A company’s business design needs to be re-invented over and over again in order to remain customer relevant. New technologies such as ChatGPT show that computing power is evolving so fast that information dissemination is becoming instant for complex enquiries and many mundane tasks can be automated. Many businesses are adopting artificial intelligence and are using it to redesign and reinvent their customer value proposition and improve efficiency.
South Africa continues to struggle with high unemployment rates, reaching 32.9 percent at the start of 2023 and a staggering 60 percent among youth who are entering the job market, which is devastating. Many are concerned about the threat of automation and specifically machine learning and AI tools that could replace jobs done currently by humans and this threat combined with rising unemployment is an increasing concern. However, every challenge can also be seen as an opportunity and with the right focus, approach and partnerships, both issues can be solved.
The Digital Solutions Group (DSG) continues to improve youth skills through innovative partnerships that are creating the digital skill sets needed by South Africa and the rest of the world. For the past seven years, it has worked with partners such as the Maharishi Institute to develop skilled professionals, who get to learn and earn and ‘pay it forward’ i.e. their salary funds future students. Most importantly while studying they get work experience that prepares them for full-time employment. Top employers like Accenture and DSG are recruiting from this talent pool so there is a career path based on the experience they had working part-time while studying.
The results speak for themselves, says DSG’s founder, Yaron Assabi. “Our trainees work and study in the same building, allowing them to expand their education while also learning on the job and they get to earn a salary that supports their lifestyle and often other family members.”
DSG and the Maharishi Institute are helping youth become more employable with this approach and provide practical experience. The contact centre was set up on the fifth floor of the institute’s Newtown Campus. The curriculum focuses on a business degree and when combined with work experience, it makes the students very desirable for future employment with large corporations.
Turning Towards Cybersecurity
The BPO (Business Process Outsourcing) programme has been very successful, and now DSG is working on expanding it into other verticals with critical skills shortages: cybersecurity. Not only are there over 3,5 million vacant cybersecurity jobs globally in 2021 and now likely much more, according to Cybersecurity Ventures, but South Africa is a prime cybercrime target and needs these skills. By developing cybersecurity skills SA can put a dent in the high unemployment numbers and due to the high demand for those skills, locally and globally; they attract global contracts which are desperately needed. The weakness of the rand makes South Africa a very cost effective destination for outsourcing. DSG focuses on creating a career path and growth opportunities for the talent so that we can retain them and allow them to keep up with global trends.
“We aim to create a cohort of students that we can train to be cybersecurity analysts. We sign up employers with demand, agree on a curriculum and train students for six months, including practical experience,” says Assabi.
This approach has been hugely successful to develop contact centre talent, and DSG is looking at ways to expand that programme. Through working with the Harambee Youth Employment Accelerator, it sees the same opportunity for cybersecurity—especially for today’s rapidly-changing world. The cybersecurity industry suffers from an ever moving target and constant evolution, therefore it is essential to have a clear understanding of global trends and have your finger on emerging ones. As the attacks in the cyber industry get more sophisticated, the defence has to constantly evolve to keep up with the consistent change.
DSG believes that traditional education does not necessarily prepare the youth for the demand of the job market and therefore a skills development program that is focused on developing practical skills and providing work experience is a better approach and can be tailored for what employers demand. Contact Centres are a breeding ground for talent but require evolution to improve skills to suit more sophisticated IT jobs; such as software development or cybersecurity where there is huge demand for skills and higher earning opportunities for the talent. DSG believes that #DoingSomethingGreat, (which is the other meaning of DSG) is focusing on creating meaningful jobs that will provide high impact and support the growth of the economy and secure South Africa from cybercriminals. It’s a win for the learners, the business community, and the country.