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Nomusa Sithole has a diploma, but struggled to secure a job in the field she studied for. She ended up working at a restaurant for several months which she didn’t like. She was overqualified and underpaid. This all changed after Sithole heard about CapaCiTi, which is a tech skills development and placement initiative in Cape Town. She ended up joining an Advanced Java Programming Certification Programme and managed to find a permanent job in the field she enjoys.
Sithole is one of over 500 previously unemployed youth who CapaCiTi has trained since the programme was first launched as a pilot project with the University of Cape Town (UCT) five years ago. The programme is scaling up fast. In 2015 alone, it trained 220 students.
Part of the Cape Innovation and Technology Initiative, CapaCiTi is addressing the problem of skilled unemployment in South Africa while providing valuable skills to the local tech industry.
South Africa’s jobs sector is in a dire state. While unemployment sits at 25%, it’s even more concerning that the estimated 500 000 tertiary graduates are without work. Needless to say there’s a massive disconnect between the country’s education sector and its economy needs.
“We don’t believe in training for training’s sake,” notes Alethea Hagemann who heads up CapaCiTi. “We need to know that at the end of intervention there’s going to be a job, and whether that individual is going to be sufficiently skilled and hit the ground running in the workplace.”
Out of all CapaCiTi participants, 98% are still employed after finishing the programme, while the first cohort of the programme are each earning around R25 000 per month on average.
Students have been placed at 150 different companies around the country, which range from retail, insurance, financial services, media, manufacturing. “CapaCiTi doesn’t place the students, companies approach us. It just indicates how much in demand these skills are,” says Hagemann.
By partnering with the academic institutions like UCT, the University of the Western Cape, the College of Cape Town, as well as private companies like SAP, IBM and Oracle, participants have access to various training programmes such as software development as well as professional networking.
“An equally big problem to not having the technical skills is not having the adequate professional skills, which include everything from adequate job search, getting your CV up to scratch and how to conduct yourself in an interview,” explains Hagemann.
The programme’s funders include the Jobs Fund, the Western Cape Government, The Department of Economic Development and Tourism, and the City of Cape Town. “We’re successfully bringing government, academia and industry to one table,” Hagemann adds.
Hagemann says that South Africa’s education system is very concerning, especially if we consider the needs of our modern world.
Fewer than one percent of matric students take IT as a subject because it is perceived as being too technical or requiring high-level mathematics skills. Cisco estimates that South Africa needs 30 000 to 70 000 skilled workers in the IT sector.
“We started focusing on graduates, while now we’re moving more towards the lower end of the pipeline,” notes Hagemann.
She adds that CapaCiTi has also partnered with UCT’s GetSmarter to offer some of its courses on a national level to those with internet access. Hagemann hopes to train and place at least another 1 000 students in over the next three years.