The world of work is changing at breakneck speed and by 2020, 39% of core skills required across all jobs in South Africa will be wholly different from what they are today. The key challenge is for skills development to keep pace.
But according to a World Economic Forum (WEF) report released last year, employers across the region identify skills gaps as a major constraint to their ability to compete in the global economy.
More effective dialogue between education providers and corporates that translates into tangible results is what is desperately needed. As the needs of the workplace evolve, so too must training programmes because failure to adapt to a changing business landscape will result in workers who are obsolete.
According to the WEF report, the skills gap affecting the continent often stems from the fact that many jobs are becoming more intense in their use of digital technologies. In fact average ICT intensity of jobs in South Africa increased by 26% over the last decade.
Add this concern to SA’s unemployment crisis and the picture becomes even clearer. With the country’s unemployment rate sitting at 27.7% and youth unemployment climbing to 67.4%, we need to get our youth relevant and work-ready for the modern era that has been dubbed the Fourth Industrial Revolution.
One organisation that has identified the infinite possibilities that dedicated training in software engineering can deliver for South Africans from all walks of life, is WeThinkCode_.
As an entirely tuition-free, peer-to-peer technology university, WeThinkCode_ is a compelling proposition for anyone between the ages of 17 and 35 who passes the entrance tests. “We are all about finding top talent, no matter where you are from or what you have done before. Our course is completely free to students, no prior coding experience is required and a Matric is optional,” says Arlene Mulder, MD and co-founder of WeThinkCode.
Working closely with big players in the tech industry, many of whom are corporate sponsors and fund the actual programmes, WeThinkCode_ is able to ensure the training it offers is up-to-the-minute by using cutting-edge technologies that solve today’s problems. The approach to facilitating the learning experience is also dynamic and future-forward.
With no classes and no teachers, students will learn how to use coding as a critical tool in a peer-to-peer environment. “This peer-oriented environment means students also evaluate each other’s work and complete the feedback loop – all extremely valuable processes for hands-on learning,” says Mulder.
Having hosted numerous dynamic hackathons, learning and incubation programmes, and earning itself a name within the local tech community, Workshop17 at OPEN workspaces is the home of WeThinkCode_’s new Cape Town campus. Located in the V&A Waterfront, WeThinkCode_ forms part of the V&A Waterfront’s CSI initiative.
“South Africa’s future lies with our youth and the entrepreneurs of tomorrow. As a developing country, it is imperative that people, businesses and organisations across the South African spectrum do their bit to foster young talent and small businesses. We focused on exactly this in launching Workshop17, our small business innovation hub, that has been very well-received since its opening in 2015,” says David Green, CEO of the V&A Waterfront.
“Our partnership with WeThinkCode_ is an expansion of this idea, and part of our desire to ensure we always invest in a responsible, impactful manner. The world is witnessing the rapid and significant expansion of tech and tech entrepreneurs, and we believe it is important to look to the future, and help the country’s youth prepare for an ever-changing labour market,” Green adds.
With a shared passion for this collaborative approach to working, Workshop17 and WeThinkCode_ together provide a unique space for students, where no formal trainers means that working together to solve problems is the only way of making progress.
Paul Keursten, OPEN/Workshop17 co-founder says, “Co-working and collaborative learning are absolutely the way of the future and we’re seeing more and more organisations subscribing to this modern-day way of getting stuff done. The days of working in isolation are gone. It’s about the network and pooling ideas and resources for far greater results.
“We love the work of WeThinkCode_ and have a great synergy with this organisation. By attracting real coding talents from a very diverse background, we’re moving closer towards realising the country’s potential as an IT centre.”