Thirty-five unemployed information technology (IT) graduates have boosted their marketability and chances of finding employment after an intensive, week-long open source software workshop organised by information and communication technology (ICT) incubator the Eastern Cape Information Technology Initiative (ECITI).
The open source software training, con- ducted by lecturers from some of South Africa’s leading tertiary institutions late last year, is designed to increase the employability of hundreds of unemployed IT gradu- ates in the province. It is work-orientated and it teaches skills required by the market.
Open source is software that can be adapted, changed and improved, which encourages innovation and the growth of skills in IT. Unlike closed source, which is licensed software, open source can be downloaded from the Web free. No licence is needed to make these improvements, the ECITI notes.
“The drive towards open source comes after government indicated a move towards open source platforms. Open source is affordable, it creates ICT communities and it enables global networking before solutions are produced.
“Realising the high unemployment levels of college graduates in the Eastern Cape, the ECITI plays a role in developing a criti- cal pool of industry-ready ICT graduates to enhance the province’s competitiveness and the ICT industry in the province. “The use of open source platforms is one of the best practical ways of developing the skills in coding and creating a community of young people with a passion for software development and entrepreneurial opportunities that can be explored, as well as increasing the employability of young graduates,” says ECITI head Patricia Dlamini.
Open source instructor Paul Mungai, a software developer at the University of the Witwatersrand, says the graduates were exposed to experiences similar to those of an IT internship.
“The difference is that this is formal training, which is work-orientated. We teach these graduates what is required by the workplace. We have already conducted more than ten workshops on open source for IT lecturers from further education and training colleges,” he says.
Unemployed IT graduate from the Walter Sisulu University of Technology Thandeka Mabandla says the week-long workshop was her first experience with open source.
“Some of the things we have done were not taught at university. This has opened possibilities for me and, hopefully, it will increase my chances of getting employed. I now feel I have an edge over other graduates, who have not undergone open source training,” says Mabandla.
The ECITI received 120 applications from IT graduates interested in the programme and 35 were successful. It is hoping to create a pool of open source practitioners in the Eastern Cape who can create global networks to produce cutting-edge solutions without the hindrance of costs associated with closed source platforms.
The ECITI is planning another training workshop this year and the incubator intends to partner with municipalities to absorb gradu- ates once they have acquired the relevant skills, Dlamini concludes.