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Coega ICT graduate interns gain experience to enter the job market

Home Business Management Education & Training Coega ICT graduate interns gain experience to enter the job market

BETWEEN December 2021 and February 2022, the Coega Development Corporation (CDC) welcomed 50 unemployed ICT graduates into an eight-month internship programme to gain ICT industry experience. Since the programme’s commencement, several interns have moved on to secure gainful employment, emphasising the value of relevant workplace experience in the eyes of prospective employers.

Craig Luckman, CDC Human Capital Solutions Programme Manager, explains that the practical ICT experience acquired during the interns’ relatively short tenure at the CDC, places them in good stead to secure meaningful employment opportunities in the short term. In addition, there is an expectation that some of these interns will flourish as entrepreneurs within the ICT sector. “The experience I’ve acquired at Coega puts me at an advantage to elevate and be the professional I want to be,” says ICT graduate intern, Khulasande Mzamane.

The MICT SETA ICT Graduate Programme is funded by the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority (MICT SETA) and facilitated by the CDC. To ensure that the workplace experience the interns gain is specific enough to their core competencies, the CDC contracted the Nelson Mandela University School of IT to deliver the technical mentoring component alongside the CDC ICT managers. “Applied competence, not theoretical knowledge, is what unlocks the door to employment,” explains Meike Wetsch, who heads the CDC’s Capital and Funding Office and is also the Project Sponsor.

University lecturers deployed on the Programme can see precisely what competence is required in the workplace, which in turn provides a valuable feedback loop into the training system to overcome mismatches between the national skills demand and supply. The Director of the Nelson Mandela University School of IT, Dr Sue Petratos serves on the project steering committee to keep a close watch on the programme outcomes. Karen Church, lead technical mentor and ICT curriculum designer explains: “The curricula of the ICT qualifications at tertiary education institutions have been designed to focus on the different specialisations and current trends within the ICT industry. There have been advances in a number of fields, including robotics, 3D printing, artificial intelligence, quantum computing, block chain, biotechnology, the Internet of Things, data science and fifth-generation wireless technologies. The CDC and its investors are at the cutting edge of these technologies and as we deploy the interns to work on these, it becomes clear very quickly where additional training is needed with respect to the newer technologies and where university curricula need to be updated or expanded. We have already made a few changes to the Nelson Mandela University ICT curricula.”

By deploying lecturers as technical mentors, several research opportunities have been identified, and the CDC is supporting this work in many ways. The interns themselves are undertaking projects of substance. These include supporting the CDC’s large data centres, working on a digital migration of an entire enterprise management system, contributing to the development of enhanced customs and logistics systems in a custom secured area. Others are developing a derivative of the CDC’s Capital and Funding Office’s virtual deal room system to develop a system capable of providing secure and on demand access to medical information that underpins a remote health delivery system across borders on the African Continent.

“The type of exposure the interns receive here places them at an advantage once they move on. The nicest part about working with them is sharing in their enthusiasm,” says Crevlyn Edgar, CDC ICT Operations Manager who developed a workplace programme for the group of interns stationed at the CDC Business Centre.

“This is a call to action to other businesses to do more. These graduate interns represent the top 3% of our youth. This is the layer that will lead our economy and create jobs for their peers – as such, their training has to be different. We expect them to solve problems and create value, and they have shown us they can. Of course, talent only needs the right place to flourish – and here at Coega we have that ecosystem,” says Meike Wetsch.

According to MICT SETA Regional Manager, Andile Nene, “the partnership between MICT SETA and the CDC has proven to be impactful in addressing critical skills shortages by transferring industry aligned skills in high demand to the youth of our province. The acquired industry aligned skills improve the interns’ chances of employability which greatly contributes to the alleviation of poverty in the Eastern Cape.”

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