Cape Town — On Monday, a group of unemployed school-leavers gathered in Athlone for GROW Academy. This is an initiative by organisations in Cape Town to give people basic information technology skills through a five day training programme called a boot camp.
GROW Academy is in its second year, and has had three boot camps at which students can take courses in how to use social media sites like Twitter, write blogs and start your own business.
All the boot camps have been in different locations, starting with Stellenbosch in 2011, Khayelitsha earlier this year, and now Athlone. The students of GROW Academy are all unemployed school leavers aged 18 to 35 from Cape Town communities. They apply online and have to write a letter motivating why they would like to enroll in the program. Participants are then selected by the funding partners. After graduating from the Boot Camp, students who are referred to as 'recruits' have the opportunity to become interns at the many various funding organisations. Graduates partake in refresher courses every two years. The graduates also mentor new recruits coming into the program.
Rabia Adamson, a former GROW recruit, has since received a second certificate from GROW Academy after completing her internship. She is now a mentor for GROW Academy, and she proudly wears her three-striped t-shirt, which represents the number of GROW boot camps she has participated in. She took part in the first GROW Boot Camp, applied for a three-month internship, and has since been promoted to regular staff at the organisation where she interned. "It's an opportunity not to be missed by anybody who is looking to learn something new," Adamson said.
Monique Ross, who works for one of the funding partners described GROW "as changing mindsets in a community with no hope."
Nathaniel Wagner is a former recruit and now mentors other participants. He says he is using the skills he gained at GROW, and has started his own commercial website aimed at cell phone users. "GROW has changed my life. It has made me discover things that I actually enjoy, and given me the opportunity to do short courses through the University of Cape Town, which I always wanted to do."
In the Winter Camp of 2012, there are forty recruits, and a number of people from companies who are contributing time to teach the participants.