College-industry partnership promotes ICT talent development

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba, IT in government editor
Johannesburg, 11 Dec 2020
From left to right: Huawei EBG president Liao Yong; higher education, science and innovation minister Dr Blade Nzimande; SAPCO president Sanele Mlotshwa; and Huawei SA deputy CEO Kian Chen.
From left to right: Huawei EBG president Liao Yong; higher education, science and innovation minister Dr Blade Nzimande; SAPCO president Sanele Mlotshwa; and Huawei SA deputy CEO Kian Chen.

A partnership aimed at cultivating ICT talent in the country’s Technical and Vocational Education and Training (TVET) colleges has now been extended to 10 more of these post-school institutions.

In June, Huawei, the South African Public Colleges Organisation (SAPCO) and the Department of Higher Education and Training (DHET) revealed 23 TVET colleges from across SA’s nine provinces would be enrolled to the Huawei ICT Academy Programme, making them certified ICT academies.

SAPCO is an organisation that represents the 50 TVET colleges in the country, with the aim to coordinate efforts in the TVET sector.

At this week’s SAPCO national general council event, it was revealed that a further 10 had been added, to bring the total ICT academies in TVET colleges to 33. In addition, more than 300 students and lecturers have already participated in Huawei ICT certification training, according to a statement.

Higher education, science and innovation minister Dr Blade Nzimande commended the initiative, saying it “acts as a bridge between enterprises and academy to build a talent ecosystem for the ICT industry”.

Nzimande noted it’s an example of the college-industry partnership that is vital for a vocational education and skills development system. “Our strategic goal is to help create a capable workforce that should support an inclusive growth path to meet the needs of our society, especially those of our economy.

“Technical and vocational education is a vital component of our post-school and training system due to its importance in helping students to develop the technical and practical skills needed to improve their livelihoods and be competitive in today’s ever-changing world.”

The minster encouraged the TVET sector to embrace the latest National List of Occupations in High Demand, which states occupations in ICT-related fields are among the most sought-after in SA.

The list, which Nzimande released in November,shows jobs associated with key areas and sectors identified as crucial for SA’s reconstruction and recovery plan, such as the digital economy, energy, infrastructure development, data scientists, Web developer, computer network technician and gaming, to be in high demand.

“I want to reiterate my call to the TVET colleges and, of course, our friends and partner, Huawei, to use this list to inform their selection of programme offerings, their resource allocations and enrolment planning processes, as well as the identification and development of new qualifications and programmes that are more responsive to the needs of the economy and society as a whole.”

Huawei’s ICT Academy Programme is part of its digital inclusion initiative, TECH4ALL, which is intended to expand access to and benefits of ICT training throughout the globe.

In February, Huawei pledged a $50 million five-year investment to train two million ICT professionals, as part of the next phase of the programme.

The Chinese technology giant’s ICT academies in the TVET colleges offer Huawei certification training online and in classrooms, train instructors, support training plan design and curriculum integration, and help to maintain high training standards and participation rates across the ICT sector.

SAPCO president Sanele Mlotshwa said the Huawei-SAPCO partnership was more relevant than ever as the fourth industrial revolution (4IR) gained speed.

“The 4IR affects all industries,” he states. “We thank Huawei for the opportunity to operate these academies. They will have a significant impact on the sector at large and on how we embrace these global changes.”

Liao Yong, president of Huawei Southern Africa Enterprise Business Group, agreed that partnerships between academia and industry can help close the gap between industry requirements and talent capability.

“To achieve an intelligent, fully-connected digital world, the ICT industry requires trained professionals,” says Yong. “As the 4IR takes hold, technology such as artificial intelligence, the Internet of things, and cloud computing are coming to the fore. We are grateful to have found partners in SAPCO and the Department of Higher Education to achieve our vision of building skills in these fields.”