Innovation and Digital skills key to Youth Empowerment

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By Cindy Nomalanga Ngozo 

There is a greater need to offer quality education, which will incorporate innovation and digital skills into the education system to prepare the youth not just for the challenges of the present, but also for the opportunities of the future. The late global icon Nelson Mandela once said: “Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world”.

Unlike the youth of 1976 that played a vital role in fighting and overcoming the inequality and oppression caused by apartheid, the youth of today is challenged with the high unemployment and career choices that are not aligned or responsive to the market demands. The advent of the COVID-19 pandemic in South Africa has brought a new perceptive on how young people should perceive careers that are relevant to the digital economy of the country.

The era of the 4IR in South Africa represents the youth with leverage to develop and enhance innovation in technology to unlock new market opportunities. Choosing careers that are in line with the digital environment will enable the youth to find innovative ways to equip themselves to compete globally and conduct impactful research.

In ensuring that the youth have appropriate skills and access to training programmes to meet this demand brought into the digital economy, Minister of Communications and Digital Technologies, Stella Ndabeni-Abrahams has been launching innovative and digital skills centres across the country. The centres aim to close the digital gap and unleash pathways for job creation to contribute to the digital economy.

Speaking at the recent masterclass on digital skills opportunities that was held by the Government Communication and Information Systems, Minister Ndabeni-Abrahams said, “the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies has developed the National Digital and Future Skills strategy, whose objective is to establish an education and skills development ecosystem that provides all South Africans with the required skills to create and participate in the digital economy”.

Furthermore, the Minister said the department is proactively seeking partnerships with the private sector to ensure that young people are well-positioned to take advantage of opportunities presented by digital transformation and urged young people to make use of free training programmes to equip themselves with digital skills.

A number of organisations offer free online digital skills courses to equip young people with in-demand digital skills and competencies that can help them start and grow careers and business in this new digital economy. To mention a few, Digify Africa and Google Africa provide various courses to empower the youth.

Various government departments have also introduced programmes to address the skills gap amongst the youth. To support innovation at grassroots level, the Department of Trade, Industry and Competition has introduced the Khoebo Innovation Promotion Programme (KIPP). The aim of the programme is to provide support to grassroots innovators through the Grassroots Innovation Funding Scheme (GIFS).

To keep up with the ever-changing technological world, the Department of Basic Education’s (DBE’s) coding and robotics curriculum is planned to be introduced as a new component of the national schools’ curriculum. The curriculum forms part of the department’s education priorities and is predicted to equip learners in all public schools with skills and competencies.

Career guidance is everybody’s business. To the graduates and the working-class youth, let us empower earners to choose school subjects that in line with the skills demand by sharing information.

Let us reach out to high schools in our communities and hold career guidance expos and talks to enlighten the learners about the ever-changing career landscape. Unemployed graduates can also offer tutoring lessons and mentorship to learners in their communities.

Cindy Nomalanga Ngozo is an intern at GCIS.