NMMU helps students bridge the gap

Yolandé Stander

NELSON Mandela Metropolitan University (NMMU) is spearheading a multimillion-rand programme to help graduates bridge the gap between the working world and tertiary education.

The programme is designed to assist them to gain insight into the information and communications technology (ICT) industry.

NMMU collaborated with local industry and international universities and tertiary education institutes to develop a programme for post-graduates in the ICT sector.

Not only do the graduates benefit, but industry role-players also obtain vital information about the research universities are doing in the field as well as give insights into what research industry requires in future.

NMMU’s computing sciences department played a key role in developing the programme they have named Developing and Strengthening Industry-driven Knowledge- transfer (Dasik).

Dasik was made possible thanks to R2.5- million in funding from the German Academic Exchange Service (Daad), an agency which supports international academic cooperation.

The programme has been split into five courses, the first of which took place at NMMU earlier this month. Each course runs over a week.

The programme was developed through collaboration with Germany’s University of Oldenburg and Tanzania’s University of Dar es Salaam. Global industry role-players including IBM, Volkswagen and leading software developers Syspro also gave input. The topic for the first course, which was attended by students and lecturers from the three universities, was business process management. The next instalment will be about environmental management information systems.

Dr Brenda Scholtz of NMMU’s computing sciences department, who with Professor Jorge Gomez of the University of Oldenburg’s business informatics department spearheaded the programme, said the concept arose three years ago when she met Gomez.

“This training is very top notch and the Germans are putting in all their knowledge from the German companies and universities. Then we have input from local companies like Microsoft, Syspro and Volkswagen,” she said.

A German researcher from the University of Oldenburg’s computer sciences department, Daniel Meyerholt, said he hoped to be back in June when the university rolled out the second instalment of its unique ICT programme.

“The Dasik project is important for the transfer of knowledge between business and academia,” Meyerholt said.

“In universities students somehow miss the real world application of their studies, but with this programme that all changes.”

Dr Godfrey Justo, of the University of Dar es Salaam’s department of computer science and engineering, said the synergy created between industry’s input and academia’s perspective was a new and much-needed direction in university training. “We are lagging behind in engaging with industry and this helps us overcome that,” he said.

David van Rensburg, a support executive at Syspro, said the traditional views of industry and academia were widely divergent – a problem that only a programme like Dasik could overcome.

“Before we only shared knowledge within the industry, but now we get to share with academics and students, and at the same time be exposed to new research,” he said.

Business has hailed the move towards a greater collaboration between academics and industry.

“Skills development must be responsive to industry needs if we are, as a region, to compete on a global stage and meet the challenges of increased development and investment in Nelson Mandela Bay,” Nelson Mandela Bay Business Chamber chief executive Kevin Hustler said.

“Academic and private sector partnerships such as this will pave the way for a workforce able to keep pace with advances and a rapid rate of innovation.

“A shortage of skilled labour is a major challenge to South African competitiveness, and we applaud partnerships such as this for strides made in improving the long-term sustainability and competitiveness of local business,” he said.

The director of Daad South Africa, Dr Ralph Hermann, said the projects funded by the organisation were aimed at fostering better ties between Germany and the countries which received the monies, and also at fostering ties between universities.

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