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January 15, 2021

Education, mentorship and a shifting digital landscape

The rapid migration to digital platforms over the past year has forced both the public and private sector to reassess the manner in which operations take place.

One sector that has been particularly challenged by this migration in the South African context is the education sector. So much learning, from early childhood through to university lectures, has traditionally taken place in face-to-face environments and physical locations, now disrupted by the ongoing pandemic.

This has forced a shift in the way education must take place, but perhaps it is a necessary shift. The migration to using digital tools for upskilling and educating our youthful workforce may be what is needed to meet the gap in our education system, particularly for those who find higher education inaccessible.

Digital knowledge sharing

From Microsoft Teams, Google Meet and Zoom, to tools as prolific as WhatsApp, the internet is providing a platform for connecting and knowledge sharing like never before.

South Africa is what could be called a “job-scarce” country. By using digital tools such as these, young entrepreneurs and graduates without jobs are able not only to connect to one another, but also reach out to those with more knowledge and experience than themselves. Some platforms that are currently facilitating this type of interaction include the Mentor Africa Foundation and the National Mentorship Movement.

This allows for a cross-pollination of information, enabling those in start-ups and small businesses not just to learn from seasoned businesspeople and their peers, but also to access a potential market for their services and products at a later stage.

Learning through digital experimentation

The flexibility of digital platforms also allows young entrepreneurs to make mistakes and learn how to refine their product offering without making a massive impact on overheads or output. Platforms such as Jumia provide training for those wishing to sell on the site, while large social media machines, like Facebook, give those starting out the opportunity to experiment with offerings and adverts, and A-B test what works best for their products.

This kind of learning can also, in part, address the digital skills gap, as it allows those who want to use the platform to get hands-on experience using such tools, forcing them to dive in head-first and engage with unfamiliar processes until they become second nature.

Face-to-Face still has its place

These digital tools are critical to empowering our young workforce, but despite our current environment, face-to-face mentorship still has an important role to play. For those businesses who can afford to, taking on a fresh crop of interns each year and upskilling them through providing workplace experience and a living wage, we can address not just our skills shortage, but these gaps in our education system.

At Boxfusion, we take in 10-12 graduates each year, providing them with on-the-job training and the space to practice theoretical skills learned during their studies. We also provide an opportunity for them to generate and practice their own ideas, with a mentor to guide them throughout the year.

While the current environment provides challenges to our mentorship programme, we’re learning to navigate the space together with our graduates and implement many of these digital tools to assist them in their learning journey.

Find out more about our annual graduate programme here.