26 May 2021

Absa Group continues to show its commitment to addressing critical skills development as was demonstrated during the annual Digital Academy Showcase event today.

The Digital Academy has, since 2015, equipped over 400 students with critical digital skills as participants work in simulated software development environments designed to encourage digital product innovation to meet business and industry demand. One of the initiative's key aims is to build a workforce for the future, and students undergo training in full-stack software development.

The comprehensive training, targeted at the youth and often unemployed, is based on a shared vision of impactful digital skills and resources to build Absa's modern technology architecture, powering the bank's digital transformation. As part of The Digital Academy learnership programme, students are required to design solutions for everyday problems. The annual Showcase event provides students with the opportunity to demonstrate their work.

Since inception of the initiative in 2015 with The Digital Academy, 440 students have been trained, with 225 (51%) placed within Absa for six months of workplace exposure. Absa currently has 120 Digital Academy graduates working in its digital, innovation and technology function. Seventy-eight of these graduates have been placed in permanent posts; 30 are on fixed-term contracts; and, 12 graduates are currently with the bank on a learnership basis.

This year, The Digital Academy will embark on two new Unemployed Learnership programmes:

  • Unemployed Learnership programme with a total intake of 40 learners 
  • Unemployed People Living with disabilities (PWD) Learnership with 15 learners

Unemployed Learnership programmes will result in a qualification in systems support learnership at NQF5 level.

Absa Group Chief Information Officer Wilhelm Krige said: "Embracing digital skills remains critically important as we consider our capabilities to adapt quickly to change. At Absa, we believe in investing in people who have not had the opportunity otherwise to be a part of this digital revolution, which has accelerated rapidly because of the global pandemic."

According to the Quarterly Labour Force Survey (QLFS), for the fourth quarter of 2020, South Africa's unemployment rate increased to 32.5%. Furthermore, the unemployment rate among youth aged 15-24 stood at a staggering 63.2 %, while for the age group 25-34, the rate was 41.2%.

Gary Bannatyne, The Digital Academy founder, said the collaboration with Absa is vital in helping to address the challenges faced by unemployed youth. "Through The Digital Academy, we can empower young South Africans with economically desirable and sustainable skills so that they have the tools to improve their circumstances."

Each year, The Digital Academy hosts two intakes of 20 students, who undergo training for six months. The only prerequisite for joining the programme is for students to have completed Matric, to have a foundation in coding, and a passion for technology.

Skills taught at The Digital Academy

The Digital Academy is a demand-led programme that bases 'job readiness' on the skills required to perform value-adding work for Absa. Aside from the foundation learnership skills, the collaboration with Absa sees learners undergo comprehensive training in:

  • Full stack development (creating and understanding how a full application works)
  • Aside to agile development and soft skills, the development consists of: Frontend Development (HTML/Javascript/Typescript/Angular/React)
  • Backend Development (Java/NodeJS/C#/Microservices/MQ)
  • Database Development (PostgreSQL,MongoDb,Redis)
  • Containerisation and Orchestration (Docker, Docker Compose, Kubernetes, Ansible)
  • CI/CD (Jenkins, TeamCity)
  • Source Control (GIT, Mercurial)
  • Basic server usage and maintenance (Ubuntu administration)

The Digital Academy students create solutions for real-world problems

Each cohort of The Digital Academy students are presented with problems or scenarios which they are required to solve. The solutions developed by the latest cohort of students included:

Stoko

Problem Statement
Investing in stocks is potentially a good way to grow money. However, it is often not a friendly process for new investors. Many enter the world of stocks without basic knowledge and lose their money. How can we educate people about stock trading in an engaging and interactive way?

Solution
The Stoko application will allow users to create a demo account to trade using stock data. The users will receive a predetermined amount of stock to start. They can then buy and sell the stock in an attempt to make a profit. They will be educated with explanations of the basic terminology of stock trading, and the importance of investing in local stocks.

Fin-Knowledge

Problem Statement
Investing in stocks is potentially a good way to grow money. However, it is often not a friendly process for new investors. Many enter the world of stocks without basic knowledge and lose their money. How can we educate people about stock trading in an engaging and interactive way?

Solution
The Fin-Knowledge app is for financial institutions that are required to know the target audience for their products. The app allows users to test their financial literacy and better understand their financial literacy level. The app then provides data analysis based on people’s financial literacy so that the institution understands the current customer demographic base better.


Watercooler

Problem Statement
In the new remote working world, companies and employees are missing out on communication avenues that are available in a physical shared workspace. For example, serendipitous meetings of colleagues from other departments while at the canteen. Sharing of ideas while passing people in a corridor or elevator. The loss of a strong company bond between employees. How can we use technology to solve this problem?

Solution
Watercooler is a software application that fills up the social connection gap caused by the COVID-19 pandemic as most employees work remotely. It allows employees of the same company to connect using video and voice in rooms where people can virtually “Stand by the watercooler” and have social interactions with people that are in “that company”.

LinkSkills

Problem Statement
There is a large disconnect between the skills that people are looking for in many industries, and the skills that are being taught to people in the education sector. In the IT sector, there is constant change in skills that are required as new technologies emerge and technical demands change. How can technology be used in order to understand the demand from industry better, in order to train for these skills specifically?

Solution
LinkSkills provides a way for companies to tailor-make the skills they are looking for in people they wish to hire through a series of questions and feedback, some mandatory and some optional. This data is then analysed and is represented in a way to better understand the needs of the IT sector, in order to link the skills that are taught and the skills that are needed.

Wilhelm Krige 

Gary Bannatyne