Youth focus: A year to go from student to programmer

2013-06-16 14:00

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At the App Factory at Microsoft’s head offices in Bryanston, Johannesburg, a young group of geeks let their imaginations run wild.

They develop a range of apps, from gaming to news and information, which come as value additions with the software giant’s latest Windows 8 operating system.

If it’s remotely possible you still don’t know this, “app” is short for application program. And when it comes to anything to do with computing, it’s the realm where youth are king.

Clifford de Wet, developer platform head at Microsoft, says their Student2Business (S2B) programme is a joint venture between them and the Media, Information and Communication Technologies Sector Education and Training Authority, known as the MICT Seta, which aims to give young people real-world skills to help them get jobs.

S2B places young people in ­yearlong internships with partner companies where they receive training and mentorship.

The programme has trained more than 6 500 unemployed graduates and matriculants, 75% of whom are now employed.

De Wet says: “These are building blocks for a good ICT industry on the continent. We are teaching them the necessary skills to be proficient as developers. But they still have the freedom to see what’s new and relevant.”

One of the interns at the Microsoft offices is Mpondo Ndamase, from Port St Johns, who has developed an app about former president Nelson Mandela that contains an abridged biography, fast facts, a news feed from the Nelson Mandela Foundation, a picture gallery, history timeline graphic and famous quotes.

He also developed an app called Mathrush, an elementary arithmetic game aimed at primary school children.

Ndamase graduated with an IT degree from the Nelson Mandela Metropolitan University, from where Microsoft recruited him. He said: “It’s a great deal for me to be here. I’m happy to have something going so early in my career. I’m here to hone my skills and, at a later stage, own my business.”

Shelly Mathole from Soshanguve, north of Pretoria, is proud of her brain-teaser app, which has been downloaded more than 550 times. It contains general knowledge questions ranging from South African history to contemporary politics.

The Tshwane University of Technology graduate says: “I’m thankful to be here, where I can grow and see life differently. I was discouraged a lot at varsity by men who said IT was not a place for women and that I should do administration.”

De Wit says once the interns complete their programme they will “evangelise” other youngsters and develop their skills to start their own businesses.

» Prospective students can register on the S2B website:

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