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Digital Academy targets youth development

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The Digital Academy, an alternative learning institution aimed at software development and technology job-seekers, has set the tone for everyone out there talking too much and moving too little.
“We are trying to solve real problems in the only way we know how, rolling up our sleeves and getting involved. We know what the industry needs and we are throwing the kitchen sink at ensuring they get what they want,” says Gary Bannatyne, MD and co-founder of The Digital Academy.
Youth unemployment is at an all-time high and large corporates have a role to play with government in how this problem is going to be tackled.
The Digital Academy runs a Rapid Development Programme for young and unrefined talented South Africans and Africans. Giving them the opportunity to test their ability to survive in a work simulated environment for four or six months.
“We create a ‘real’ workplace that simulates the realities and pressures of the organizational cultures they’ll be exposed to should they be placed there.” says Bannatyne.
Of all graduates that are placed out of The Digital Academy, 93% of them are converted into permanent or fixed-term contracts with The Academy’s partners. This is testament to the learning model where graduates leaving The Digital Academy are head and shoulder above other graduates that don’t have experience moving into the workplace.
“The fact of the matter is that there is a shortage of software and digital skills as most corporates are evolving into digital companies. There is a disconnect between what academic institutions are providing and from what the corporate world is looking for. The Digital Academy is about making sure our graduates add commercial value as employees,” he adds.
Software skills are highly sought after and a common mistake is made by corporates who recycle skills amongst themselves leaving a potential sustainable pipeline of future talent stuck with no job and forced to overpromise and underdeliver as a freelancer without the correct foundational best practice, leaving them destined to fail.
Absa Bank have made a substantial investment into young talent with The Digital Academy and share a vision of future talent for South Africa. The Digital Academy is building a sustainable pipeline of skills which Absa will require in the near future. Absa has been followed by General Electric who believe that the development of local talent is where corporates need to pay most of their attention.
“Our partners are incredible. We need more though. We need to have more exposure and create more impact for so many more people. We are capable of so much more,” adds Bannatyne.
With the support of the SETAs, The Digital Academy is becoming recognized as a leader in the practical development of skills, that are fit-for-purpose and that can actually contribute to the work place for future success.
“When you think of the unemployed youth, you have got to think of the extremely driven individuals that want to change their future through hard work. These are the guys and girls we like to support because it makes our job easier. All South Africans should care about those individuals who understand that their future lies in their own decision making,” says James Coetzee, co-founder and director at The Digital Academy.
The Digital Academy is confident that their model of transferring skills is going to change the way we source talent for the workplace. This will provide huge opportunities to the youth and de-risk the attrition rate for corporates bringing in grassroots skills.
Bannatyne says that the model stands true and that The Digital Academy is moving aggressively into a variety of skills like big data, cyber, networking, robotics and design orientated needs such as animation, gaming as well as UI/UX skills.
“We have a solid model that we know how to replicate. It works and we are able to act as the gatekeepers for great talent that has the ambition to shoot the lights out and continue to grow. That is really powerful for our partners,” says Bannatyne.