Columbus SA, distributor and co-developer of the Columbus suite of enterprise and lifecycle management products of Columbus Technologies, is addressing the chronic shortage of skills in South Africa by launching a social responsibility programme that will see over 200 people trained and internationally certified as Columbus technicians.

Theo Fourie, CEO of Columbus SA, says: "Certified technology experts are hard to find in South Africa, especially outside of the main centres of Gauteng and the Western Cape. With a growing number of installations in the public and private sectors, we need to ensure our partners and customers have the required skills to support their Columbus systems and maximise their benefits."
Columbus partners now have the opportunity to send their technicians for training at the company's central Gauteng education centre, where they can be certified on one or all the modules available. For those needing to train a large number of technicians, Columbus also sends its instructors to provide on-site training.
"It is in our interests to assist our partners in getting their technicians fully certified," says Fourie. "However, to make a lasting contribution to the country, Columbus is also busy identifying small black-owned companies looking to gear up for the IT services market. These companies will receive free training and certification. Already, over 60% of our graduates are from previously disadvantaged communities."
Not only do technicians receive theoretical training, but they are also tasked with putting their knowledge to the test in a computer lab with trained supervisors watching their every move. After the training they will be expected to pass a number of intensive exams before earning their certification.
Fourie notes that it is not always as simple as it should be to install software due to operating system glitches or conflicts with existing applications, and since Columbus technologies touch every aspect of the enterprise, from desktop to server, the company has introduced an implementation module which tests students' general skills during a full installation.
"To date we have 193 fully trained technicians in South Africa, a number that will exceed 200 before the end of the year," he continues. "While we are focusing on South Africa at the moment, the uptake of Columbus in the rest of Africa is increasing and we have already trained two technicians from our partner Comtel, supporting the Bank of Africa in Uganda this year, with enquiries from other countries in hand."
The Columbus approach to the skills shortage in South Africa is not to complain and hope for the best, adds Fourie. The company has decided to invest its time, money and skills into uplifting the previously disadvantaged with abilities that are in demand and can be applied nationwide today.