Innovation - and the skills needed to thrive in a new economy - are critical topics to be explored and revisited. Giving context to both is the current industrial revolution and digital transformation that societies are contending with.
If you break down the definition of Industry 4.0, it holds that there have already been three industrial revolutions. The first was the introduction of industry’s ingredients, such as mechanisation and steam power. The second was the adoption of electricity and the arrival of mass production. Third came the computers and the start of modern automation.
The first and second revolutions have something in common: one started the momentum that the second then took to a higher order. This is happening again. The ingenuity of the third industrial revolution is now transforming into the fourth: a world where computers are ubiquitous and human/machine interactions will accelerate our development in ways we cannot even predict.
This means that the watershed between nations what will thrive in the 21st century and nations that will follow or even fade depends on how well a society can harness these new ways of thinking and doing. Teaching people technology skills is not simply about a skilled workforce, but unearthing the talent and vision that will set nations apart.
“When designing the academy is was important that it wasn’t just another training academy,” said Natasha Reuben, Head of Transformation at Dell EMC South Africa. “What the Khulisa Academy is doing differently is it’s saying: ‘How can we help solve world problems? How can we use technology to enable innovation?’ That’s the differentiator and why high-performance computing is so important.”
Nurturing the Future
Khulisa is a Zulu word for nurturing and it perfectly describes the academy launched by Dell in 2015. Whereas many such initiatives focus on basic technology literacy, the Khulisa Academy goes much further. It promotes high-performance computer (HPC) skills, with a focus on youth from disadvantaged communities and particularly to attract female learners, said Faustina Thobakgale, a 1st year HPC student at Khulisa:
“We learn a lot about IT, specifically high-performance computing and a lot of subtopics within that field as a whole. It’s a whole lot of things in one package.”
HPC systems are increasingly what powers the world behind our screens and for that matter any interaction we have with technology. From a website offering special deals to managing traffic lights to planning crop yields, machines have become a part of our everyday world - hence the 4th industrial revolution. Equipping a generation with the ability to take charge of those systems and develop their own ideas is crucial. No technology is useful unless it has a local context. This is about creating vibrant minds armed with the skills to make the future happen, not just to address the growing skills gap both locally and across the world.
One such Khulisa alum is Siyanda Zokoza, Entrepreneur and founder of I STAY @, an app service that helps students find university accommodation. He’s very bullish about the selection process and the goals of the academy:
“Khulisa looks for people who are innovative game-changers, people who will change South Africa and create employment.”
Zokoza knew from the beginning he wanted to be an entrepreneur. Khulisa worked alongside him to develop and design his own business. Today the I STAY @ service (I Stay At on the Android App store) is successful and growing, with Dell EMC as an incubation partner.
Training SA’s brightest
This journey reflects the academy’s mission. Each year thirty students are chosen from across South Africa. Applications are received through different initiatives, including existing relationships with schools, followed by a lengthy vetting of the applications received where the top 10 percent are selected to enter the academy.
This is the start of a two-year course. But students aren’t thrown into the deep end. In the beginning, a lot of focus is placed on developmental aspects. Khulisa staff engage with each student to determine their goals and fundamentals before moving into the technical components. It helps students feel more comfortable and allows them to take control over their experience. Every student is fully supported: Khulisa with the backing of the Dell Development Fund not only provides the course content but also accommodation and takes care of various other needs, said Reuben:
“It’s completely funded by Dell and all the students earn a market-related salary. That’s important. You’re not coming in and earning a stipend. The market-related salary allows them to go into their first job at an advantage.”
All graduating students are helped into employment - another Khulisa differentiator. They are placed either through Dell, its partners or customers. The strategy works: last year’s class all completed successfully with a pass rate of above 80%. All of them were placed as well and two formed businesses that Dell is supporting.
For Zokoza, who graduated two years ago, Khulisa Academy is a gamechanger that everyone should know about:
“I’d encourage anyone to apply for Khulisa. It’s not just your regular learnership programme. Khulisa will offer you opportunities out there, keep you up to date with technology and encourage you to be innovative and reach your goals,” she concluded.
Watch the video to find out how you or someone you know can apply to the Khulisa Academy
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