Vuthela training sparks life into dreams

Vuthela ICT course prepared graduates to build their own website and digital app development companies to reach their full potential for income-generation.

With her new digital skills, Zamalinda Mbatha plans to grow her fledgling business and give wings to her dreams.

While working during the day as an intern in the financial sector, vibrant and energetic Zamalinda worked hard to get her business off the ground. She developed skin care products based only on natural products found in the local environment around her home near KwaDukuza in KwaZulu-Natal.

But the challenges of operating a business in a district where unemployment is high, incomes are low and local economic growth is slow has limited the full potential of her products.

She enrolled for a one-year course on developing and building websites and digital apps, knowing that the training did not include a stipend or allowance, but determined to learn how to expand the markets for her business.

The ICT training course for unemployed youth was offered under the Vuthela iLembe LED Support Programme in partnership with Enterprise iLembe, the Moses Kotane institute, and the KwaDukuza and Mandeni Local Municipalities.

It enabled trainees to acquire digital skills they need to design and build websites and apps on their own – from start to finish.

For the 29 young graduates like Zamalinda who completed the course, life is about to change.

“I have been producing and bottling my own range of natural skin care products for a while now and people like them, but I need more sales,” she said, proudly holding her graduation certificate she received from iLembe District Municipality Mayor TP Shandu and Councillor Hlengiwe Makhata recently.

The qualification will be framed and hung next to her diploma in skin care.

“Now I am going to build my own website for my online store, and I’m going to sell my products online so I can expose them to more markets.

“The course was quite amazing. I started off knowing about skin care but very little about website development. Now I know about both, and I’m excited about what it can do for my business.”

Shannon Moffett, project manager of the iLembe ICT project and Vuthela Key Expert on Private Sector Development, said the one-year course was designed to give IT novices all the skills and knowledge they needed to design and build websites and digital apps.

“This skill is becoming increasingly important as the fourth industrial revolution changes and shapes the way that business is conducted today,” said Moffett.

“The internet and the digital economy are key drivers of growth and employment, and they can be used to unlock the full potential of enterprises. The course will open many doors for the young people who graduated from  this programme.”

The prevailing economic and social conditions in many parts of the district mean that this course will create meaningful employment and livelihoods.

A panel discussion organised by Enterprise iLembe preceded the graduation and assessed the value of digital platforms for emerging entrepreneurs.

These included cost-effectiveness, targeted audience reach, and measurable results.

“Digital marketing opens doors for entrepreneurs to compete with established players, expand their market reach, and connect with their target audience in meaningful ways,” said digital marketing consultant Sarah Basson.

“Additionally, digital marketing allows for scalability and growth, empowering small businesses to expand their reach and achieve their objectives. Overall, these benefits enable small businesses to effectively promote their brand, connect with their target audience, and drive success in a dynamic and competitive digital landscape,” she said.

“However, it’s essential for businesses to carefully consider their specific goals, resources, and target audience to determine the most effective digital marketing mix. By leveraging the right channels, businesses can maximise their online presence, engage with customers, and achieve their marketing objectives.

“With the ever-evolving digital landscape, staying informed about the latest trends and technologies will be crucial for businesses to adapt and succeed in their digital marketing efforts,” said Basson.

Graduate Nkulelekho Zungu said he was thankful that he had applied and enrolled online on the spur of the moment, as he was confident that his life was about to change.

“I am going to start my own business building websites, and I know that many local businesses will become my customers. I can give a full service from start to finish, and I’m going to build it up and get more customers through digital marketing,” said Nkulelekho.

“My vision is to build a big digital company, and I can do that with what I know.”

Graduate Lindon Govender, who worked as a merchandiser in a chain store while training, said he planned to use his qualification to get a better job in the IT sector.

“The course showed me that I could do things that I never ever imagined I would actually do, although I really wanted to. So now I can go on and do other things I thought I could not do, like get a good job in IT building websites,” said Lindon.

“I’m already applying for jobs.”