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SAS, NWU pen new five-year data science skills deal

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US-based analytics software provider SAS has extended its global academic partnership programme − to develop data science skills − with the Centre for Business Mathematics and Informatics (BMI) at North-West University (NWU) for another five years.

The partnership seeks to meet the growing corporate demand for data and analytics skills, and will also enable educators to bridge the gap between academia and industry.

SAS provides the full stack of its academic resources and open access to SAS data science software for teaching and research.

The renewal of the alliance comes as there are growing calls to empower young people with skills and resources to enable their participation in the digital economy.

Government has since embarked on an ambitious journey to train young people with the skills needed for fields such as data science, robotics and artificial intelligence.

“The nature of work is changing, with the application of analytics capable of providing solutions to any question imaginable,” says Andre Zitzke, manager of global academic programmes in Africa for SAS.

“We see it as part of our mission to grow the ecosystem of people capable of doing that work. Through partnerships like this one, we support growing a sustained pipeline of postgraduate data science skills to our customers and the local market.”

Since its inception, the partnership has seen over 500 SAS-skilled students complete the BMI masters programme at the university. Specialisations include business analytics, actuarial science, quantitative risk management and financial mathematics.

The company says more than 75% of the BMI’s masters graduates are employed by SAS customers and partners in South Africa and abroad.

“We help train faculties to deliver the latest in technology, but this is done in a collaborative, triangular approach that includes our customers. They, too, bring their top-tier research and professional talent to create practical experience programmes, technical experience programmes and professional networking,” Zitzke adds.

“The professional networking opportunities created by our triangular approach are crucial. Mentorship and career development are just as important in the development of data professionals. When we expose young people to become successful leaders in their career fields, we create a standard to emulate. This is what moulds the next generation of industry leaders across the world.”

Professor Helgard Raubenheimer, director at the centre for BMI, comments: “NWU is the SAS flagship university in South Africa and contributes thought-leadership to the global SAS academic network.

“We’re proud of our achievements, and of our 10 specialisations we’ve developed with SAS, from undergraduate to master level, and we are committed to building on these further.

“The NWU SASLab is the big data science reference for universities in Africa and the Middle East, with a rich, peer-reviewed academic research output. It hosts one of the largest SAS big data installations in Africa for data science teaching and research, and is available as a resource to other universities as well.”

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