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Opinion: Why Reskilling Will Matter For South Africa’s Success

South Africans have faced difficult circumstances in recent years. And with unemployment at a record 34.9 percent, the highest level since 2008, many South Africans are understandably tired and disillusioned.

While there is little doubt that the Covid-19 pandemic, which is now in its fourth wave, contributed to the surge in unemployment, South Africa’s skills shortage is also unquestionably a key factor.

In this article, we ask  industry experts what they will be doing to help with skills development in 2022.

1. Learn, unlearn, relearn

Regan Kok, CEO at Hoorah Digital.

For all the talk around “skills of the future” or the skills to “future proof” a career, the most fundamental skill is not a skill as such, but the ability – and willingness – to constantly learn, unlearn and relearn. 

“In rapidly changing environments, such as the advertising industry, skills development needs to be an ongoing initiative that is simply part of the organisation’s DNA. Hoorah Digital regularly onboards graduates into learnership programmes in various areas of creative and data analytics. We also have a generous budget available for formal courses through accredited institutions for qualifying employees.

Sharing industry insights, experience and knowledge is an important part of succession planning, not in the traditional sense, but as a means of empowering the next generation.

2. Rethink what agile teams look like 

Robin Fisher, Senior Area Vice President of Salesforce Emerging Markets

Our new digital world is built on the premise that everyone has the ability to participate. Immediate and sustained investment in digital skills is therefore critical for our global economy to recover from the pandemic and for the long-term growth that must follow.

The workplace will not revert to its pre-pandemic state. Our new digital environment provides a significant opportunity for businesses to reimagine what agile teams should look like. By developing individualised training programs based on what employees truly want and need to know, rather than on what employers believe they should know, businesses can foster a flexible work culture that enables all employees to interact, learn, and advance from any location.

And, perhaps most significantly, individuals need access to the technologies and skills essential to land the jobs of the future today more than ever. This is why, in 2014, Salesforce launched Trailhead. Salesforce’s free, online learning platform accelerates users’ transition from a basic level of technical expertise to a Salesforce career in as little as six months and has already assisted 3 million individuals in skilling up for the future – at scale and speed. Since COVID-19 emerged, we’ve witnessed a nearly 40% increase in sign-ups and a more than 50% increase in learner engagement. Three out of every five members report that the Trailblazer Community aided them in obtaining a new job or promotion.

3. 21st-century skills to better enable post-school job seeking

Thokoza Mjo, Head of the Anzisha Prize Fellowship

The African youth population is growing at an alarmingly faster rate than jobs are being created. More worryingly, the education sector is not preparing adequately skilled youth to be optimally effective in the economy. This means that, whilst the continent potentially has a big labour population, there are simply not enough jobs for them. And for the jobs that are available, there are not enough skilled youth to match the demand.

The 2021 African Economic Outlook by the African Development Bank shows that two-thirds of the continent’s youth are either overeducated or undereducated. According to the report, the undereducated account for more than 55 percent of the youth – considerably higher than other comparable regions with an average of 34 percent.

Our task today as a continent is to create an environment that enables a flourishing entrepreneurship society, and for us to not only be job generative but also develop skills important for taking the continent’s economic and labour market into the immediate future. It is important to focus on these issues as they are key to our development and recovery, especially considering the long-term impact of COVID-19 on our economy.

Young people need to be skilled entrepreneurially, and they need to be adequately prepared for the jobs that this economy needs today and for the future. It is therefore important for the schooling system to focus on 21st-century skills to better enable post-school job seeking. Similarly, entrepreneurial skills are foundational to success in an ever-changing environment, so it’s vital to start preparing young people now for this future.