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Exclusive Networks Africa, which has a long history of supporting skills development for young people in the ICT arena, has recently seen the graduation of the first group of learners from its year-long learnership partnership with Netwxs Enterprise Development (Netwxs), a local skills development provider.

RELATED: Collaboration key to bridging the digital skills gap in Africa

Of the initial group of 12 learners, who are aged between 19 and 27 years of age, 10 have graduated to date, with three going straight into full-time studies with bursaries within the IT and business management arenas at a tertiary education level; two having been employed by Exclusive Networks Africa; and two still completing the programme. The other five are eligible to apply for jobs within the channel due to the skills they have acquired, for example with regards to Fortinet training.

Says Anton Jacobsz, Managing Director at Exclusive Networks Africa, a focused, value-added distributor with an emphasis on cybersecurity: “We are acutely aware of the shortage of skills in the IT arena, both globally and here at home, and as a business have run internship programmes for a number of years now. We are committed to supporting skills development initiatives that ultimately support individuals, while also bolstering the local IT industry by providing skills to our channel.

“In my opinion, there are unfortunately too many instances in which learnerships, for varied reasons, do not actually lead to sustainable job opportunities for the learners once they have finished their courses. This represents missed employment opportunities for the learners, but at a wider economic level also means that significant funds are being lost by the organisations who are paying for these learnerships.

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“Exclusive Networks Africa therefore chose to collaborate with Netwxs as our enterprise development partner, because of our common interests in ensuring the creation of learnership programmes that genuinely empower the learners by giving them a real chance of achieving sustainable employment within the local IT channel, once they have graduated from the programme.”

Jacobsz notes that, as of figures released by Statistics SA in mid-February 2024, out of 10 million young people aged between 15 and 24 years, 3.5 million of them were not employed or in education during the last three months of 2023.

Belinda van Deventer, Operations Manager at Netwxs, adds further: “It is an additional cause for concern that some 90 percent of learners who complete general learnership programmes remain unemployed after completing such a course. Our learnership programmes are structured for a 12-month period and comply with SAQA/QCTO requirements, offering access to meaningful education and training interventions for a wide range of learners.

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Specific learnerships are generated out of particular skills needs or shortages in all economic sectors. We are very proud that some 60 percent of our 2023 learners have moved into either employment or tertiary studies – this is an extremely good result.

“Enrolling with Netwxs provides learners with access to both theoretical as well as practical workplace learning, including general business etiquette, for example, so that a learner leaves ready to operate within the work environment, having achieved a nationally recognised qualification.”

With regards to the learnerships, Netwxs provides an allowance for the duration of the learnership to cover travel and living expenses. The organisation carries out thorough checks and balances on the learners’ credentials to ensure that it is offering its support to candidates who fit the qualifying criteria. In addition to learnership facilitation, Netwxs also offers training, recruitment and channel marketing.

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According to Gift Senyolo, one of the learners that has graduated from the inaugural learnership programme, it has allowed him to gain knowledge about computers and applications, as well as knowledge and practical experience on graphic design, creating content for social media, and basic website development. 

“I appreciate the opportunity given to me by Netwxs Enterprise Development to be a part of the 2023 End User Computing learnership. After six months of learning, I started my work-integrated training with Digital Stream as a Marketing Admin Assistant on the 1st of September 2023. This programme has expanded my perspective and given me hands-on experience by preparing me to handle complex tasks and develop my skills to work in a marketing and designing organisation. I am thankful to Netwxs Enterprise Development and Digital Stream for giving me this opportunity to be part of the learnership programme.”

Another learner, Shirelle Visagie, comments: “I am grateful to Netwxs Enterprise Development for the opportunity to be part of the end-user computing learnership, which started on the 1st of March 2023. I have gained insightful knowledge on Microsoft applications as well as being a sales support administrator at Exclusive Networks Africa during my work-integrated training. This programme shaped my capabilities, giving me hands-on experience and support. It has also prepared me for the professional world. I am grateful to Netwxs Enterprise Development and Exclusive Networks Africa for this enriching and empowering experience.”

Says Van Deventer: “We are so pleased to have been able to partner with Exclusive Networks Africa and look forward to an ongoing and fruitful partnership. We are now looking to partner with other companies in the ITC arena for both learnership as well as intern programmes and are confident in our ability to skill up young adults and then help them to find jobs, placing them into the local IT channel as they complete their training and work experience.”

Jacobsz continues: “As a company, we are determined to continue playing our part in upskilling and supporting young people in the IT arena, by offering them the training and on-the-job experience they need to create viable careers. We therefore look forward to continuing our association with Netwxs into the future.

“In addition, we call on other companies within the local channel to partner with them also, to help them broaden their initiatives and continue with their excellent learnership programmes, for the ultimate benefit of the local IT industry and the consequent ripple effect of sustainable local job creation,” he concludes.

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