Transformation lead Ashika Kirpal on how L&D can drive socio-economic transformation in South Africa

Ashika says she lives by Madiba’s sentiment that education is the most powerful weapon we can use to change the world.

Ashika Kirpal, director for transformation and Naspers Labs, is a firm believer that through empowering young people with digital skills and giving them access to technology careers, the country can drive socio-economic transformation.

Ashika, says the programme focuses on equipping young people with the digital skills required in today’s changing world of work, enabling them to be at the forefront of economic opportunities.

“The programme offers in-demand skills for roles in software development, cybersecurity, cloud computing, data science, etc. Notably, the programme facilitates access to much-needed technology jobs.”

She adds that through Naspers Labs, 3,956 beneficiaries have been supported within the tech industry and more than 3,920 beneficiaries have been granted access to decent job opportunities. “Notably, 65 percent of the beneficiaries of the programme are young women, and four percent are young people with disabilities.”

Ashika’s passion for L&D is not something that she stumbled upon: she truly believes that access to learning and education, and lack of employment opportunities are some of the biggest issues the country is facing.

She notes, “For those that are living in poverty and/or are particularly very young, access to information that can help them make a well-informed decision about their careers is very difficult to find. So we try to make a meaningful change in people’s lives and our businesses by focusing on how we can reduce inequality, poverty and create environments that are inclusive, and where our people and businesses can thrive.”

Driven by passion

Ashika adds that her early introduction in the L&D space from the start of her career at Absa and Sanlam proved to be a time in her career where she started to learn more about B-BBEE through providing skills development and SED reporting to the transformation team.

Armed with a bachelor of education from the University of KwaZulu-Natal (a choice inspired by her passion for learning and development) as well as a postgraduate degree in adult education from the University of Johannesburg, she set out to make a difference in the lives of ordinary people.

“Due to my passion for learning and development (L&D), our beloved Madiba’s sentiment that ‘Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world’ is a motto I live by. At this time, I was very intrigued by B-BBEE strategy and reporting. I was incredibly fortunate to have been led by a great female director and female CEO who allowed me to go beyond my scope and engage with the company’s transformation strategy.”

She notes that one of her proudest moments was helping the company move from B-BBEE level 4 to a B-BBEE level 1 – in about seven months.

“The company maintained a level 1 for numerous years, even after my departure. B-BBEE’s golden thread is about diversity, equality and inclusivity. Its fundamental objective is to create and nurture a social and economic landscape in which everyone can grow, develop and thrive. I am proud of the work I have done to develop programmes for young entrants into the workplace, that helped accelerate them into meaningful jobs.”

Her advice to young people who want to develop successful careers? You have to be curious, always wanting and willing to learn because change is inevitable, she says. “Always be at the forefront of what’s trending and what direction the world is moving towards, and make sure that you are equipped with this knowledge and skills.

I believe in that old saying: ‘The definition of success is when preparation meets opportunity,’ so always be prepared by ensuring that you have the knowledge and skill of an ever-changing world, especially in the technology space. Don’t take things personally.”

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