Equal Experts sponsors learnerships in South Africa

This article is about how Equal Experts is helping to fill a critical skills gap in South Africa’s more disadvantaged employment market.

Equal Experts has a habit of investing in its people. After all, finding good talent is an art, so when we find someone who really fits with what we do, we want to hang onto them! And the best way to do that is to invest in their development. 

At Equal Experts South Africa, we want to take our corporate social responsibility a step further, by investing in individuals at a grass roots level. South Africa is still a country of deep-seated inequalities, and we believe that taking measures to address that is the right thing for local businesses to do. Like many other companies in South Africa, Equal Experts SA wants to invest in technical talent that will help bridge the skills gap in the country. That’s why EE sponsors learnership programmes for young people from historically disadvantaged backgrounds in South Africa. These are people who could be the future of technology development not just at EE but in the industry as a whole, and it’s exciting to play a part in their development. 

How we chose our learnership partner

Youth unemployment is one of the biggest social problems in South Africa, so in 2020 EE paid for 5 young people to participate in a 12 month EESA (Entrepreneurship and Empowerment South Africa) learnership programme with post-high school education provider Umuzi. Umuzi has been developing their learnership programme since 2014, as an alternative to higher education. They offer “a 12 month, paid training programme, that’s demand-driven, project based, Agile, and human-centred.” 

If you know Equal Experts, you’ll know that this totally speaks to us and the way we operate. We wanted our learnership partner to be able to fully support remote learning throughout the Covid pandemic, and Umuzi already had the right measures in place to support remote learning.  Added to this, over 80% of Umuzi’s graduates go on to secure high value jobs with top employers, not just because the quality of teaching is excellent, but also because the level of pastoral support they are able to offer their students makes it much more likely they will succeed. All this made it a very easy decision for us – this was definitely something EE wanted to be involved with!

How the Equal Experts/Umuzi learnership works

Starting in September 2020 we sponsored 5 Web Developer learners to complete a 12 month learnership, including 3 months work experience in local organisations. Here’s what the students progress through:

  • 2-week bootcamp covering up to level 1 of coding, github, and an initial coderbytes assessment
  • 1-week design thinking sprint introducing programmes like Figma
  • 1-week induction where learners get to know Umuzi processes and ways of working
  • 8 months to complete the National Certificate in Information Technology (system development) and technical upskilling on Tilde.

Above all, this is a very practical programme, geared towards the skill sets needed to fulfil critical employment gaps in South Africa. Learners are supported by Umuzi throughout the programme with regular assessments to check their understanding, and to indicate where they might need more help. Umuzi graduates are so used to testing by the time they finish that they’re unfazed by the standard recruitment tests that happen when they start applying for jobs.

Where are Equal Experts’ learners now?

After 9 months of formal training, our learnership students entered work experience, with opportunities for growth within Umuzi itself, and outside the organisation. Again, Umuzi continued to support students – especially those who experienced difficulties  – with extra mentoring to ensure they were able to complete their learnerships.

Here’s what some of our graduates have to say about their time with Umuzi:

“I’m very pleased to mention that my goals won’t just be a fantasy anymore, it is something I have been able to chase faster thanks to Equal Experts. I’d like to immensely thank Equal Experts South Africa for seeing my potential and making a positive change in my life and studies, their kindness has gone a long way in shaping a more positive future for me and my family.” Manelisi Madini

“As someone who has been in tertiary institutions and hated it, Equal Expert’s sponsorship for me to study at Umuzi was huge. It came at a time when I was lost and had nothing going my way. I’m forever grateful because not only did I learn so much in a short period of time, I fell in love with learning again, which is something I never thought I would say.” Ngoako Ramokgoba

What next for Equal Experts’ learnership programme?

As you can imagine, this sponsorship is an incredibly gratifying partnership for Equal Experts. The opportunity to contribute so positively to young peoples’ lives, and to the skills gap in the country, has caused a buzz amongst our consultants, which is why they’re keen to get even more involved with learnerships going forward. 

For 2021/22 we have more than doubled the learnerships Equal Experts sponsor, with 12 students already on the new programme. We will be hosting meet-and-greets where learners get to talk with EE consultants (eg. business analysts, quality engineers) to find out more about possible career paths, and explore what they might best be suited to after graduation. 

We’re so proud of our learners and delighted to see how far they have come!