Could digital learning be the answer to SA’s high unemployment rate?


Cutting-edge technology is set to disrupt the world. But it has also created an incredible gap in the market for people who have the know-how and skills to harness this technology.

An exciting initiative is offering thousands of youngsters the chance to experience this technology in the tech capital of the world, Silicon Valley.

Investment company Allan Gray hosts a free entrepreneur challenge for high-school students across the country that exposes learners to various digital platforms and programs. The learners deliver a series of micro-challenges that allows them to apply new knowledge and concepts to real-life challenges. The top three competitors win a trip of a lifetime to the States, where they are exposed to the pinnacle of digital innovation.

“The Silicon Valley trip was truly a life-changing opportunity, which has taught me an incredible amount of skills – both business and life – and has exposed me to the cutting-edge technologies which are set to disrupt the world as we see it today in just a few years,” says Kai Parsons, a Cedar House school pupil, who entered the challenge and came out in first place last year.

South Africa’s youth unemployment rate is the highest in Africa, says data tracking site Trading Economics, which puts it at 52.4% in the first quarter of 2018, up from 51.1% in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Allan Gray set up the Entrepreneurship Challenge – a six-week competition that ignites and develops young entrepreneurs across South Africa through gamification – to foster a culture of entrepreneurship, which the company believes is key to reducing high levels of unemployment.

Breaking down digital barriers is the aim of the Allan Gray entrepreneurial challenge. Picture: iStock

The initiative aims to cultivate a culture of entrepreneurship among high-school learners and channel the entrepreneurial mindset using gamification.

“To help grow the economy and move the country forward, South Africa needs more entrepreneurs. Yet, being a successful entrepreneur is not as easy as it seems. This challenge exposes learners to the skills and outlook they will need to start their entrepreneurial journey and ultimately make a positive contribution to the country and the economy,” says Anthony Selley, head of Gameplay at the Allan Gray entrepreneurship challenge.

Last year, 100 schools – about 4500 pupils and 300 teachers – participated in the challenge. This year, the interest has grown exponentially, and 200 schools have confirmed entry for the upcoming challenge, with an estimated 15 000 learners expected to participate.

“This challenge exposes learners to the skills and outlook they will need to start their entrepreneurial journey and ultimately make a positive contribution to the country and the economy. It educates learners on how best to act and think like entrepreneurs, while delivering a series of micro-challenges, which allows learners to apply new knowledge or concepts in real-world situations,” says Selley.

Kai Parsons, Tim Vermeulen and Bocasho Braaf enjoyed a trip to Silicon Valley as part of the Allan Gray Entrepreneurial Challenge. They were the top three students from last year’s event. Picture: Supplied.

It has been an incredible learning experience for the 2017 top three winners.

“The trip wasn’t just a trip, but also a massive learning experience that taught us so much about entrepreneurship and the strides South Africa needs to make or has already made, but needs to be improved to become a world-class entrepreneurial hub,” says Bocasho Braaf, one of last year’s top participants, who hails from Bridge House School in the Western Cape.

Besides it being an exciting trip, it also channelled innovative thinking.

“We could play around with all the different technologies that they had there, such as virtual reality, robots that you controlled with your mind and a robot called Pepper, with whom you could have conversations,” says Tim Vermeulen, a student at Bridge House School, also in the Western Cape, who made the trip to Silicon Valley.

Virutal reality is one of the digital technologies that the youth are exposed to during the Allan Gray Entrepreneurial Challenge. Picture iStock

Selley believes that this initiative can be the platform for a powerful change in this country.

“It’s an opportunity for these youngsters to experience what entrepreneurship is about, and the great value that lies in it as a powerful vehicle for change in our country,” he notes.

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