Dynamic DNA ‘helps close the skills and digital divide’

While South Africa’s youth unemployment rate rampantly soars, the country’s digital skills shortage is expanding at its seams. The shortage of ICT skills is the worst ever recorded, particularly among women. Prudence Mathebula’s urgent intervention is stopping things from getting worse before they get better.

As the founder and managing Director of Dynamic DNA, Mathebula knows that addressing South Africa’s critical skills mismatch head-on is the only way of improving the future of the youth, and the country.

Through her company, she is a 32-year-old Soweto-born entrepreneur who trains and develops digital skills. She also aims to increase the employability of eight million underprivileged 15-34-year olds.

“By giving them the right skills for tomorrow’s job market, they can competently be absorbed into the labour force,” she explains.

After completing a degree on B-BBEE management from the University of Witwatersrand, her passion for skills development was ignited and she joined Dynamic Visual Technologies.

Mathebula was astonished to see so few ICT professionals of color, particularly women, as she implemented a skills-development programme for which she had single handedly secured funding.

She was unafraid of hardwork and perseverance and spearheaded Dynamic DNA almost overnight.

“I saw an opportunity that other training providers were not doing but which was desperately needed in the ICT sector and that was providing companies with faster access to SETA grant funding, and learners with practical learning and mentoring component making them employable,” she says.

It’s certainly a step in the right direction but Mathebula identifies four major stumbling blocks that hinder hopes of meaningful progress unless companies commit to youth skills development to close the digital skills gap and more young people choose ICT as a career.

Funding youth programs 

Companies can use the Skills Development Levies Act and the Skills Development Act to obtain SETA funding or SARS rebates to help develop their skills. This will also benefit their B-BBEE scorecard.

80% of SETA grants can be used to fund pivotal programs for youth skill development, which include mandatory and discretionary funding.

This funding is not available because it is complicated and companies don’t have the resources or know-how required to complete the process. Keep an eye on discretionary grant submission deadlines and make sure you have sufficient evidence documentation.

Employers who prioritize learnerships and bursaries, skill development programmes, and internships for young adults can access these grants and address future skills needs.

They can form strategic partnerships that make it easy.

“Because of the Dynamic DNA SETA relationships, expertise and administrative management of the skills development process we have been able to reduce ICT learnership and skills development costs for our clients by up to 63%,” says Mathebule. “Besides the SETA grants, SARS rebates also provide youth wage subsidies and Pivotal programme rebates.”

Eliminating barriers that prevent entry

Many companies require that potential employees have a degree from a university and work experience. However, Mathebula understands that this may not be possible for those who are less fortunate.

Mathebula was forced to seek out every alternative funding option after her family couldn’t afford her university education. Mathebula walked for one hour to apply for a bursary from MICT SETA. It was well worth it as she was among hundreds of other applicants.

She also knows that not everyone has the same motivation. Dynamic DNA partners with ICT leaders to offer a range of accredited courses for Generation Z candidates. These courses are designed to help them develop the cognitive skills, values and behaviours they need, but not the qualifications.

Through leadership, bursaries, skills development programmes and internships combined with SETA grant funding Mathebula’s company is creating a better future for all.

To be able to consider ICT as a career, young people must have the aptitude to do it. This includes being able to learn Maths and English, as well as a passion for solving difficult problems.

While IT may not be for everyone, South Africa’s critical skills shortage is preventing it from moving forward. It is crucial to raise awareness about the possibilities.

Even for young people not interested in being technical geeks, there is a variety of jobs that don’t require ICT skills. These non-technical jobs also require creativity and ICT skills.

The gender gap can be bridged  

Mathebula, a South African woman who was not even considering a career as an ICT professional, completed a Vega diploma first in marketing and advertising and then began a successful career selling.

One reason is that statistics show that South African women are underrepresented at university in engineering, science, and mathematics. This limits the number of qualified female talent to fill the critical ICT jobs.

Mathebula is a woman role model by leading the way in ICT empowerment for women through her 4IR4HER campaign. Mathebula aims to develop and promote grassroots skills, and create opportunities for 5 000 women in the domestic tech industry. 15 women have already participated in the programme.

“There is a gap for women to take on powerful positions in business, in the technology sector, and entrepreneurship and yet we see a few successful women who have made it in the industry.  I want to change the narrative for young women to one where you do not need to be interlinked to a man to become successful,” she concludes.

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