Hellocomputer issues challenge to competitors

Hellocomputer Johannesburg Managing Director, Joey Khuvutlu, has issued a challenge to leaders of South Africa’s digital agencies: he wants them to join him in an initiative to fund 100 programming learnerships between September 2018 and August 2019.

The learnership in question is a one-year computer programming learnership that prepares learner programmers for the creative industry by equipping them with the skills every product team needs, including coding, UX design, UX research, product management and data science. Importantly, they get to hone these skills in a simulated work environment, ensuring that they are being groomed into high-calibre creative professionals.

The programme is offered by Umuzi and was created in partnership with Hellocomputer. These learnerships would be funded by individuals or organisations making them free to the participant.

Hellocomputer has a strong desire to address the chronic shortage of programmers facing its industry. As a result, the agency kickstarted the programme with R250 000 to fund the inaugural learnerships.

“Hellocomputer has invested further in the programme, which has quickly grown to 30 young people on learnerships, supported by several employers. But that’s not enough,” Khuvutlu said.

“I challenge other digital agencies to follow suite. On the one hand, there’s a dire shortage of programmers in our industry. On the other, in South Africa we have a large pool of what is known as the ‘missing middle’ – talented and capable youth who do not qualify for financial aid but also do not have enough resources to comfortably complete their studies.

“Stack Overflow, which has a community of over 4.7-million programmers, recently published the findings of its annual community survey. This confirmed that 69% of developers are at least partly self taught and fewer than half have a formal degree in computer science.  This makes programming a unique space, a low barrier to entry but a high potential for growth and productivity.

“In the digital economy, developers and data specialists are in high demand across all sectors including banking, consulting, telecommunications, healthcare and software. A shortage in these skills impacts all because only those with the deepest pockets will win.

“I therefore challenge each of the top 20 digital agencies to each fund 5 learnerships by August 2019. That’s a cumulative investment of just R12.5-million, but one that will go a long way to bring new talent into the industry and help alleviate the shortage we face.”

FCB Africa group CEO, Brett Morris, added: “”This is a fantastic initiative that is helping address a critical skills shortage. Huge credit to Umuzi and the Hellocomputer team for going beyond the B-BBEE scorecards to benefit the industry at large. We really hope other agencies take up the challenge.”

According to Khuvutlu, the Umuzi model is an efficient and impactful solution. The benefits of the model cut across the industry:

  • Provides agencies with an opportunity to contribute to the resolution of South Africa’s technical skills shortage.
  • Provides a platform for agencies to contribute in shaping the digital industry’s future workforce.
  • Umuzi provides a 1-year programmer learnership in a ‘product team’ environment.
  • On completion of learnerships, learners are placed in the sponsor’s organisation with the immediate benefit of a new resource.
  • Umuzi is SETA accredited which means that there are tax benefits as well as contributions towards the sponsoring organisation’s transformation goals.

Hellocomputer Group Managing Director, Mark Tomlinson, noted: “What is equally important about this initiative is that it gives our industry the opportunity to not only shape and prepare South Africa’s future workforce – consider the trends in India, Indonesia and Venezuela – but to drive transformation in a way that goes beyond ticking boxes on scorecards.

The #100programmers challenge will be administered by Umuzi (www.umuzi.org). A one-year learnership will cost the participating agency R125 000 per learner. Email 100developers@umuzi.org for more details or to sign up.

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