South Africa’s unemployment rate is rapidly increasing, and the need to constantly expose the youth to new skills needed in the future is essential. South Africa Flying Labs held yet another successful drone awareness workshop in February 2022. This time around, the event was focused on South African unemployed youth from the age of 18 to 35 who are looking to kick-start their journey in the drone industry and those who are looking to apply drone technology in their respective fields such as construction, maritime, archaeology, and tourism among others.
During the workshop, South Africa Flying Labs Managing Director, Queen Ndlovu, highlighted the importance of quality Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics (STEM) education and encouraged the youth to be involved in the STEM fields to help curb unemployment and unlock opportunities. “The rationale behind the intervention is to expose attendees to various career options in the drone industry and business prospects. The aim is to educate, inspire and elevate their knowledge and understanding of new and emerging technologies that will make a difference in the world. Furthermore, position them on how drone technology can be used in their respective fields,” she said.
According to statssa.gov.za, South Africa’s unemployment rate in Q3 2021 increased to 34.9 percent. This is the highest official unemployment rate recorded since the start of the QLFS in 2008. “There was an increase in the number of discouraged work seekers and those that are not economically active. These results are reflective of a struggling economy suffering high job losses and high levels of economic inactivity, exacerbated by the COVID-19 pandemic lockdown restrictions and social unrests some of the country experienced in 2021, which led to some businesses [permanently closing].”
The one-day workshop was focused on upskilling the participants’ knowledge in the drone industry. They were exposed to different types of drones and how they function, career options, and business opportunities in the drone industry. Participants were also taught about the legislation around safety.
One of the attendees at the workshop, Obakeng Maleka, shared that his knowledge about drone technology before the workshop was basic. However, his interest was piqued after learning that drones deliver small packages to aid in relief services to countries. As a result, he said he felt more certain about his intentions and future goals concerning the drone industry. “I would like to implement drone access and usability into today’s environment, from work to lifestyle, so more automated process or drone involved services such as package deliveries,” he said.
The youth were very fortunate to learn more about the industry from their peers already in the space. A 27-year-old Drone Pilot, Boipelo Moraka, who has been flying drones since 2018 in different industries, shared her journey with the participants and said that she had an impactful time at the workshop more than anything else. “Making a new network and connection with South Africa Flying Labs has given me a stepping stone to reach heights in the industry itself. I was exposed to opportunities I had not yet touched before, which put great pleasure in my heart.” She said.
Participants further shared their future ambitions and challenges that they are faced with when trying to break into the industry. Finally, the workshop concluded with a short flight demonstration illustrating how each drone functions.
South Africa Flying Labs Operations Director, Jack Shilubana, closed the workshop by thanking everyone involved in making that day a success. “We wouldn’t have done this without the support of the Innovation Hub CEO Adv Pieter Holl, Smart Industries GM Dr. Andrew De Vries, Communications Department Linah Nematandani and board of directors, our staff, and strategic partners like UNICEF-SA and MST who came as guests at the workshop.
The workshop gained attraction from the media, resulting in Queen Ndlovu being interviewed by the national broadcaster, ENCA, post the workshop. As a result, South Africa Flying Labs had an opportunity to share this wholesome experience with the rest of the country, showcasing the work and impact this continues to make in South Africa.