Vacation Work Programme

October 21, 2014

My strongest belief is that the way to address the country’s skills shortage issue is to listen to the voices of the future, and help to uncover the unrealised skills of the young people. Let’s all try to invest time and faith into the young ones because they might actually know something we don’t that could save the future.

We’re doing our bit over at Geeklucha, the student network which was set up two years ago to encourage more young people take up STEM subjects, and help them succeed during and after college when they do. This year, we ran our inaugural Geekulcha Vacation Work programme, which was held at mLab at the Innovation Hub, Pretoria. The Vacation Work Program was open to school children from grades 6 to 12, and was an intensive week-long tech camp designed to teach them how to build mobile apps, design for the web, and pick up electronics and business/entrepreneurship skills. Our youngest participant was just 12-years-old.

Our Future GeekStars, as we called them, came from different areas such as Soshanguve, Hammanskraal, Attridgeville, Tembisa, Midrand, Centurion and the inner parts of the City of Tshwane. To take part, they had to commit to a workplace timetable which involved being at mLab from nine am until four in the afternoon, and submitting their day’s work to their mentor for assessment. One of the big problems we constantly hear from prospective employers about IT graduates is that they have academic skills but are totally unprepared for the discipline of work.

These GeekStars were challenged to think, be innovative, show initiative, collaborate and be responsible for the tasks and projects they were given to do. Between them, they came up with these five awesome projects.
ICT Xplorer

A Windows Phone app that takes high school learners through a tour of the world of ICT by team “GeekTech4Teen”. The team decided to create a character, Vuyie, who interacts with you through the app. This team plans on publishing the app this week and have gotten Microsoft DreamSpark accounts through Geekulcha.

Another Windows Phone app by team GeekTech4Teen, this app teaches you about poetry and guides you to become a phenomenal poet like the team’s member, Glendar Baloyi. The app was given as a bonus app after the team mastered how to use App and Visual studio in three days.
School Reinvented

Looking at schools of the future, team DOT created a web application platform to give the young people place to raise their voices of how they want future schooling and school to be, reinvent school. The website also takes to highlight current best practices of schools. This platform is now online as and there are plans to make it bigger and better.
Traffic Hack

Team RoboGeeks was given the not-inconsequential task of sorting out congestion on Gauteng roads using an Arduino board and basic electronics. The aim of this project was to build density-dependent traffic lights system that changes the duration of traffic lights depending on traffic volumes on the lanes of the roads/streets. The project has gotten the three grade 10 and 11s too excited to further and be more innovative with how traffic needs to be in South Africa.
Business Model Canvas

Team “Business Geeks” had a project and a role in business analysis, building bases for all the projects that were worked on. The team covered the principles of business and entrepreneurship,and worked on building business/revenue models as a first task to their assignment and also had a responsibility of the documentation projects.

All the projects were on learn and implement basis and carried out to execution in a space of five days, teams did wire-framing of the projects/applications. They were advised to design with reuse and reusability in mind.

The closing ceremony following a Braai, was a formal wear occasion where the youngstars presented and demonstrated the functionality of the projects to their client (Geekulcha), mentors, sponsors and general entrepreneurs of the Innovation Hub. Keynotes were given by Miss Pholile Mhlanga (Geekulcha BA mentor), Gary Bannatyne (the Innovation Hub, Maxum), ThoughtWorks and the City of Tshwane Representatives and all speakers iterated on make use of the opportunities to become solutions/entrepreneurial leaders.

Certificates of completion and acknowledgement were issued to the young stars.
Feedback from Vacation Workers

Many of them wished we could prolong the programme while others have indicated that they will be joining us for the next program of events. Here is what some had to say.

“I do Business studies in school, it was nice to see the principles being applied in the real world”, said Sibusiso Mdlovu, a matriculant.
“I hate that they (fellow team members) call me a boss. We are all bosses!”, 12-year old Nkateko Hlongwane said.
“This week made me realize that I don’t have to look for a job, I can be my own boss”, said grade learner, Malwandla Ngoveni.

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