By Matthew Kibby, Regional Director at VMware Southern Africa.
Last week the VMware team joined Vibrant Community Projects for its Career Expo, speaking around career /educational opportunities to two rural schools: St Ansgars Secondary School and Kwena Malapo in Lanseria. Our goal was to provide learners who have never had access to a career expo and career-focused workshops before with the information they need to choose the right path towards a successful career.
Astoundingly, 80% of the learners who attended the Career Expo expressed an interest in a career within the ICT sector. As the Grade 10 learners still have a few years of school left to complete, before they enter the job market, this was a perfect opportunity for us to give learners a glimpse of what the ICT industry can offer.
We managed to have discussions with hundreds of learners and provided them with information around the ICT sector, and possible careers within it. Simple discussions such as the importance of maths, and programming languages that can be learnt online, went a long way.
We were pleasantly surprised to see a huge interest at the lower levels in ICT – one boy in Grade 9 has built his own computer, and is determined to follow a career in IT. However, many of the learners we spoke to do not have the maths marks to support their career of choice, and were not informed of the many challenges they would be facing as a result, and how to deal with them.
The main issues we encountered and observed was the low level of mathematics, which is a nationwide challenge, but especially so for children in this community. Many of these kids sleep at school as there is no transport to take them home, should they want to stay for any type of extra lessons. There is very little support for them, and kids that struggle, are left behind. It is the same challenge in many schools, especially the disadvantaged ones – not enough teachers, and classrooms filled beyond capacity.
The reality is that without assistance they will not achieve the grades required to get into tertiary institutions. Another challenge for most of the learners is the lack of Internet connectivity and tools to connect. Many of them don’t have two meals a day, never mind a laptop at home – they are in dire need of a computer lab – something which many schools take for granted.
At VMware we are actively involved in tackling these challenges and provide programmes aimed at increasing digital literacy through professional development and training. An example of this is the training that the VMware Foundation Good Gigs team provided at the LEAP 4 School in Diepsloot last year. The team worked with LEAP teachers to introduce technology tools and applications to teachers, which enhanced their students’ learning.
The results saw students improving their collaborative problem solving skills through project-based learning. Additionally, learners were able to deepen their understanding of technology tools, which can improve their chances of getting a good job and/or getting into university in the future.
Coming back to the Vibrant Community sessions, something that really stood out is that scholar excellency and digital literacy are the keys to further educational and professional opportunities however, in order to become a successful leader there are certain personality traits and habits one must master since an early age.
The one thing that successful leaders seem to have in common is a passion for reading. I had the privilege to speak to about 400 grade 10’s on the day around the importance of reading in order to become a successful individual. My message was short but impactful: regardless of your upbringing, your goals, or the path you wish to take in life, reading is the key to becoming an enlightened and educated person. It may not guarantee success, but it increases the chances of it.
There are many personality traits that make up a good leader. Some of them such as appetite for knowledge and a desire to to help others become successful, as well as taking responsibility for our own failures can be adopted from an early age. Part of my presentation was focused on highlighting those personality traits and their importance in business and encouraging students to use these as a guide in their lives and careers.
Our Marketing Director, Natanya Steyn, joined in and delivered a personal Branding Workshop to the Grade 10’s, in an effort to prepare them for their career choices, and ultimately their futures. We also had a stand and staff actively engaged with learners over the duration of the expo.
During these three days we spent at the Career Expo we hope we managed to expose learners to the possibilities they have in life while introducing them to ICT and the greater business environment, that they’ll hopefully be part of very soon.