Samsung and Wits University’s Tshimologong Digital Innovation Precinct recently celebrated the graduation of the third cohort of its successful App Factory.
The nine-month internship programme took on its first cohort in 2020 to address the skills shortage in software development in South Africa.
While there is a high demand for software developers in South Africa, industry complains that there is a lack of work-ready talent. Even when graduates have the technical skills, they do not know how to work effectively in a team or transfer their knowledge to a real-world context.
The App Factory recruits high potential graduates from various tertiary institutions and allows them to work on realistic projects under the supervision of a senior developer over a nine-month duration. Errors (bugs) in software development projects come with a high cost to a company when working on real projects in industry. The App Factory therefore creates a safe environment to “fail fast, learn faster” while delivering under pressure on realistic projects. During this time, they learn full-stack development by mastering the theory and tackling realistic projects. Their technical skills are honed and they develop “21st century” skills including problem-solving, critical thinking skills, effective communication, presentation skills, collaborative team skills and information literacy.
“South African software development solutions are competing globally for talent, so we need to make sure that we are growing a quality talent pipeline locally that can be productive in the workplace fairly quickly. There is still too big a gap in the work readiness of graduates. The App Factory addresses this gap,” says Lesley Donna Williams, CEO of Tshimologong Precinct.
The first cohort in 2020 had eight interns out of 85 applicants, the second one had nine out of 306 applicants, and the latest intake had 18 interns out of 772 applicants. While the programme puts a high demand on applicants, the teaching approach is intensive and high-impact, focusing on small groups and individual attention per intern.
Many graduates have ended up working at a world-renowned automotive manufacturer, and a 2020 graduate, Nomfundo Phororo recently took her first business trip with the company. She says: “I had an amazing opportunity to fly to Germany to meet my colleagues and visit their high-tech manufacturing plants. Being on the App Factory programme opened up opportunities that most people can only dream of.”
One of the latest graduates, Simphiwe Nyandeni, who is the youngest of three orphaned daughters, says the support from her sisters steered her in the right direction. She wanted to study travel and tourism, but when her sister introduced and encouraged her to go for the apprenticeship at Tshimologong instead, it was an easy decision to make and she’s thankful she joined. “I’m now ready for the field of work. I’m really grateful to Samsung for making this great opportunity available to young people like me who are ambitious and driven, but have limited opportunities.”
Samsung recognises that South African youth are talented and require skills development beyond tertiary education to gain employment. Unleashing their potential requires exposing talent to how software is developed in industry.
“The shortage of adequately skilled software engineers could hamper the country’s ability to ride the wave of the Fourth Industrial Revolution, and it risks being left behind. This is what makes such initiatives so much more critical. As Samsung, we want to do our bit to contribute to this developmental agenda and process towards growing the South African economy,” says Hlubi Shivanda, Samsung’s Director: Business Operations and Innovation and Corporate Affairs.