately after completing the training, we believe, is the most efficient way to get our youth participating in and contributing to the economy, as well as helping propel our nation to achieving our 4IR goals,” says Hawkey.

redAcademy is currently inviting applications for its training programme that guarantees a job upon completion, set to kick off in June this year. Matriculants wanting to enrol can apply here.

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