First cohort completes tech centre course

9th April 2021 By: Schalk Burger - Creamer Media Senior Contributing Editor

The first group of students enrolled in the newly established Stellenbosch University (SU) data science and entrepreneurial development upskilling initiative Techpreneurship Centre, have completed a six-week programme.

Seventy per cent of those who completed the course have been offered full-time internships.

The SU Techpreneurship Centre was established to create a link between academia and South African technology companies and to provide participants with industry-relevant technology and entrepreneurship skills, the university said in a statement on April 9.

“During the six-week programme, the participants acquired new industry-relevant technical data science, machine learning, cloud computing and information technology soft skills. They were also given insight into the fundamentals of entrepreneurship in terms of personal development and growth, as well as developing an entrepreneurial mindset through design thinking,” said Techpreneurship Centre coordinator Altus Viljoen.

“We have also seen great interest in the employability of our graduates, and companies interviewed 90% of our graduates seeking internships, and 70% have received offers so far.

“We are bridging the gap between the academic world and the private sector with a creative programme that gives each participant the tools to make a smooth transition into work life,” noted SU COO Professor Stan du Plessis.

The course received 70 applications for the first six-week course held from February 1 to March 12. The majority of the 18 participants were engineering graduates, followed by participants with backgrounds in mathematics, economic and management sciences, computer science, natural sciences and humanities. Participants’ qualification levels ranged from bachelor’s up to doctoral level.

Participant Tanya Meyer said the Techpreneurship Centre programme was instrumental in fast-tracking progress for her MEng research project in machine learning and data science.

“It skyrocketed my Python programming skillset while developing my previously non-existent, soft tech skills with lots of guest speaker talks, entrepreneurship sessions and colleague collaboration,” she said.

The centre is planning to host another three of these programmes in 2021. The next one will take place in June, and they will soon announce a call for applications, added Viljoen.

The centre was developed by technology and entrepreneurship incubator SU LaunchLab in collaboration with the SU School for Data Science and Computational Thinking. The success of the initial cohort is a verification of an innovative hybrid model that brings together various SU facilities and affiliated entrepreneurial service providers such as SU LaunchLab, said SU LaunchLab CEO Joshua Romisher.

“In terms of SU’s Vision 2040, the initiative helps to create a transformative student experience, as this learning journey will provide a seamless transition into the workforce through practical experience with SU LaunchLab startups and its partners,” said Romisher.