The future of education for South Africa’s youth does not only lie in going to university as soon as they finish school, or in going to university at all.
The historical emphasis on university as the only viable option to gain adequate qualifications has led to many students either studying something that they have no real interest in or dropping out after a year.
Gary Bannatyne, MD and co-founder of The Digital Academy, says: “While we would never undermine the value of a university education, tertiary institutions have encouraged a process that makes students feel anxious, and is seeing them apply too early in case they miss out in future, rather than allowing them to take their time and pursue a career that leads to personal meaningful employment.”
Today’s youth are seldom advised to take a gap year, to learn new skills, or work for a while, or to make sure that traditional university is the route they want to take. “And while it might be in the interest of universities, it’s not in the best interests of the students,” he says.
According to Bannatyne, this needs to change. “Students need to understand that there are other options open to them. We live in an always-connected information age, where many other courses will not only provide real opportunities and lead to successful careers but will better equip the youth with the skills needed to thrive in today’s workplace.
“Today’s world is very different from the one we lived in a few decades ago. Having theoretical knowledge is good, but it’s not necessarily what the market needs. Job seekers need to know how to apply their practical skills too,” he adds.
A university degree is also no longer a requirement for many new roles that have been created by the digital age. “South African enterprises are battling to find the right skills to help them transform digitally and remain competitive. This is why most businesses are looking for individuals with the right attitude and aptitude, and those who have the ability to scale up their learning. Practical application is the best starting point, as this translates into employees who can quickly add value by getting straight to work,” Bannatyne says.
This is why Level Up, an institution that was born out of The Digital Academy, has introduced an affordable six-month course, called WorkReady that is designed to transfer all the skills one requires to get work opportunities and start their journey into today’s fast-paced digital economy.
“This is the future of education in South Africa today.,” says Bannatyne. “The Level Up WorkReady course has been meticulously designed to provide the most relevant skills for any individual who is looking to pursue a career in the software industry.”
He says The Digital Academy is known as a leader in digital skills development interventions. “Our reputation speaks for itself. 87% of our graduates are placed into jobs, and we can claim a 93% industry retention rate. We have achieved these results by nurturing strong relationships with corporate South Africa, as well as proven teaching methodologies in building our industry-leading, demand-led courses.”
With Level Up, the WorkReady modules are designed to allow learning to take place in a simulated working environment, and emphasis is placed on practical orientation. “We say don’t just think code, write code,” he says.
All learners wishing to apply need to have some background in the digital space, for example, basic programming, system administration or design. “We also test all applicants for aptitude and their ability to learn and upskill themselves in a modern working environment. Not everyone is destined for a career in software development, and we aim to give all our students the best possible chance to succeed.”
Bannatyne concludes: “Our model is a proven one. It works well, and we are helping South Africa address its digital skills shortage, by developing big data, cyber, networking, robotics and design-orientated needs such as animation, gaming as well as UI/UX skills in today’s youth.”