Earlier this month, Eyewitness News reported that the latest South African jobs statistics continue to reflect an appallingly high unemployment rate. According to the World Bank, the 2016 average unemployment rate for all upper middle-income countries was 6.2%. In 2016, South Africa’s rate was at 25.9%, rising to 27.7% in 2017. Of these unemployed droves, a staggering 39% have never worked before, highlighting the plight of unemployed youth.
It has often been said that effective skills development is the answer to unemployment. For this reason, Belgian entrepreneurs, Jan Rombouts and Enrico Jacobs established the Belgium Campus in 1999. The Campus strives to alleviate the educational and unemployment challenges in South Africa, specifically by aiding candidates in meeting the critical skills needs in the information and communications technology (ICT) sector.
“With the understanding that traditional institutions do not always deliver on work readiness, the Belgium Campus has implemented pioneering methods to ensure that graduates not only receive a qualification, but are immediately employable too,” confirms Jacobs, founder and Vice Chancellor. “Our initial inspiration in 1999 was the need to build a new nation, with talent being sourced from the grassroot levels up – all while bringing higher education, research and industry together to get graduates ready for the real world.”
As the only institution that concentrates exclusively on the ICT sector, the Belgium Campus’ graduates feed up to 10% of the total graduates to the industry annually.
With a focus on continuous improvement, and in recognition of the dire need to integrate technology and innovation into education, the Campus has joined the Infor Education Alliance Programme (EAP). The Infor EAP delivers next-generation tools for future leaders, and works with local universities across the EMEA region. The partnership with the Belgium Campus is the first in Africa, with plans for expansion in process. Participants in the programme get access to specialised software packages, training materials, and customised learning experiences, using groundbreaking technology that is already transforming work for more than 90,000 organisations worldwide.
“With these industry-specific business tools, proficiency is developed, offering students and professionals at every level the critical skills that will set them apart in the job market,” confirms Jane Thomson, Managing Director at Softworx, an Infor Partner and the local driver behind the Infor EAP and Belgium Campus collaboration. “This proficiency will go a long way to bolster candidates’ entry into the market, ensuring that they are ready for the world of work. Skills and work experience are what people lack, but if they are given the opportunity to gain these skills and this experience, they are 80% more likely to remain in employment for the rest of their lives.”
The partnership was made official at a prestigious signing ceremony, held at the Belgium Campus’ Tshwane campus on 20 September 2017. During the ceremony, insights were shared by representatives from the Belgium Campus, Infor, and Softworx. Students shared their personal experiences, reflecting on how the programme offers real transformational power, and tangible employment opportunities.
“As one of the 20 girls brought into the Belgium Campus to complete a Bachelors of Computing, I started with a blank slate. The best I could do was ctrl + alt + delete – but now we’ve learnt about a whole new world. It’s changed our mentality in a structured and professional way. The Infor training we’ve received over the last week has blown our minds; it’s made us go outside and draw the box, just so that we can come back in and think outside it,” beamed Thandeka Mbokazi, a second year Belgium Campus student.
She went on to confirm that the girls who have received bursaries from EOH and been taken in as employees at Softworx have also learnt that IT need not be a man’s world, but rather a world where there are opportunities and skilled people ready to take them.
Students will gain valuable computer science and business integration skills using Infor Mongoose, an application development platform and cloudsuite industrial ERP solution. According to Martine Cadet, Vice President, Global Enablement at Infor, the global ICT industry is in need of intelligent, bright people that can push the envelope. “For this reason, we focus on the transference of real skills in three steps; learn, demonstrate, and excel.”
The Director of the Infor EAP, EMEA, Mark Stewart concludes; “We are very excited to work with the university to support their students with career opportunities at Infor and with its master partner in this region, Softworx. It’s great to be partnering with this leading institution in South Africa. Belgium Campus has a unique approach and focus in developing top talent to serve the IT industry. This alliance adds to this, allowing students to take their knowledge of technology and apply this to a growing demand for digital skills in business. We are proud to be a part of this collaboration, which ultimately is leading to students developing the skills that employers are looking for by creating experiential opportunities for students.”