WeThinkCode, the new, not-for-profit and entrepreneur-led initiative to develop programming skills in South Africa, has revealed its first corporate backers. They are financial services group First National Bank, Durban-based development house Derivco and Johannesburg-based software house BBD.
The founding sponsorships will run for three years.
WeThinkCode, which is modelled on French computer programming school Ecole 42, intends opening its first campus in January 2016 in Braamfontein, Johannesburg. Students’ fees over the two-year course are covered fully by the project’s sponsors.
As founding sponsors, FNB, BBD and Derivco will provide financial support for the launch of the programme and will play a role in ensuring the curriculum stays relevant to the industry, WeThinkCode said on Thursday. Students will also be able to interact with sponsors through internship opportunities and projects throughout their coursework.
When it’s launched in January 2016, the project will take in 100 students. “There are 3,4m unemployed youth in South Africa, and we believe that within this pool there is immense talent and aptitude to become world-class developers,” the non-profit said in a statement.
The programme is open to candidates aged 17 to 35, regardless of previous education, socioeconomic background or financial means. Student applications open on 1 October.
WeThinkCode was founded by Arlene Mulder, Camille Agon, Yossi Hasson and Justinus Adriaanse.
Mulder, who quit her job at Rand Merchant Bank to take on the WeThinkCode project full time with fellow executive director Agon — Hasson and Adriaanse are nonexecutive directors — explained in a recent interview with TechCentral that the idea is to try to do something about the fact that there are millions of young job seekers in South Africa who can’t find employment, yet there are hundreds of thousands of vacancies that corporate South Africa can’t fill because they can’t find the right skills.
“[The school] has a completely different way of looking at education, specifically in technology,” Mulder said. It takes in youngsters who have the right aptitude to become computer programmers, no matter their background or education (or lack thereof).
Prospective students, who don’t have to have any previous history in programming, will be invited to play an online game that tests their aptitude and problem-solving skills to determine if they are programmer material.
In the long term, the founders want to expand the model across Africa, training 100 000 new coders, but they’re starting in Johannesburg.