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Send  Share  RSS  Twitter  29 Jul 2009

Education: Universities Launch a Leadership Development Programme


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The event, hosted by Wits University Vice Chancellor and Principal, Professor Loyiso Nongxa, will be addressed by a number of speakers including Microsoft’s MD Mteto Nyati; Ralf Dominick, MD, Barone, Budge and Dominick; UJ’s Faculty of Engineering Dean Tshilidzi Marwala; Jason Ngubeni from the City of Joburg; Oupa Mopaki, CEO of ISETT SETA; Tsietsi Maleho, Acting CEO of the TIH, founders of the programme, and JCSE director Prof. Barry Dwolatzky.

The Innovation Hub developed and founded the CoachLab concept at their facility in Tshwane over eight years ago. The CoachLab at the JCSE is the second such facility and is the start of a country-wide roll out.

“One of the JCSE’s aims is to grow South Africa’s capacity to deliver world class software by building capacity and skills and educating experts to lead Africa’s software development sector,” says Prof. Barry Dwolatzky, the director of the JCSE.

“The CoachLab initiative helps us meet this goal by providing participating students with an opportunity to undertake post-graduate studies as well as project-based training, business development and soft skills training,” he adds.

“The CoachLab helps universities retain post graduate students and promote skills depth in the country and fast-tracks the assimilation of graduates into the world of business through action- and project-based learning. The programme also identifies leadership potential, accelerates leadership development and creates an awareness of the value of innovative thought to create competitive advantage.”

A customised curriculum

Patricia Dlamini, from Entrepreneurship and Leadership Development at The Innovation Hub, emphasizes that the CoachLab curriculum is customised to meet the needs of the individual students.

“Students receive coaching from an Industrial Psychologist, who assists them in balancing the pressures of academic and CoachLab demands while providing the tools they need to perform within a leadership role” she says.

The programme also provides students with soft skills including report-writing, conflict resolution, decision making and how to develop a presentation.

Bridging the business divide

Carl Marnewick, the Head of the Department of Business IT at the University of Johannesburg, notes that there is a big divide between information technology (IT) and business, which uses IT as an enabling tool.

“The curriculum gives the students a fair understanding of the business implications of IT investments and the value IT brings to business. They learn to appreciate that IT does not operate in isolation of the business,” he says.

The CoachLab curriculum also bridges the gap between academia and the world of work by giving the students the skills they need to cope in a work environment.

“In South Africa today, students who study technology enter the workplace too soon after their basic degree. We have a dire need for higher skilled workers and are struggling to get technology students to PhD level,” says David Ives, the head of Microsoft South Africa’s developer and platform group.

The reasons are twofold. Firstly, industry has overtaken academia in the world of technology in terms of knowledge and innovation because of the rapid rate of change of new technology entering the market on a near-daily basis. Secondly, access to technology has made basic skills obsolete in these study fields and today students are required to innovate on existing technologies.

“The relationship between technology, academia and the corporate world needs to evolve - we would like to see more science and technology PhDs sponsored by corporates. This would develop the culture of innovation in this country still further,” says Ives.

“South Africa needs a lot of whiz-kids. We need to enhance the intellectual capital of our young people so that they can rise above other achievers to become leaders,” agrees Marnewick.

“If the graduates become leaders, eventually they will also create opportunities for more people. Maybe they will or will not start their own businesses, but they will impact on the businesses in which they work and foster the spirit of entrepreneurship and innovative thinking. There will better service delivery wherever these young people end up working,” he says.

Investing time and money

Microsoft and Barone, Budge and Dominick agree that a large part of the CoachLab’s success depends on the willingness of the sponsor companies to invest time and human resources, not just money, to help students understand the culture of business.

“Of course, corporate sponsorship helps students to understand just how large technology companies work. Indeed, Microsoft’s three students have had hands-on experience in developer consulting at one of SA’s four major retail banks and in working with our public sector team and government customers,” notes Ives.

“In order for the CoachLab programme to be successful, it needs the support of many companies, rather than just a few,” says Peter Scheffel, an executive at Barone, Budge and Dominick.

“The more diverse the companies involved, the more successful the programme will be, as the students will gain a more rounded view of the business sector.”

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