Lethu Dlamini, a 21-year-old from Umlazi Township who graduated from Mangosuthu University of Technology last year with an IT diploma and majored in software development, says her dream is to start her own company. She was speaking at the ceremony at which the first group of 20 unemployed IT graduates from township and rural areas was admitted into a learnership programme meant to give them work experience.

The learnership programme — which comes courtesy of a partnership between the Nedbank Foundation, the non-governmental organisation Moving Ahead Development Agency (MADA), and the private institution IN2ITechnology — will see the graduates spend 11 months in Gauteng at the IN2ITechnology academy from February to December 2017.

They will spend the first three months in class and the rest of the learnership in different companies where they will gets hand-on experience. Dlamini has not been able to secure a job since graduating. Her dream is to establish an enterprise that makes a difference in rural areas, especially in the medical field.

"I want to use this opportunity to gain practical skills to be employed permanently. I want to start something in KwaZulu-Natal to encourage innovative solutions and technological advances in the medical industry‚" she said. "I get very sad to see my grandmother wake up at 4am to go to the clinic in Port Shepstone to get her chronic medication. At the clinic she waits in a long queue to get a card, and another long queue to see a nurse. In the end she spends the whole day there. All these things could be made simple by recording all the information and statistics on a computer so that she does not have to spend more than an hour or two there."

As the eldest in the family, the pressure is on Dlamini to help out financially: "My mother raised my three siblings and me on money she earned from odd jobs as a domestic worker."

Also speaking at the event, KwaZulu-Natal economic development and tourism MEC Sihle Zikalala, said SA risks being left behind in a new wave of innovation and technology if the country’s young people, the private sector and the government do not adopt new ways of thinking. Zikalala commended the learnership initiative, saying SA had more than 600,000 unemployed graduates, 18,000 of which live in KwaZulu-Natal, who need to be accommodated in the working world.

He said the country desperately needs young people with innovative skills and experience in the IT sector if it is to catch up with the rest of the world. "With the new era of IT-inspired industrial revolution ... it is clear that nations must invest adequately in the development of their people in essential capacities to actively partake in all sorts of industrial innovations," he said

Saurabh Kumar, CEO of IN2ITechnology, said the programme would be expanded and extended to IT graduates from other provinces, and noted that the company is excited about playing such a critical role in introducing unemployed graduates to the world of work.

Also in the group of 20 interns was Andile Mtshare, a graduate from Durban’s Oval College. He said he would be content with landing any job after the internship. "I thank God for giving me this opportunity. Jobs are hard to come by these days and that is why I will use this opportunity to work hard so that I can land myself a job," he said. "For me that’s all that matters for now."

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