Joint effort to close crucial skills gap

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Workplace Staff

In response to government concerns about the lack of qualified IT business analysts in SA, a new initiative is targeting this potentially damaging gap – equipping young unemployed graduates in the ICT sector with much-needed skills, and contributing to the creation of up to 5 000 jobs.

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above average: Top student Keegan Steyn, right, with Inseta chief executive Sandra Dunn at the CAPACITi 1000 graduation in Cape Town. Keegan now works for Old Mutual.Moving with the times: IT skills are in short supply in SA and this undermines the countrys competitiveness. In response to this challenge, the Cape IT Initiative aims to offer IT skills to 1 000 people within the next five years. 	Picture: Tim Chong / Reuters

Speaking at the recent CAPACITi 1000 graduation ceremony, the Western Cape Minister of Finance, Economic Development and Tourism, Alan Winde, said tthe country desperately needed to start positioning skills development so that graduates’ qualifications matched the skills that would be needed as we moved into the future.

Winde said universities were “churning out qualifications exacerbating the unemployment problem. Six out of 10 university graduates are currently unemployed, and this fact needs to be addressed.”

He said the programme served as an excellent example of how the government and the private sector could work together to produce fantastic results.

The Cape IT initiative (CITi), Old Mutual, Sanlam and the Insurance Seta (Inseta) are working with a variety of stakeholders to provide aspiring business analysts with usable skills.

The programme aims to “up-skill or reskill 1 000 people with IT skills that are in critical short supply within the next five years, with a key focus on producing more graduate level IT talent”, says Sandra Dunn, chief executive of Inseta.

The CAPACITi 1000 Training, Internship and Intern Support Programme will provide participants with a post-graduate diploma part-time (NQF level 8) from the University of Cape Town, an internship at a host company, and mentor and training support.

The 2011 pilot programme achieved a 95 percent pass rate, and at the end of the programme 95 percent of students were employed.

Business analysis has been identified as a target development area by the ICT sector and the government, and the demand for this qualification has been further evidenced by national initiatives, as well as international demands and trends.

The role of business analysts is increasingly regarded as a critical one, as they are required to liaise between technical resources and business stakeholders, translating business rules and requirements into practically viable IT systems and potentially increasing efficiency and cost-effectiveness on projects.

Inseta provided funding for the training of the students for the pilot 2011 programme and will do so for 2012. The initiative is in line with Inseta’s sector skills plan, which in turn is aligned to the National Growth Path.

“Business analysis is a vital instrument within the business environment to ensure that information technology is able to provide effective solutions for business enterprises,” said Dunn.

“The development of business analysts through a suite of qualifications will have a positive impact on the broader economy of South Africa, and will also help bring South Africa in line with international trends and satisfy industry requirements.”

Hubert January, senior HR manager at Old Mutual, paid tribute to the current intake of graduates on CAPACITi for the way in which they had applied themselves on this innovative new programme.

He said the programme was an example of true transformation in action – it had succeeded not only in transforming the lives of those who graduated, but also the communities from which they came.

“Forward-thinking companies will ensure that they employ business analysts to increase emphasis on business value and impact,” January commented.

Businesses should not underestimate the value that business analysts could offer, he added.

“Forging a career in business analysis will add value by ensuring the business requirements align to the company strategies, are understood by all stakeholders, are documented and are agreed upon, and have tangible metrics to demonstrate this value.”

Training in the CAPACITi 1000 programme is designed to give a basic grounding in business analysis and systems analysis for individuals who have had limited or no exposure to IT.

Emphasis is placed on supporting young people as they leave university, hence the intern support aspect of the programme.

After the training is complete, interns may choose to study further in business analysis or progress to other IT disciplines such as programming, quality assurance or testing.

Dunn said the programme was intended to empower students to acquire the knowledge, skills, attitudes and values required to operate confidently as individuals and to respond to the challenges of the economic environment and the changing world of work.

The CAPACITi 1000 programme forms part of the wider plan created by the Cape IT initiative, namely the creation of an additional 5 000 jobs in the Western Cape in the next five years.

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