South Africa launches first academy for data science

South Africa’s has opened its first data science training academy, thanks to an investment of over R50 million by BCX.

The investment has largely been fuelled by the growing demand for big data analytics and BCX’s recognition of the need for this skillset within the country, the company said.

The Explore Data Science Academy aims to meet the demand for data analytics in the digital economy – a demand that far exceeds current supply.

Through the academy, BCX will sponsor 300 interns over the next three years, as well as future-proofing executives in this scarce skill, through the provision of additional courses.

The academy is believed to be the first institution in the country focused on data science.

Kicking off the initiative was the announcement of 100 free internships to successful applicants of the academy’s one-year Accredited Skills Data Science Programme, commencing January 2018.

These internships will be fully sponsored by BCX, which has come on board as founder partner of the academy for the next three years.

While prior education and exposure to mathematics and computing will be an advantage, applicants will be selected primarily on their ability to complete an online aptitude test.

Prospective students can find more information and apply on the Explore Data Science Academy website.

Most attractive career choice

“The acceleration of the digital economy means that every industry will need data science skills,” said Explore co-founder Dave Strugnell.

“There is an estimated global shortfall in data scientists of two million. Likewise, there is huge demand for these skills within corporate South Africa, which far outweighs current supply,” he said.

The field has been ranked as the most attractive career choice of the 21st century, and is also one of the highest paid.

“We are particularly excited to be the first institution to offer a focused, comprehensive and free year-long accredited skills data science programme in the country that will build the relevant digital skills within our youth, so that they can thrive in the new economy,” Strugnell added.

Mirroring the workplace

Successful candidates will spend the year between the classroom, on-the-job training and team-based project work.

“We designed a course that closely mirrors the demands of the workplace. Included in the curriculum are tools such as Python, Tableau, SQL and Scikit-learn, which are routinely required when building data science applications. We have also added job immersion and self-paced project work, which both involve team dynamics and interaction,” said academy co-founder Shaun Dipnall .

While job placement at the end of the year is not guaranteed, Dippnall is confident that uptake of candidates will be strong given the shortage of skills.

Stipends are available to cover the living expenses of successful candidates who are in financial need.

Read: South Africa’s best universities for getting a job in 2018

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South Africa launches first academy for data science