Andani.Africa, together with the Goethe Institut South Africa, have gone on a mission to better understand how young South Africans are accessing and using their creative digital skills. Through interviews and surveys we have plotted some of the emerging trends and strategies of bright young creatives and how they connect to digital spaces to get skilled and grow their careers. While each person has a special story to tell, and nuances and intricacies to their own experiences, there are also some clear connections and similarities that can teach us about how to better support digital creatives. Olwethu’s story represents the stories of many digital creative entrepreneurs who have generously shared their in-depth knowledge and experiences with us.
Olwethu’s story represents the stories of many digital creative entrepreneurs who have generously shared their in-depth knowledge and experiences with us.
Olwethu is a 22-year-old creative entrepreneur living in Tembisa. As a professional working in the creative industries she is looking to find more opportunities close to home. She finds that her graphic design skills are in-demand and is looking for ways to upgrade her knowledge. She, along with peers from the same township area often attend entrepreneurship workshops at a local government-led hub. She makes an increased effort to inquire about training programmes targeted at digital skills. She finds that more often than not, this training is labelled as “4IR digital skills”- usually aimed at fintech or manufacturing entrepreneurs. But she is excited to grow, and will take all the knowledge she can get! As one of the options available to her, she opts into this training programme and finds that she is exposed to a wide array of basic and intermediate digital skills, as well as some basic entrepreneurial advice. Some of this information she immediately identifies is not relevant to her as a creative. At this point, she remains open to the idea of being able to gain more skills which will equip her as a professional, but she is looking for something more advanced.
Olwethu is one of many entrepreneurs trained at this hub, seeking to enhance their skills as a way to improve their livelihood and advance their careers. While this is valuable to her, at this point she realises that this institution can no longer offer her what she needs to advance beyond the current phase of her career development. She needs more! And as her knowledge has grown, she can see the specific gaps where she needs more targeted advice and upskilling. An additional search, through a site of information such as YouTube gives her access to a whole new world of self-teaching by way of tutorials. She finds this information useful and is in search of ways to access even more of the skills she discovers that she needs on her career journey. Because she mostly uses her tablet to access the internet, she spends late nights watching tutorials because she can use free-minutes on her data plans – she is definitely not getting enough sleep! She explores this as a further way of enhancing her skill set and it gives her what she needs up to a certain extent. For a moment she considers asking about graphic design training at the local TVET Institution, but after discussing her ideas with peers attending some of the courses, she gets the sense that the institution isn’t quite keeping up with the demands of the industry. Her local hub has access to a number of industry professionals who are willing to give workshops and some exposure to industry for some participants. She has attended a lot of workshops that are not always that useful, but she is often able to pick up one or two new things so she makes the effort and attends this one too. This is her breakthrough moment. Through this workshop she is able to gain access to a different level of the industry and gain additional creative digital skills (some of which she wasn’t even aware she needed); enabling her to draw in a wider client base.
In the South African context, Olwethu’s path towards gaining, using and improving creative digital skills isn’t unusual.
In the South African context, Olwethu’s path towards gaining, using and improving creative digital skills isn’t unusual. A path that can be characterised as exploratory is a common experience for many creative entrepreneurs. The creative digital skills she needed were not immediately accessible and required an additional support ecosystem, with peer networking, formal and informal training institutional support, access to the internet and various kinds of hard and software. What has become evident in the Digital Skills Track research is that creative digital skills are not always easily identifiable or accessible, whether an individual is a new school-leaver or on a mid-career development journey. What this indicates is that there is potential for better integration of the ecosystem of support required by creative digital entrepreneurs looking to enhance their skills.
This blog post is written by co-researcher for the Digital Skills Track report: Phumzile Twala