According to the World Bank Development Report on Digital Dividends (2016), the rapid spread of digital technologies around the world is boosting economic growth and expands opportunities in many instances; but the benefits of technological changes are not evenly distributed to workers globally. For high-skilled workers, technology in most cases complements their skills, increases their productivity, and often leads to higher wages. Whereas for middle and low-skilled workers, benefits depend on the degree to which technology either complements or substitutes workers in job functions.
Given the predominance of the digital revolution, the Solutions for Youth Employment (S4YE) coalition – a multi-stakeholder partnership including Accenture, The Rockefeller Foundation, World Bank, and many others – has prioritized "Digital Age Impact" as one of its focus areas for the coming years. The coalition aims to better understand how young workers can increase their participation in the digital economy, as well as how technology can help accelerate training of and access to digital jobs. Here are five takeaways that emerged from partners and stakeholders.
1. Signing up on online work platforms is important, but not enough. While signing up on online work platforms is often simple for young people, that is not always the case when it comes to actually getting the job. Lack of requisite skills to secure relationships or contracts for online work assignments, lack of good internet connectivity or sufficient bandwidth, and lack of computer access are some reasons why access to online platforms does not automatically translate into getting a job. The Rockefeller Foundation’s Digital Jobs Africa initiative learned this from the feedback from their youth awareness campaign to promote online work in Nigeria and Kenya, and therefore broadened the program’s scope by collaborating with various implementing partners to help youth overcome barriers to online work. For example, Digital Divide Data (DDD) and Samasource train youth for digital skills from transcribing and digitizing information to tagging audio and video files. They match youth to online work assignments with clients worldwide and provide access to computer centers where young people can perform online work.
2. Digital skills are now required across sectors and functions. In recent years, many African countries have experienced fast growth. Digital jobs for African youth extend far beyond the business process outsourcing (BPO) industry. Digital skills have become increasingly valuable across different functions. For example, there is a high demand for digital skills in sectors such as retail, hospitality, tourism and financial services. Across functions, digital skills can make young entry-level candidates more competitive for sales, customer service, human resources, data management, and information technology positions.
3. Programs that pro-actively connect the demands of specific industries and employers can lead to higher job placement rates. If employers provide input to curriculum design and data about what makes a high-performing employee for them, trainings can be customized to include the right skill sets and high-performance attributes. For instance, the Accenture’s Skills to Succeed Academy focuses on partnering with employers across sectors who can commit to bulk job placement. Similar tight-knit connections to employers and demand-oriented program design resulted in high job placement rates across the Digital Jobs Africa training programs, leading to up to 90 percent job placement in some cases for trained youth.
4. Work place simulations and training for soft skills makes a difference to a young person’s employability. Designing programs to include work place simulations and soft skills trainings are critical for employers. Digital Jobs Africa implementing partners have found experiential trainings tailored to industry-specific jobs are of utmost importance. For example, for retail and hospitality jobs, training providers can teach young people how to stand for long hours in the restaurant or on the store floor. Soft skills trainings enable young people to improve their communication, collaboration and resilience in professional settings. Accenture’s Skills to Succeed Academy, an interactive portal that helps young job seekers develop employability skills, emphasizes soft skills training by providing a safe virtual environment for young people to engage in real-life behavior. The platform takes young people through the journey of understanding careers, finding a job, and preparing for workplace scenarios that they would encounter on the job. For example, it teaches young people how to manage their time once they have a job, and how to deal with conflict at the work place.
5. New technology can help increase effectiveness of job matching services. Online career and recruitment platforms can help improve the efficiency of job matching across diverse sectors. For example, the Fuzu portal in Kenya, supported by The Rockefeller Foundation and Accenture, applies psychometric testing making it easier for young job seekers to find a job that matches their interests. The technology also helps youth identify skills gaps in relation to the job profiles of their interest, and offers them the opportunity to gain those skills through self-learning modules. In addition, employers benefit from recruitment technology solutions such as the automated analysis of resumes.