When it comes to aligning training to the job opportunity, creating an ecosystem of support is invaluable because it allows for access to the labour market through multiple pathways (e.g. further education, starter jobs, and building youth resilience through access to psychosocial services), all of which contribute to a more effective labour market. Research has shown that adopting a holistic approach to youth development has persistent effects such as young people becoming more resilient, having appropriate skills, are more effective at navigating the labour market, and ultimately can shorten the periods where they are not connected, i.e. they are better able to transcend their ‘not in education, employment or training (NEET)’ status.

The work of the Jobs Fund and others has influenced some of the recent youth-centred initiatives introduced in South Africa, where the main thrust is to adopt a whole person approach to youth, offering interconnected and linked pathways for the young person and assisting them in navigating their life journey, whether it be further education, connecting to the labour market or accessing supporting services including psychosocial support. A network of networks is being built by crowding in stakeholders that provide opportunities or services to youth.

The Jobs Fund has contributed to designing and implementing the Basic Package of Support (BPS), piloted in Atlantis, and the Presidential Youth Employment Intervention (PYEI), a multi-sector action plan/ programme addressing South Africa’s chronic youth unemployment challenge.

Traditional skilling pathways for digital talent are costly, lengthy, inflexible and struggle to respond to dynamic business requirements directly. In addition, entry-level candidates often lack the experience required by employers in a fast-paced and high-risk digital environment. Organisations also do not have the capacity to mentor and coach entry-level candidates into high-end complex roles. To bridge these gaps, inexperienced young talent requires a conducive environment to gain the requisite skills and experience to succeed in the available digital roles.

In response to the challenge, two of the Jobs Fund’s Partners, the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator and CapaCiTi, have successfully intervened in this high growth sector by creating an incubator for digital skills development called DigiLink. They contract with organisations vested in growing an inclusive digital economy in South Africa and then expose young people to real work experience in software testing and data analytics to prepare them for the world of digital work. Organisations such as CapaCiTi provide DigiLink with a pipeline of unemployed candidates who have some exposure to ICT but need the practical experience to gain credentials for longer-term placement in the Business Process Outsourcing and other sectors.

The DigiLink initiative has established an incubator in Cape Town to service the Canadian software testing market. The first cohort of digitally skilled youth has graduated and gained full-time employment with global customer engagement company Clickatell. Youth participants gain practical experience under a team of mentors, learning Python, Java and other coding skills, and in this process, perform software testing for an actual client. This social impact model promotes the simultaneous capacitation of youth workseekers with scarce skills (and certification, such as Software Quality Analyst with the International Software Testing Qualifications Board) with the provision of a service to a client.

Incubators such as DigiLink catalyse inclusive digital transformation by identifying youth talent, effectively preparing them for and placing them in digital jobs, thereby supporting the growth of the South African BPO sector.