Digital skills development platform provides low-bandwidth access to critical training

8th October 2021 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

The Nedbank DigiSkills online training platform aims to upskill and create sustainable income opportunities for 1 000 South Africans by the end of this year, with plans to grow this number to 5 000 in the longer term.

The low-bandwidth platform offers five free online short courses and learning tracks covering in-demand digital skills to underserved populations and South Africans impacted by the economic crisis that Covid-19 triggered.

The three technical short courses are software development, data analyst and information technology (IT) administration, while the two specialist, non-technical learning tracks are project management and customer service specialist.

The platform, developed in partnership with IT multinational Microsoft and youth development nonprofit organisation Afrika Tikkun, aims to upskill economically displaced and underrepresented individuals and help South Africans acquire in-demand skills needed in a more digital post-Covid-19 economy.

Access to free digital skills learning tracks is provided through a low-bandwidth online learning platform using the Microsoft Community Training Platform. Participants can also, optionally, write subsidised and industry-recognised Microsoft certifications, with the exam writing done at Nedbank facilities in major cities across South Africa.

“Digital skills provide the tools needed to mitigate poverty, unemployment and inequality by improving employability, enabling livelihood opportunities and unlocking opportunities to actively participate in the emerging and competitive digital economy,” says Nedbank marketing and corporate affairs group executive Khensani Nobanda.

South Africa faces the ongoing triple threat of unemployment, poverty and inequality, made worse by the pandemic, with the youth and women in poorer and more remote areas hardest hit. The platform aims to recruit potential candidates over the age of 18 with a working grasp of English who have been economically displaced, are underserved or unemployed.

“It is imperative to meaningfully accelerate investment in digital skills and tangibly contribute to building a digital economy, and the time to act is now in order to both overcome the challenge of unemployment, as well as harness the positive benefit that engaging in the digital economy has on individuals, families, communities and the country as a whole,” says Afrika Tikkun Services CEO Onyi Nwaneri.

The DigiSkills initiative will harness the individual and collective capabilities of each of the partners to provide the support needed for the training.

Participants will be equipped with a blended learning model facilitated through Afrika Tikkun, with support mechanisms including peer groups, mentors and facilitators, as well as being shown how to meaningfully increase the likelihood of participant success and secure higher engagement rates.

The initiative aims to enable livelihood opportunities through career development intervention, including through career guidance, job readiness training and job placement support.

“The programme is a focused, intentional and transformational approach to achieving these outcomes, as well as to create shared value. This aims to solve social challenges with core business capabilities to drive both social impact and business value,” says Nobanda.

This latest partnership builds on the momentum of Microsoft’s global skills initiative, which has helped more than 400 000 people in South Africa gain access to digital skills like software development, data analysis and customer service specialisation.

This Microsoft initiative includes strategic partnerships with the public and private sectors, and non-profits like Afrika Tikkun, to extend the reach of digital skills initiatives to more South Africans, and support them on their learning journeys through assistance with registering, determining the best learning pathway, completing this pathway, and sourcing work experience, job placement and entrepreneurial opportunities.

“These partnerships have been fundamental to scale programmes that help more people gain the critical future skills needed in the digital economy. We are committed to collaborating with partners such as Nedbank and Afrika Tikkun to provide the training, tools and platforms to boost employability and economic growth,” says Microsoft South Africa CEO Lillian Barnard.

“By partnering with like-minded organisations to drive access to education and equip the South Africans that need it the most with the skills they will need to compete in the digital economy of today and the future, we are creating real, sustainable outcomes that have social and business value,” says Nobanda.

“This approach is not a one-off for Nedbank, but speaks to our aim of being a purpose-led brand, which is further evidenced in an initiative launched this week named Together Beke le Beke to rebuild and grow South African microenterpises and small businesses through skills, mentorship and funding, following the recent lootings and the impact of Covid-19,” she says.