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University of WCape gets R11m data science boost

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Imvelo Ventures – a venture capital investment company founded by Capitec Bank and Empowerment Capital Investment Partners – will invest approximately R11 million over three years in the University of Western Cape’s (UWC’s) data science programmes.

In a statement, UWC says it has received one of its greatest gifts as it celebrates its 60th anniversary – a multimillion-rand partnership with Imvelo Ventures to empower a new generation of leaders who will transform the business world.

The university launched its Masters Programme in Statistical Science with specialisation in Data Science in 2018 to address the skills shortages in several industries.

It notes that data science is an interdisciplinary field which incorporates statistics, computer science and mathematics to solve a range of complex problems by using advanced analytics.

According to the varsity, there is global demand for data scientists to, among other things, solve business-related problems using data-driven techniques.

Professor Renette Blignaut, who manages UWC’s Masters Programme in Statistical Science, says the funds would further develop and expand UWC’s efforts.

“Bursaries will be offered to exemplary and deserving honours and masters students in our Statistical and Data Science programmes. This will enable us to attract, foster and produce top graduates from this exciting Masters programme.”

Blignaut explains that the sponsorship would also ensure the continuous upskilling of staff.

“Our Masters programme is an industry-directed programme in collaboration with Northwest University (NWU). During the first semester, students complete modules to equip them with the necessary skills to complete the second semester projects with our industry partners.

“This one-year programme was developed by NWU to ensure students are industry-ready when they leave university to enter the workplace. Since 2019, our UWC Masters programme has been internationally accredited by SAS.”

UWC says Dionah Tshabalala is one of the Masters students. As part of the programme, she has been placed at a consulting company, where she is working on a project involving customer segmentation.

“Through this project, I’ve had the opportunity to learn new skills and work with members from different work streams within the company. I am enjoying this project and it serves as an assurance that I am, indeed, applying the skills and knowledge that I have acquired by enrolling for this Masters programme,” says Tshabalala.

Mogamat-Yushly Collop is doing his research project on understanding the financial behaviour of clients at Capitec.

“This company is amazing; the team I work with is amazing. They are very open to helping me succeed in what I am doing. The project with Capitec has not only allowed me to grow individually but it has also exposed me to things that I could expect to see when I enter the industry in the next phase of my career,” says Collop.

Anton Baumann, executive director at Empowerment Capital, notes: “Data is the new oil and the fundamental goal of data science is to help companies make quicker and better decisions.

“There is a huge demand for data scientists, and there is not enough supply. With this initiative, we are hoping to make our contribution to solving the job crisis in South Africa. We are proud to be able to support UWC with this new programme and further assist previously disadvantaged students who want to take up this challenge.”

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