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Microsoft South Africa and the Gauteng Provincial Government (GPG) have launched Thint’iMillion, an online mass learning system, as part of the Tshepo 1Million Digital Mass learning programme at Sebokeng Library. Through the wider Tshepo 1Million initiative, GPG aims to provide 1 million young jobseekers with skills to make them more employable, with training to be provided to at least 400 000 of these youths between now and mid-2019.

From a digital skills perspective, the training will include Word, Excel and PowerPoint skills.  According to IDC and Microsoft’s “Skill Requirements for Tomorrow’s Best Jobs: Helping Educators Provide Students with Skills and Tools They Need” white paper, Microsoft Office is No. 3 most required skill according the 14.6 million job postings analysed for the study.

The potential payoff for this investment is massive because in South Africa, approximately 30% of South African youth aged 15-24 years are not employed, or enrolled in the education system or receiving training, according to the latest Quarterly Labour Force Survey by Statistics South Africa. This equates to more than three million young people who cannot find work, because they are regarded as too unskilled and inexperienced by prospective employers.

Microsoft’s Thint’iMillion online mass learning system is being delivered as part of the overarching online mass learning programme being deployed by Tshepo 1Million. GPG is partnering with a broad range of NGOs and private companies like Microsoft to help address this massive skills gap by taking the frontiers of workforce training directly into the underdeveloped and rural areas, where it is needed most.

“Skills deficiencies are a big hurdle to youth employment, making initiatives such as these vitally important as effective labour market interventions that will help us improve the employability of South African young people,” says Gauteng Premier Dave Makhura. “Through initiatives such as these, government wants to make this training available within walking distance of young people within townships and informal settlements across the province,” adds Makhura.

 Innovative skills development to upskill the youth wherever, whenever 

 The Thint’iMillion programme will be deployed using a new cloud-based learner management system, allowing young people to access content on on-phone app (Android only) as well as an interactive web tool.  This means that they do not have to worry about transport to training venues and can upskill themselves at their own pace from anywhere, anytime. This platform can accommodate more than 20 000 users simultaneously.

In order to help ensure that data is not a hurdle to participation or training, GPG will also be rolling out a dedicated Tshepo 1Million Wi-Fi network attached to the Gauteng Broadband Network. This will provide no cost access to Thint’iMillion and the Tshepo mass learning system on any connected mobile device.

GPG will also be making the training available at no cost to participants within public libraries across Johannesburg. Youths who kick off their training at these venues and go on to find employment, can then continue upskilling themselves via the app or website at their leisure.

There is also the potential to incorporate additional digital skills training such as data analytics and basic programming down the line, when the youth have mastered the introductory modules.

“Through this partnership with GPG, we will be able to better empower the workforce of the future. A workforce that is diverse, boasting a youth culture that utilises their digital skills to create a thriving city of entrepreneurs and highly skilled workers,” says Zoaib Hoosen, managing director of Microsoft South Africa.

Microsoft’s part of the Thint’iMillion online mass learning system fits in alongside a wider distributed blended learning and video enabled learning platform that is self-led and being rolled out as of the start of this year. It will be deployed at various access points within deprived areas across the province. The interactive video tutorials, associated competency tests and student quizzes have been produced by Microsoft.

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