Explore Data Science Academy (EDSA) aims to have trained 5 000 data scientists and most placed into jobs in South Africa by 2025.

The number is based on the Academy’s current trajectory, which has trained and placed close to 500 young data scientists in just two years since the launch of its 12-month data science learnership programme in January 2018. Most of these learners come from disadvantaged backgrounds and after graduating have been placed in high demand jobs averaging R360 000 a year.

According to Shaun Dippnall, EDSA cofounder, the 2025 projection is based on the high market demand for data science skills – growth for which the academy is ramping its facilities and resources. This includes its online public courses.

The EDSA’s goal, through its sponsored learnerships and self-funded courses, is to address both South Africa’s chronic youth unemployment crisis – currently at 53% – as well as provide relevant skills to meet the ever evolving demands of the digital economy.

“South Africa’s youth unemployment as well as its stretched and outdated education system, call for a radically innovative solution to address the shortage of relevant skills we need to compete globally,” Dippnall says.

“Beyond our curriculum is our conviction is that in order to have a functioning society able to compete globally, we need to build a Next-Gen institution that is world-class. We encourage learners to reach their potential, to live their best lives and to become something more than their circumstances,” he adds.

Dippnall believes EXPLORE’s target of 5 000 qualified learners by 2025 is well within reach as more and more South African businesses look to data to drive growth and find their competitive edge. The quest requires a rapid uptake in data science skills.

“There is a massive local supply-demand gap in the area of data science and our universities and colleges are struggling to keep up with the rapid growth and changing nature of specific digital skills demanded by companies,” he says.

These skills are in short supply worldwide. In a statement in January, the World Economic Forum estimated that by 2030 over 1-billion people worldwide would need to be reskilled to meet the demands of the Fourth Industrial Revolution.

“In the next two years, 42% of core skills required to perform existing jobs are expected to change. The world is facing a reskilling emergency,” the statement added.