Digital Academy launches to upskill SA software developers

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The Digital Academy has launched in Johannesburg in collaboration with Barclays, looking to provide software development apprentices with a year-long internship during which they develop commercially viable products for the bank.

The Digital Academy was launched in response to what managing director Gary Bannatyne calls Africa’s “severe shortage of software development skills”, which he says is affecting its ability to compete on the global economic stage.

It plans to host four intakes of 30 apprentices each year, delivering these skilled developers to the market. Barclays is expected to see its first products by October of this year, with Bannatyne describing the Digital Academy as an alternative solution to Africa’s digital needs.

“It recruits motivated young people with a rawtalent for web and software development, and teaches them practical StreetDev; in other words, the hands-on skill that is severely needed in the real web development world,” he said.

Bannantyne and co-founders Brandon Muller and James Coetzee have for many years struggled to find technical talent able to deliver market-ready work.

“While there are some excellent developers out there, they often sit in large corporates or are very expensive,” Bannantyne said, adding universities often teach only theory, ignoring the practical know-how needed to complete commercial products.

The Digital Academy’s fast-track training programme is designed as a solution to these issues, collaborating with corporates with software development challenges, such as Barclays.

“They provide a real-world brief; our teams build it,” says Bannatyne. “It’s a win-win as corporates get software products built fast and cost-effectively, while the apprentices gain invaluable knowledge that traditionally would have taken years to acquire.”

After three months of training the apprentices graduate, after which they are either recruited internally or by the corporate partner. Another alternative is that they are supported as entrepreneurs.

“The banking industry is going through some exciting challenges and the Digital Academy will allow us to stay agile, continue to innovate rapidly and remain relevant to our customers. It also gives us access to talent that could be recruited into the bank’s fabric,” said Evans Munyuki, head of RBB digital channels at Barclays Africa.

Bannantyne said long-term the company’s goal is to launch in multiple African cities, while also developing an all-female unit and exposing software development as a career path to motivated young African women.

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Passionate about the vibrant tech startups scene in Africa, Tom can usually be found sniffing out the continent's most exciting new companies and entrepreneurs, funding rounds and any other developments within the growing ecosystem.

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