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Software development academy readies to open its doors

Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
By Simnikiwe Mzekandaba
Johannesburg, 31 May 2022
Jessica Hawkey, founder and MD of redAcademy.
Jessica Hawkey, founder and MD of redAcademy.

Cape Town-based redAcademy will tomorrow welcome its first intake of matriculant school leavers, or “sprinters”, as they are called, says MD Jessica Hawkey.

The academy offers a one-year, fast-paced training programme, with the aim to kick-start graduates’ careers in the software development industry.

In an interview with ITWeb, Hawkey explains that redAcademy aims to change the way software is taught and experienced by swapping the three-year theoretical knowledge learning experience with a year-long practical experience within a professional environment.

“There are opportunities to study many things out there,” she notes. “A lot of them take a lot of time…and when you finish, you are still required to gain work experience.

“When you consider the unemployment stats, there’s a large number of graduates that are not able to enter the working world. From our side, we believe redAcademy to be the most efficient path from matric to a software career.”

Hawkey reveals that redAcademy was an idea incubated out of redPanda Software, which specialises in enterprise retail software, some years ago, upon realising the dire need for software developers in the industry.

The location, she says, offers the academy the opportunity to leverage the resources of its host company, so candidates can see the way of working from their very first day.

Explaining why the candidates are called sprinters, the MD comments the learnership programme is a career sprint. “It’s really fast-paced, cuts out all of the noise and focuses on learning and giving our candidates both the theoretical knowledge of software and practical experience.

“After the first six months, the candidates will work on live client projects, allowing them to understand the way of working for real-world customers and supported by senior developers in the business.”

Mind the skills gap

SA is witnessing a burgeoning demand for young people to be equipped with relevant skills, to fight the scourge of unemployment.

The country’s official unemployment rate was 35.3% in the fourth quarter of 2021, according to Statistics SA. Youth are said make up the majority of the unemployed people in the country.

Government has, in recent years, emphasised the need to build ICT skills for SA’s unemployed youth, lookingto the tech sector to enable new growth and job creation opportunities for local youth.

Furthermore, the Department of Home Affairs published a critical skills list showing SA continues to grapple with digital skills shortages, with those in short supply including software developers, systems engineers, chief information officers and civil engineers.

According to Hawkey, the academy is not looking for people who know how to code, as this is something the academy will teach during the year-long programme.

Two lecturers will guide the 15-candidate intake on a fulltime basis. In addition, the academy has created a bespoke online learning platform, where candidates can practise what they’ve learned when they return to their desks.

Once the year-long learning experience is complete, they are guaranteed employment.

“Candidates leave the one-year learnership programme with an NQF [national qualifications framework] level five qualification, understanding how to code and the soft skills of having worked in a professional organisation from the very first day.

“This, they’ll take into their very first job, which we’ll be guaranteeing to our candidates. This could be within redPanda Software, one of our clients or affiliated business partners.

“It cuts out a lot of the anxiety of having to find a job after studying, what is my next step or do I need to study further. We are so confident in the ability that these candidates will have to code that we guarantee them employment.”

She indicates redAcademy charges an upfront fee, but notes candidates will earn an allowance from the academy.

“This is an investment into their future ahead of their first job that they’ll walk into, where their salary will increase exponentially.”