by TINTSWALO BALOYI
JOHANNESBURG – THE South African tertiary education sector must empower graduates with the skills they need to compete in the new world of work.
This as the Fourth Industrial Revolution (4IR) already has a profound impact on almost every aspect of lives.
That importance was underlined at the recently-conclude Huawei South Africa ICT Talent Development Annual Awards, which took place virtually.
The awards recognise the top students and instructors from Huawei’s ICT Competition and its ICT Academy.
The programme is aimed at driving the development of ICT talent for industry development and digital transformation and is a crucial element of
Huawei’s talent ecosystem which seeks to address the skills shortage in the sector.
Dr Blade Nzimande, Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, stressed the importance of programmes like the Huawei ICT Academy.
“Under my ministry, we have developed innovation skills strategies that support existing industries like agriculture and mining and also aid in the creation of new industries, such as those linked to the green economy,” he said.
“These strategies place a premium on building partnerships between my two departments, education and training institutions, and the business sector,” Nzimande said.
The Huawei ICT Academy in South Africa is a non-profit partnership programme that authorises universities and colleges to deliver certification courses to their students in the latest technologies of 5G, Cloud, artificial intelligence (AI) and internet of things (IoT).
Huawei has partnered with 67 South Africa universities and TVET colleges to date.
Buti Manamela, Deputy Minister of Higher Education, Science and Innovation, stressed the importance of initiatives being accessible to all South Africans.
“The task of empowering people with the skills that bridge the digital divide requires partnerships with government, educational institutions, and communities,” he said.
Manamela said digital technology was advancing at an incredible pace around the world but it was not happening evenly.
“When it comes to making training and other opportunities available, it’s important to make sure that young people and women, especially in rural areas, are exposed to them,” said Manamela.
Phinith Chanthalangsy Head of Unit, Programme Specialist Social and Human Sciences Sector at the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO), said the education system had a huge and unique role to play in accompanying the transition to the future of work.
“But in order for it to play that role, our traditionally mono-disciplinary educational systems must evolve to be multidisciplinary,” the envoy said.
Derrick Zhang, Vice President of Southern Africa Enterprise Business Department at Huawei, pointed out this kind of investment could have significant dividends for the South African economy.
He noted the ICT sector as one of the largest contributors to South Africa’s GDP.
The total revenue increased by 2 percent from R238 billion in 2019 to 243 billion in 2020.
This growth has helped fuel employment, with the number of employees in the telecommunications sector growing 2,1 percent over the six years leading up to 2020.
As technology plays an increasingly important role, this growth is forecast to accelerate.
“All this will require increased skills,” Zhang said.
“We believe investing in education is the most important way to bridge the gap in ICT talent,” he added.
– CAJ News