Programme aims to help graduates understand and manipulate technology

14th September 2007 By: Christy van der Merwe

More severe than the lack of skills is said to be the lack of experienced skilled people, and this is something that the Technology Leadership Programme (TLP) aims to address.

The ability to manage technology innovation, development, implementation and adaptation effectively and efficiently has become a critical success factor, and locating people with these skills is an ever-increasing challenge.

A formally recognised course of the Business School of the Tshwane University of Technology, the TLP rises to the challenge of producing graduates who can understand and manipulate technology innovatively in the context of social, economic and political circumstances.

The concept of modern management of technology is wider than just technical issues, and encompasses various sectors, and understanding the behaviour of technologies and their social and economic impact is essential for the leaders of today.

The part-time course covers one year, with four one-week intensive interaction periods, where students take part in a number of site visits, attend lectures and debates where they experience various high-tech industries first hand, and are given tasks and assignments to complete.

After an intense week of interaction across various sectors of industry, this year’s TLP participants were upbeat and agreed on the overwhelming benefits that the course offers, allowing them to witness a variety of technological solutions being implemented across the board.

It gives the software developer, for example, the chance to see where his or her projects are being put into practice, and, therefore, gauge some of the issues down the line that need to be taken into consideration. Young professionals are immersed in the real world of management and the technology industry, and exposed to all the issues that go along with these, giving them an edge when it comes to dealing with situations in their existing and future work environment.

One of the companies visited during this round of the interaction periods was Aerosud Aviation, in Centurion. The company, certified as an original-equipment manufacturer for both Airbus and Boeing, has maintained contracts to export about 400 000 component parts a year.

Aerosud programme director Rob Jonkers explains that by giving students a chance to gain knowledge about an industry they may not have had access to in the past, the company can attract skills to the aerospace industry, where constant innovation and improvement are vital for survival in the global arena.

He adds that, often, Master of Business Administration students, while qualified for management positions, just do not have the practical experience and understanding of technological processes in companies such as Aerosud, and TLP graduates are much preferred.

The company has been involved in the TLP course for a number of years and views skills development as key to ensuring the company maintains its competitive edge. Aerosud has, in fact, recently opened its own innovation and training centre, where there are already a number of innovation programmes in place.

Jonkers indicated the challenges in the aerospace industry in South Africa, and gave students an insight into some of the avenues that have been pursued in order to achieve growth and expansion to support the South African aerospace industry, despite increasing competition from countries in Asia and Eastern Europe.

Strategic partnerships with overseas companies, as well as risk and revenue-sharing opportunities, are some of the achievements that are sure to sustain the company into the twenty-first century. Students are encouraged to think of ways to further increase productivity in the company, as well as possibly take away good examples of efficiencies that could be implemented in other areas of their experience.

The course was pioneered by business strategy consultant and scientist Dr Kelvin Kemm, and is now jointly administered and presented by the Business School of the Tshwane University of Technology.