Meet the first country in EMEA with an RPA Developer National Qualification

South Africa first country EMEA with RPA Developer National Qualification

Countries around the world are facing increasing unemployment rates, with both public and private sectors attempting to address the issue. Automation has entered the conversation: can upskilling citizens with automation training reduce unemployment rates?

For more than a year and a half I’ve been part of a grassroots effort to reduce unemployment in South Africa as a result of teaching people automation skills.

Unemployment in South Africa

Unemployment among South Africa's youth is a pressing issue, with statistics showing that over 50% of individuals between the ages of 15 and 34 are unemployed. This is a significant problem, as youth unemployment can lead to long-term economic and social consequences, such as poverty and inequality.

Some people consider a high rate of unemployment as an indication that people seeking to be employed aren’t gaining the necessary skills or experience needed by the market, so they can make a positive contribution in the local economy.

However, there's an opportunity for South Africa to leverage its potential in the tech talent sector. The tech industry, particularly robotic process automation (RPA), is growing rapidly and is expected to continue to do so in the coming years. A lot of the future growth of the economy, which would otherwise be lost or delayed, can be attained faster with the help of what the country calls 4IR (Fourth Industrial Revolution) skills. And automation is one of them.

The World Economic Forum’s Future of Jobs Report 2020 identified “process automation specialist” at the top of the list for emerging jobs in South Africa. RPA is becoming increasingly popular in South Africa, particularly in the financial services and insurance sectors.

For example, South African banks are using RPA robots to automate tasks such as data entry, account reconciliation, and loan processing. In recent years, South Africa has also seen the emergence of several RPA providers and consulting firms. These companies are helping businesses across various industries implement RPA technology and improve their processes.

RPA adoption has led to the creation of new job roles in the country, such as RPA developers, RPA consultants, and RPA project managers. By introducing a national qualification related to RPA, these new roles can help address the unemployment issue in the country. Blending training with on-the-job learning would provide South African youths the opportunity to gain new skills and access to new career opportunities.

An EMEA first

However, the opportunities that new RPA-related jobs provide aren’t as impactful if demand can’t keep pace with the supply of skills. Fortunately, one South African public entity, The Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA) has taken the lead to build and launch the world’s first RPA Developer National Qualification Framework (NQF). MICT SETA started the framework in early 2021.

What does that mean? It means South Africa could be the first country in Europe, Middle East, and Africa (EMEA) to introduce a National Qualification in RPA. Job seekers would increase their chances of landing a job in the industry if they obtain this new qualification. And as with any other national qualification, it is subsidized (the government pays for training as part of the qualification).

To capitalize on this opportunity, it's important that MICT SETA focuses on building a strong NQF. Generally speaking, an NQF is a system that allows for the standardization and recognition of qualifications within a country. The framework helps ensure South Africa's youth have the RPA skills and qualifications necessary to succeed in the tech industry.

NQF “levels” provide education and skills information to potential employers. Levels “better enable someone to choose the job-applicant that is most suitable and best qualified for a vacant position,” according to the South African College of Applied Psychology. Thus, qualifications also guide learners in choosing the correct pathway to be able to work within their chosen career. They relay the skills “required for a job area and how to get these skills.”

This initiative took 10 months of thorough workshops and documentation, followed by public feedback, a bureaucratic process, and publishing. After more than 1.5 years of efforts led by MICT SETA, (in collaboration with UiPath, local educators, education consultants, UiPath partners, and more) the RPA national qualification was officially available as of August 2022.

“It was a tremendous critical thinking and debating effort so that a technology which was born in a rather small arena of tech players can be translated into a vendor-agnostic, genuine occupational qualification from which all players in the market can benefit from, not only UiPath,” said Matome Madibana, CEO of MICT SETA. It was for the greater good of the country, so we took a lot of pride, but also humility to be part of the story.

“We are hopeful that with this qualification, we are going to bridge the current shortage of skilled labor within the ICT [information and communications technology] and digital industries. And, ultimately, increase the employment rate and entrepreneurship in South Africa,” said Madibana.

According to MICT SETA, the RPA Developer National Qualification will equip young professionals and the current workforce to deal with the transformative effects of new technologies. The qualification will also enable young professionals to innovate and create new products and services across industries.

It is important for the country that we have people with the skills to innovate and exploit 4IR technologies. Perhaps, most importantly, it will provide those whose jobs face redundancy to be reskilled.

Matome Madibana, CEO, MICT SETA

However, this is not a single solution. South Africa’s new RPA qualification should be implemented along with other initiatives such as skill development programs and an awareness campaign to change the perception of technical education. Additionally, my hope is that the government and private sector work together to create more opportunities for youth in the tech industry through internships and on-the-job training.

Our organization boasts numerous UiPath solutions and is committed to the QCTO Robotic Processing Automation Occupational Certificate as a strategic enabler to change the way organizations embrace automation and digital transformation. CVTS is committed to growing the skills required to excel in the 4IR through our UiPath RPA Incubation Program, producing competent and skilled UiPath professionals to drive employment and technology.

Vanessa Jin, Company Director, CVTS

When considering technology disruption, we must also consider technology absorption. How are we going to mitigate skills churn and skills mismatches through reskilling and upskilling? The NQF accredited RPA programme does exactly this for the South African economy. It gives displaced employees and unemployed youth an opportunity to learn a skill in demand. Further, being a recognised qualification, means that it builds on the individuals’ educational achievements.

Ugan Maistry, CEO, FIRtech

Both CVTS and FIRtech are UiPath partners in South Africa and keen on driving RPA developer qualifications.

The time is now

Now, the responsibility lies with local skills development providers. They’ll need to become accredited to offer this occupational qualification. The Quality Council for Trades and Occupations (QCTO) is a public body in South Africa which provides guidance and support needed for all skills providers that want to seize the opportunity.

The goal is for the South African market to see the first people hired with this new credential. Currently, there are none, but I’m sure we’ll soon hear many success stories about how this technology has changed lives across the country. And hopefully it will also shift the unemployment statistics a bit.

I do hope that this effort will be picked up in other countries as well. The demand for RPA professionals is skyrocketing and thus a little push from public bodies is always welcomed.

Vladimir Deliu UiPath
Vladimir Deliu

Manager, Learning Alliances, UiPath

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