$30m Microsoft training scheme aims to get 3,000 South Africans into IT

Microsoft says expanded training scheme can create 3,000 new jobs over next three years.

An Microsoft initiative to train unemployed young people in IT has been given funding to expand in South Africa.

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The Development Bank of South Africa (BDSA) has awarded Microsoft South Africa a R145m ($15m) grant to invest in its Student2Business training scheme, which the software company will match with a similar investment from its 4Afrika program.

The company claims that the total R290m funding will get 3,000 unemployed youngsters into work over the next three years.

The money will be funded from the R9bn government-backed JobsFund, which was established two years ago to invest in job creation and is managed by BDSA.

Student2Business is a global initiative run by Microsoft, which trains youngsters in IT skills for the job market.

Microsoft International president Jean-Phillipe Courtois said that the program had been running in South Africa for five years, and was aimed at unemployed people aged between 18 and 35. Candidates were given an aptitude test for programming skills, and then placed into a 12 month internship with one of the firm's business partners where they would gain access to training and certification in Microsoft skills.

Since its launch in South Africa, 6,500 young people have passed through Student2Business, 75 percent of whom have gone on to full-time employment. Lack of skills is a major problem for tech firms across Africa.

"Gartner estimates that there will be 4.4 million IT jobs created globally by 2015," Courtois said. "But two thirds of those are likely to go unfilled due lack of skills. There's a big divide between people who have access to tools and technology to learn those skills, and those who do not. This is the challenge to be addressed."

Speaking at the launch of the new partnership, Patrick Dlamini, CEO of BDSA, described youth unemployment as one of the chronic challenges of Africa.

Over the past two years, the JobsFund has invested R3.4bn ($340m) in 66 projects, and estimates that it has helped to create 250,000 new jobs. Any company can apply for a grant from the JobsFund, which looks for projects which can have large scale impact. It chose to invest in Microsoft, according to the BDSA's Nkuli Mhzue, because those are the skills industry is demanding.

Student2Business' Charleze Verzmoter said that while many universities overseas provided certification programmes from a variety of vendors, few South African institutions did. "We're seeing the quality of graduates in computer sciences falling," Verzmoter said. "This is training in the skills that industry is demanding."

Students who joined the program would also receive training in business skills development, in order to support entrepreneurial activities after internships were over, Verzmoter said.


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