UP's digital lab to develop future-fit, employable students

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 03 Nov 2022
Professor Tawana Kupe, University of Pretoria vice-chancellor and principal, and Lina Soiri of the Embassy of Finland at the official opening of the lab.
Professor Tawana Kupe, University of Pretoria vice-chancellor and principal, and Lina Soiri of the Embassy of Finland at the official opening of the lab.

The University of Pretoria (UP) has unveiled the Digital Capability Laboratory, aimed at equipping the institution’s students with “future-fit” digital skills.

According to the higher learning institution, the employability-focused lab, located on UP’s Hatfield campus, will capacitate students with the requisite skills set that will enable them to thrive and adapt to the constantly-evolving world of work.

These skills include digital literacy and computational thinking; technical skills, digital project management and digital business analysis.

Established as part of the European Union’s (EU’s) Erasmus+ SUCSESS Project, the lab aims to address SA’s staggering youth unemployment rate by upskilling students to develop them into employable, innovative and solution-driven graduates.

UP is one of six higher education institutions involved in the EU Erasmus+ SUCSESS Project, with the university’s project being led by Berendien Lubbe, emeritus professor and senior research associate in UP’s Department of Historical and Heritage Studies.

The university says the lab seeks to employ digital collaborative learning as part of UP’s efforts to develop future-fit programmes.

Professor Tawana Kupe, UP vice-chancellor and principal, speaking during the unveiling this week, said it is crucial for the university to prepare and equip its students for the future world of work, which is anticipated to be vastly different.

“This next generation of graduates is expected to change jobs and professions multiple times across many new emerging sectors, and they will need to continuously upskill in order to stay employable.

“The Digital Capability Lab falls in line with our strategic priorities to build a robust present and future, both for the university and its students, and society at large,” he noted.

“We are navigating ongoing disruptions at multiple levels, and face numerous complexities, which require us to collaborate across academic disciplines and national borders to co-create impactful knowledge and innovative solutions.

“These efforts are not only necessary to survive and thrive in the changing employment landscape, but are crucial to the livelihood of future generations,” Kupe explained.

According to UP, the Digital Capability Lab will be transdisciplinary-focused, and will be managed by the Faculties of Humanities, Economic and Management Sciences and UP’s Department of Career Services.

The lab is equipped with cutting-edge technologies that will offer a creative and unique space for hands-on digital capability-building, it says. The facility is also a test bed for piloting and scaling innovative solutions. Students will have access to technologies used in various industries that will enable them to find innovative solutions to industry-specific problems.

Professor Sandy Africa, deputy dean of teaching and learning in the Faculty of Humanities, said the lab’s equipment and technologies will harness the students’ potential and nurture their talents, while preparing them to be agile in their future working environments.

“When innovative ideas, industry tools, community engagement and professional simulations are effectively applied to real-world scenarios and contexts, youth employment opportunities in the global South become endless,” commented Africa, highlighting the importance of technology in tackling youth unemployment.