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4 September 2018
Bridging the university-industry divide

(Published - 4 September 2018)

Bridging the gap between university and the real world was central when UWC joined forces with the industry role players to develop a relevant diploma in Computer Software and Media Application, with a specialisation in Data-Analytics and Business Intelligence.

Last week 23 students celebrated the completion of their Postgraduate Diploma in this new academic course – the first cohort to do so – at the University’s August graduation ceremony. The programme is a collaborative effort between the Faculty of Economic and Management Sciences (EMS), the Faculty of Natural Sciences, as well as various IT companies.

It all started at the 2015 Business Process enablement South Africa (BPeSA) conference, when industry stakeholders expressed the need for the development of skills in data analytics. Subsequent discussions and workshops with representatives from Capitec, Nimble Group, Pivotal Analytics, Data Prophet and BPeSA resulted in the creation of a course proposal and outline. UWC was responsible for the theory and the companies offered students the opportunities to put it into practice.

“One of the main concerns we have as academics is students struggling to find employment,” commented Professor Michelle Esau, Dean of EMS, at a celebratory post-graduation event. “We need to partner with industry to help facilitate the smooth progression of students from university life to the world of work. In this programme we prepare students for the world of work so they hit the ground running. This is an initiative in the right direction in that we can now adopt this co-curriculum.”

Dean of Natural Sciences, Professor Michael Davies-Coleman, agreed, and revealed that in the last 18 months UWC has accelerated relevant diplomas to “those that are trying to meet the realities of the fourth industrial revolution”. He said it is important for students to be multi-skilled. “I think it is important that we understand that much of what is happening in the fourth revolution is science-based, but also has a commercial application,” said Professor Davies-Coleman.

The industry role players concurred.

Neil van Wyngard, head of EOH Coastal Academy, said the problem was that universities are not producing enough candidates for the IT industry. “The skills we require as an industry and what is being taught at universities are not quite the same. We are in a situation where we have to take graduates and reskill them. So if we put more of these programmes at universities (and thereby start imparting more relevant knowledge) we might reach a point where we can employ students directly from universities as we did in the past.”

Graduates described the programme as “an eye-opener” and they are applying what they have learned at their workplaces. It is also providing them with the expertise to take up job opportunities within the much needed growth area of data analytics, and to grow South Africa’s capability in this competitive space.