Creating digital artisans for South Africa’s online industry

The GROW academy, an initiative by the online industry to develop its own artisans, has just taken on its second batch of 20 trainees – and plans at least two more intakes by the end of 2012.

“There is a lot of work available for people with practical, useful skills in areas like search engine optimisation and online community management,” says Colin Habberton CEO of the GivenGain Foundation, South Africa, and co-founder of the GROW Academy.  “But schools and existing tertiary institutions either aren’t producing people who have these skills, or are too expensive for most people to access. As potential employees, we want to fill that gap.”

The Academy’s programme begins with a week-long boot camp, followed by an internship with a local NGO where trainees can test and apply their new skills. Interns are not paid, but their transport and meals are provided. “We’ve come to learn that NGOs are a great environment for our interns,” says Habberton. “They offer a lot of support as well as a good guide what the real world of work is actually like.”

After this practical experience, trainees complete an Internet Super User course offered by Get Smarter, another founding partner of the Academy.  After that, the Academy helps trainees find paid apprenticeships in the industry.

“Throughout the process we offer our trainees a great deal of guidance and mentorship, and we keep track of them once they have completed the programme,” says Habberton. “We want to make sure the project actually delivers results in terms of employment and useful skills for the economy. A big part of that is not just teaching technical skills, but also the life and workplace skills people need to successfully hold down a job. Senior people from our founding partners play an important role as mentors. “

The GROW Academy programme is currently taking applications for 20 places in its mid-year intake. “We offer a full subsidy for those who can’t afford to pay, but we do encourage trainees to contribute financially if they can,” says Habberton. “For every student who pays a full fee, we can afford to subsidise another person through the process.”

Those interested in the GROW Academy’s training, as well as potential partners and sponsors, can visit the organisation’s website at

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Creating digital artisans for South Africa’s online industry