At a time when closing the skills gap in South Africa has never been more important, software solutions business Software AG has extended and adapted its internship programme to reflect a world, and industry, changed by Covid-19. To add to the impact, and in response to high levels of youth unemployment, Software AG has invested in the YES programme, a government established initiative that seeks to provide even more opportunities South African youth.
Officially launched in 2019, the Software AG intern programme saw an initial nine young students recruited for an intensive 12-month programme, ushering them into a new future of Software AG tech and Software AG clients.
After an unpredictable year in 2020, the intern programme was then extended and adapted to accommodate the changing environment brought about by Covid-19.
Kholiwe Makhohliso, VP and Country MD at Software AG says, “We couldn’t allow our first alumna go out into an uncertain world of unemployment, so we decided to keep them on for the rest of 2020.”
Working with partners to help interns work
In the 2019/2020 programme, Software AG endeavored to secure a commitment from its customers and partners by upskilling their interns in Software AG products and services that are a prerequisite for their customer and partner base.
The interns were then contracted as junior analysts for six months. Subsequent to proving themselves in that ‘working’ environment, the interns went on to acquire fulltime employment and were absorbed onto the customers’ and partners’ payrolls.
Through the programme, Software AG provides mentoring and coaching, classroom training on system development and Software AG products. Not only this, they provide soft skills training as well, which is fundamental for their employability. Skills such as effective communication, presentation skills, negotiations, understanding the customer, influencing the customer, time and stress management, conflict management etc.
Throughout the extension phase, Software AG reached out to its customer and partner ecosystem to ascertain which of them were employing their interns. Thanks to this, the intern programme saw a 100% absorption rate into the job market by Software AG customers and partners which included the likes of SETA, Investec, Standard Bank and Nucleus IT.
Intern programmes in a Covid-19 era
With the onset of Covid-19, Software AG needed to adjust and adapt in such a way that they operated the programme as a ‘business model’. Working remotely became the norm and that was a big social experiment for everyone in the public and private sectors. In their relationship-based business, where everything is traditionally handled face-to-face, the shift to working telephonically and virtually was seamless.
“The need for technology increased and that accelerated business transformation. It did, however, expose the gaps and the rapid need for them to be filled. Fortunately, they had the systems and tools in place and were properly positioned to assist their customers and partners accelerate their business transformation,” says Robyn June Kibby, Transformation Specialist at Software AG.
In 2021, the intern programme took a slightly different approach. The customers and partners were involved from the beginning. They were in the recruitment and selection process of the eight interns, so fundamentally, they selected the interns. Software AG presented them with a resource on a twelve-month programme – six months would be invested in training and six months would be invested in their businesses, where the interns would acquire hands-on workplace experience.
Robyn further adds, “The reason for this is that the customers and partners use Software AG products and services, such as, Web Methods and Adabas & Natural that’s why they are the target audience to deploy these interns, in order to make them absorbable into the market, post the programme.
The financial investment by Software AG is extensive. All costs, from the inception phase, training and mentorship, connectivity as well as salaries for the junior analyst contracts were secured by Software AG.
Curbing the drop-off problem
Software AG sponsored a cohort of 46 youth hosted by education NPO Edunova, who started their YES work experience on 1 December 2020. The problem that kept surfacing was that many youth would suddenly drop off the programme due to re-employment, studies or they simply absconded for unknown reasons.
One of the way Software AG is addressing this is by training supervisors to provide Youth with quality supervision and a quality work experience, giving access to exciting training opportunities and taking reformative approaches for Youth so they know how to raise concerns and ask for support before these problems balloon and they abscond.
In partnership with schools, government, businesses, libraries and community organisations, programmes are run by Edunova and Software AG that uplift school communities using high-quality, user-friendly education tech where Youth work as coordinators and facilitators of these programmes.
All Youth receive training in computer literacy (Microsoft Fundamentals), other technical training (Comptia ITF+) and facilitation skills for an education environment.
Some of the youth will also receive training in coding and how to share this with school learners. In fact, one of the youth sponsored by Software AG has been placed at the Edunova Learning Centre assisting with administration and facilitation of the courses.