Transforming Young Lives Through STEM Education

Transforming Young Lives Through STEM Education We all have heaps of potential locked inside of us. Sometimes all it takes is for someone to help us find the key. Belgium Campus iTversity recently hosted a 10-day Winter School programme on behalf of leading technology solutions provider Dimension Data. The programme was attended by 50 Grade 12 public school learners from underserved communities in Gauteng and aimed to help them prepare for their upcoming exams. The learners form part of a larger youth development initiative by Dimension Data, which also includes a Saturday School programme. The initiative aims to rewrite the narrative for high-achieving youth from previously disadvantaged backgrounds by broadening their education and career prospects through supplementary STEM classes. The classes are presented by subject experts and qualified educators and, over the past 28 years, have helped over 2000 high school learners achieve exceptional matric results. The initiative boasts a 90% average annual university entrance rate, and the Johannesburg class of 2022 achieved a 100% matric pass rate! The Winter School programme is usually held at the Dimension Data Head Office in Bryanston, but this year we offered to host the programme at our Kempton Park campus. The intention behind this was not only to provide the learners with a space to attend their classes but also to provide an opportunity for them to get a taste of what studying at Belgium Campus is like. “This is our first time hosting our Winter School at Belgium Campus, but we are hoping it is something we can continue. A number of learners have indicated their interest in studying here, and this experience will help them make a more informed decision next year.” – Shakes Makgalemane, Saturday School Programme Manager. This is not the first collaboration between Belgium Campus iTversity and Dimension Data. In fact, the relationship between our organisations dates back half a decade! Sparked by our mutual investment in the field of information technology, our relationship has grown over the years through our shared mission to change the lives of South African youth through education, job opportunities, and economic growth. A crucial part of achieving this is ensuring that the learners who attend this programme not only have the marks to access higher education but also the knowledge to make an informed educational choice for a promising future. With the high and ever-increasing demand for IT professionals, both locally and globally, there has never been a better time to promote IT education amongst the youth. According to an extensive report by the global organisational consulting firm Korn Ferry, there is projected to be a staggering global IT talent shortage of more than 85 million people by 2030. By promoting IT education among the youth, we can address this talent gap, which holds the potential to not only provide lucrative career opportunities for young individuals but also to play a transformative role in solving our country’s unemployment challenges. To this end, we host Dimension Data’s learners at our Pretoria campus open days – the next of which is on 26 August! During these events, these learners can explore the field of information technology and the diverse career opportunities within this dynamic industry. They also have an opportunity to engage with our student advisors to decide whether this is a field they would like to pursue and what study options are available to them at Belgium Campus iTversity. “The reality is that we have a lot of students who go to uni and come back with no employment, so for us making sure the students we support are employable and can be easily integrated into the business is extremely important. This is one of the key reasons we chose to partner with Belgium Campus, as they have a track record of producing work-ready IT graduates.” – Shakes Makgalemane, Saturday School Programme Manager. Dimension Data provides bursaries to any learners from their programme who would like to pursue higher education in the field of information technology. They are currently sponsoring 30 students pursuing their IT studies at Belgium Campus iTversity, 20 of whom attended their programme and 10 of which are Deaf students in need of financial support. To date, the organisation has provided close to 100 bursaries to Belgium Campus students, many of whom complete their internships at Dimension Data before becoming qualified professionals who make their mark in the IT industry. “I am delighted to share that I am living my passion as a Business Intelligence Developer at Nedbank. However, I must acknowledge that, given my background, my journey wouldn’t have been possible without the invaluable support and opportunities provided by Dimension Data and Belgium Campus. After completing the Dimension Data Saturday School programme and receiving my matric results, Shakes informed me about a scholarship opportunity to study at Belgium Campus. I applied and secured the scholarship, thanks to my matric results. Receiving that scholarship turned my dreams of pursuing higher education into a reality. The practical knowledge and training I gained during my Bachelor of Computing degree and internship at Dimension Data provided the strong foundation I needed to aim for the stars in my career.” – Gladys Dube, BI Developer at Nedbank and Belgium Campus iTversity alumna. Ms Dube’s story is just one of many lives transformed by Dimension Data’s youth development initiative and quality education received from Belgium Campus iTversity. Together, we eagerly look to the future, committed to transforming even more lives through quality STEM education and educational support. -Louise Fuller

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