DigiLink incubator was launched in Cape Town in November 2020 by Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator to bring unemployed and excluded youth into the technology (tech) economy and equip them for long-term employment. The programme incorporates an on-the-job training and mentoring model that works with real clients in real-life work situations. The first cohort of software testers have graduated and gained full-time employment with Clickatell, a leader in chat commerce enablement.
Clickatell CEO and co-founder Pieter de Villiers says the cohort has provided managed digital services such as software testing and development to the company’s clients. “These are jobs that employees in the US and Canada have traditionally done. The real beauty of this initiative is that not only does it train and employ young South Africans who had little or no hope of accessing jobs despite being digitally gifted, it also keeps the work – and the associated revenue – in South Africa. So it's a double win.”
Conceived by Harambee, SiMODiSA TechXit, and CapaCiTi Digital Career Accelerator, DigiLink is a not-for-profit organisation that provides managed digital services on a commercial basis to augment and support businesses and also develop the next generation of young digital talent.
Group strategy director of Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator Evan Jones says that South Africa spends about R10-billion offshore every year on jobs that should be done in South Africa. “Research we conducted in November 2020 showed around 44 000 entry-level digital jobs available in this country. Although we have the raw talent available in South Africa, they just need a leg up to be exposed to work readiness and real work experiences to advance their aspirations into the digital economy. The DigiLink initiative bridges that gap.”
Candidates for the programme all come from marginalised backgrounds, some are graduates and some are self-skilled or have completed micro-courses, but all have evident technical ability and some tech background.
The 12-month programme combines real-world work with technical skills and personal training, giving candidates the essential experience for future employment.
Jones says that what's needed now is more employers to get on board to scale the work opportunities for young people. “South Africa does not have enough young digital talent entering the job market to meet the current demand for digital skills in our economy, and few businesses have the capacity to coach and mentor inexperienced people for complex jobs. So we must find ways to bridge this gap.”
He says that, traditionally, digital skills training is expensive, lengthy and inflexible, but with DigiLink, trainees gain the skills and experience they need to succeed at work, through hands-on support, in just one year.