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Coega Development Corporation lays cornerstones for careers - published 13 Dec 2021

Coega Development Corporation lays cornerstones for careers – ICT internship to improve youth employment prospects in a 21st century economy

50 newly inducted interns pictured with the project team at the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) Headquarters, in Gqeberha

Gqeberha, South Africa, 13 December 2021 – The Coega Development Corporation (CDC) announced that it has completed the induction of 50 young people from the Eastern Cape who will be embarking on an eight-month ICT internship, commencing in January 2022. “This is the first time that we are rolling out an ICT internship of this magnitude, and through a rigorous recruitment process, we know that only the best candidates have been selected,” said Mr. Craig Luckman, Programme Manager for Human Capital Solutions (HCS) at the Coega Development Corporation.

On the morning of 8 December 2021, a room of bright-eyed young graduates filled with excitement and enthusiasm were welcomed to a world of opportunity at the Coega Headquarters, in Gqeberha. The internship sets in motion the career trajectories of 50 young men and women. The programme is funded by the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA). It is facilitated by the CDC, Nelson Mandela University (NMU), and Amandla Obunye.

“We are excited about this journey, and we look forward to the road ahead,” affirmed Mr. Johan Botha, Project Manager at the Centre for Community Technologies at NMU. In delivering the programme, the CDC partnered with the NMU School of ICT to ensure that interns receive the technical guidance they need during the programme.

“This is the beginning of a strong partnership between MICT SETA and Coega, and they have been generous in subsidising MICT SETA’s stipend for all candidates. The world is moving into new technologies and occupations are slowly changing. As a result, we need to train as many young people as we can, and think about reskilling our workforce for the future,” said Mr. Andile Nene, Regional Manager for MICT SETA. He further urged candidates to do extremely well to such an extent that they are offered employment or can start their own business.

The CDC’s partnership with MICT SETA will see the two organisations working together with NMU and Amandla Obunye to address graduate youth unemployment, as part of the Presidential Youth Unemployment Initiative. The programme also enables the development of robust local ICT skills in support of the National Innovation Roadmap and the National 4IR Strategy.

Youth constitute the largest percentage of unemployed people in South Africa. It has been widely reported that young people are among those who have been hardest hit by unemployment and deepening poverty since the onset of the pandemic. Unemployment is highest among those aged 15-24 years, at 64.4%, and 25-34 years at 42.9% (Stats SA, Q2:2021).

Therefore, the Coega’s ICT internship is in line with government’s policy, particularly, the Digital and Future Skills Strategy of the Department of Communications and Digital Technologies (DCDT), and National Development Plan (NDP) Vision 2030 to eliminate poverty, reduce inequality and unemployment. The project supports ICT skills development towards improved employability.

It’s common knowledge that on-the-job experience and refined skill sets are sought-after qualities in the South African job market. The June 2021 Statistics South Africa Quarterly Labour Force Survey cites a lack of work experience as a major stumbling block to youth securing employment. Furthermore, a 2021 ICT Skills Survey conducted by Wits University’s Joburg Centre for Software Engineering, found thousands of hard-to-fill vacancies in the sector, attributed to an ever-growing ICT skills gap. Although ICT skills remain on the critical and scarce skills lists, many young graduates who achieved their ICT and Computer Science degrees, find it extremely difficult to find their first jobs and many remain unemployed. This situation is untenable given the rapid transformation of many industries in response to the fourth industrial revolution. The aim of the ICT internship is to create a talent pool in the ICT sector and give opportunities to graduates who have never had work experiential learning.

The CDC owns and operates two tier-three data centres, as well as extremely advanced ICT systems. During their time at the CDC in 2022, interns will be exposed to the latest technology in their fields and benefit from technical guidance supplied by the Coega ICT Department, and several large national and international ICT firms who are currently developing and updating advanced systems for the Corporation.

“This exposure to advanced ICT development work and the best of national and international competence will offer the interns a sound foundation to their career and a distinct advantage in the labour market. Not many organisations are able to offer this range and depth of exposure, hence the MICT SETA’s interest in partnering with the CDC,” says Ms. Meike Wetsch, Project Sponsor and CDC’s Head of Capital, Investment and Funding.

A key feature of the programme is that the interns will also engage in a full software development cycle. This will allow them to showcase their innovation. They will be exposed to advanced cybersecurity systems and learn to work with very large networks and high-performance systems.

Some of the projects the interns will develop include: a secure, online deal room and transaction management system that will be deployed in support of the CDC’s Capital Investment Programme on the African Continent, an advanced conflict prediction and management system reliant on behavioural design to be used on large infrastructure projects both here and on the continent, customs and logistics systems supporting the flow of goods over national borders, and an artificial intelligence system that will allow facial recognition of vervet monkeys in support of conservation management on both the Coega SEZ and elsewhere in the country.

“Artificial Intelligence is a technology that overlays all the above applications to create intelligence and augment the integrity of data that is produced,” explains Mr. Monde Mawasha, CDC’s Chief Knowledge & Digital Officer - ICT, Research and Strategy. In addition, the opensource blockchain platform allows for the development of applications that will allow amongst others the proven fidelity of Cannabis and thus cannabinoids extract for medicinal purposes small-scale farming. The Wildcoast SEZ as an agro-processing hub is well-placed for such innovative solutions, and this will support the provincial ambition to develop a cannabis and hemp sector in the Eastern Cape.

Our sister countries on the African Continent have made great strides in ICT and 4IR related advances, with thriving clusters in Morocco, Kenya, and Egypt, to name a few, and start-up activity in these sectors are also thriving. South Africa’s response was the National Innovation Roadmap, a product of the Department of Science and Technology, which is currently under implementation by the CSIR. This project saw the establishment of ICT clusters in the Western Cape and Johannesburg, that also is seeing encouraging start-up activity.

By joining national efforts to support the development of technology intensive, 4IR and artificial intelligence-based clusters, the CDC will support existing provincial efforts alongside the East London SEZ. Coega’s focus will be on cybersecurity and the hardening of logistics and critical infrastructure systems, ICT integration into manufacturing, and leveraging ICT technologies in support of social development through deep behavioural design and supporting the development of technologies that are appropriate for the African context and accessible to communities.

Inspiring speakers at the induction session included Mr. Asanda Vos recounting his journey from being an economics intern at Coega Human Capital Solutions (HCS) to CDC’s Commercial Manager for Business Development. Inductees also received knowledgeable insights from working professionals on topics ranging from professional growth and networking (online and in-person), transitioning to corporate and general workplace etiquette.

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