Cell C and Explore Data Science Academy provide training for South African youth

Cell C Data Scientists initiative provides funding and skills to 24 young men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds.

In an increasingly digital world, South Africa is facing a growing challenge to upskill future generations entering the job market. According to a report from The Economist in 2017, data has replaced oil as the world’s most valuable commodity and for South African businesses to take advantage of big data insights in order to drive strategic growth, it is vital that the country invests in skills as a whole.

This need has been exacerbated by The COVID-19 pandemic and resultant lockdowns all over the globe. South Africa recently relaxed its lockdown level from level 4 to level 3, but experts are adamant that the country’s economy has sustained a harsh battering. The Chamber Of Commerce has stated that the unemployment rate, which stood at 29% before lockdown, could rise to as much as 50% as the economy shrinks, many businesses fold and even those who survive will be looking to reduce their overheads.

In a post-lockdown South Africa, it’s more important than ever that young South Africans are equipped with skills and knowledge that will give them the best chance of succeeding.

Launched in December of last year the Cell C Data Scientists initiative provides funding and skills to 24 young men and women from disadvantaged backgrounds from all over the country who show high potential in Maths and Science.

These students are participating in a year-long program that will see them qualify as ICT innovators and potential employment as Data Scientists, Engineers and or Software Developers at Cell C. Graduates will be placed in an internship programme at Cell C. In addition 23 permanent Cell C employees with high potential were also placed on the Learnership programme as part of a reskilling initiative.They are learning a multitude of disciplines that include data science, machine learning and data engineering with an emphasis on the practical application of these fields. Not only does this set them up with qualifications for their chosen employment, but it also equips them with problem solving skills and analytical thinking for an ever-changing job market.

As is the case with many learners, the Cell C sponsored students enrolled this year at the Explore Data Science Academy have had to make radical adjustments to their study schedules. Lockdown has moved them all to adopt e-learning, with the Academy moving quickly to provide students with the equipment and support that they need.

“Whilst the lockdown has presented many challenges to the traditional Learnership Model, Explore delivers its curriculum on a robust digital platform. So the shift to online has been relatively painless. Our biggest hurdle was to ensure all learners received laptops and bandwidth.” says Mark Schroeder, Chief Commercial Officer of Explore Data Science Academy. “I’m happy to report all of our students are on track to graduate at the end of the year.”

“There is a great need in South Africa – and the rest of the world – for people with digital skills in the job market,” says Schroeder. “Thanks to the support from Cell C we’re able to play an important role in developing the skills and knowledge of our students so they can be better equipped to face challenges in the future.”

“Cell C remains steadfast in our commitment to upskilling South Africa’s youth, says Juliet Mhango Chief Human Capital Development & Transformation Officer. “With the future more uncertain than before it is vital that our efforts focus on making sure young South Africans are furnished with the necessary skills they need to succeed.”

“We applaud the efforts of all of our students and those of the Explore Data Science Academy,” she says.

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