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Training young people in digital technology in South Africa

A project supported by the Air Liquide Foundation

The Air Liquide Foundation has teamed up with the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre, South Africa’s flagship science center and Sub-Saharan Africa’s largest, to support information technology training for underprivileged youths. This 27-week program will help 26 students gain a much-needed vocational qualification and enter the workforce with confidence. Sci-Bono’s Anele Davids, Director, and Zelda Fynn, Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Manager, tell us more about this program and partnership.

What does the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre do?

Anele: Sci-Bono’s purpose is to become a vehicle for all manner of disadvantaged people to receive education in math, science and technology. Sci-Bono offers innovative, dynamic learning experiences that help build South Africa’s science, engineering and technology capacities.
 
Zelda: The Sci-Bono Discovery Centre is always buzzing with fun learning activities enjoyed by a wide scope of visitors, including families, companies, school learners, teachers and the general public. Sci-Bono aims to promote awareness, understanding and interest in the sciences, engineering and technology through exposure to more than 300 interactive exhibits, shows, programs, events and activities.

Why have you launched this IT training program?

Anele: Our project, supported by the Air Liquide Foundation, aims to provide bright, hard-working young people from disadvantaged backgrounds with an opportunity to participate in the IT industry as employees or entrepreneurs, or a platform to launch their further education. We’ve started the program with 26 young people (14 boys and 12 girls), who went through a rigorous selection process to ensure motivated, driven candidates with an interest in an IT career. Simplon.co representatives led this process, which required candidates to complete an online systems development challenge, submit a letter describing why they wanted to be part of the program, and participate in an online interview conducted by Sci-Bono and Simplon.co (A network of socially-conscious digital factories / network of social digital factories that offer free, intensive courses in digital professions in France and abroad) representatives.
 
 Zelda: The ICT Learnership aims to address the problem of unemployment and poor schooling in South Africa by providing practical skills, qualifications and experience. Students are prepared for employment through exposure to a high-pressure, fast-paced learning environment, a strong mentorship program and a month-long internship to ensure they can apply their new skills.

How’s it going?

Anele: The training program is focused on problem-solving projects using information and communication technology (ICT) as a platform. So far, we’ve had 100% commitment from all 26 learners, who are enjoying working independently while collaborating with their peers as and when they deem necessary. This is teaching our youths hard work while preparing them for the workplace. Currently, a few girls are working on a project to develop a website for a small hotel owner. We’re looking forward to the outcomes and I hope their first real client is happy with their endeavors.
 
Zelda: The program follows the Simplon.co methodology of active pedagogy that puts learners at the center of their learning, requiring their active participation as they research, explore, experiment and collaborate in their search for solutions. Learners develop skills applicable to real-life situations because they’re actively engaged in learning. At Sci-Bono, our learners found this methodology overwhelming at first because it was new to them, but they’ve risen to the challenge and can now see the benefits.

Testimonial
Shivam Naik

Aged 22, is currently focusing on networking and security as part of the Air Liquide-sponsored ICT learnership program.

“When I first discovered the learnership I was exhilarated. It was a great adventure! Going through the recruitment process was daunting, but when I was selected, I was on cloud nine. I’ve experienced enormous self-growth. I’m now comfortable with doing research and completing projects on time. I’ve learned how to collaborate, communicate and assist my peers in class to enhance how I apply the content in practice. I’m deeply grateful for this learnership.”

What’s it been like working with Air Liquide?

Anele: The enthusiasm of Diamantina Messaris, Air Liquide Talent Manager for the Africa Zone) and Bruno Leprince-Ringuet (General Manager of the Air Liquide Foundation) made it easy for us to work with Air Liquide. From day one, they’ve shown an interest in our institutions and our ambassadors, our students. We’ve realized how important this support is to us with their constant engagement, guidance and leadership. Our biggest honor so far has been a visit by Philippe Martinez, VP of Air Liquide Africa, which showed the company’s dedication to this project.

Zelda: We value this new partnership with Air Liquide Foundation as it has the potential to make a real impact on the lives of many underprivileged but deserving youths and their families. Diamantina Messaris has shown an active, hands-on interest in the development and implementation of the program to ensure its success.

What is Air Liquide’s contribution?

Anele: Sci-Bono, as a science center, and Air Liquide, as a company using science to manufacture gas solutions and technologies to support most industries, are a perfect match. While Air Liquide is supporting industries, the Sci-Bono Discovery Centre is preparing our young people for future opportunities. Sci-Bono encourages youths to take up careers in science and technology, and this is supported by Air Liquide employees who present lectures to our youths and communities on critical aspects like zero carbon emissions and sustainable futures. Our youths can also visit Air Liquide sites where gas solutions and technologies are produced and used.
 
Zelda: Air Liquide’s support goes further than funding and has the potential to be implemented at scale and with great impact, as the company has brought its partners on board. The partnership also has the potential to grow beyond the ICT Learnership Program: Air Liquide, through its extensive experience in industry, and Sci-Bono, through its reach to all Gauteng school learners, can advance our shared objectives of creating awareness and promoting public education in the industry challenges and sustainable energy.

Article published on September 16, 2021