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No-pay MBA comes to SA

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MBA carrying professionals earn close to double compared to their peers. However, the option of taking on an MBA seemed only available to those few who can afford it. This may change though through the No-Pay MBA pilot which kicks off next month.

The option of a No-Pay MBA might sound off kilter to many people, but thanks to open source technology it is now a reality. Self-motivated young professionals aiming to pursue a business education, without going into debt, can now access the innovative option through the guidance and tutelage of a South African NGO and one of South Africa’s leading innovators in the field of executive development.

Research shows that MBA carrying professionals earn close to double compared to their peers. However, the option of taking on the MBA seemed only available to those few who can afford it. Co-designer of the renowned UCT’s Graduate School of Business’ pioneering Executive MBA, Tom Ryan believes this is something that can be changed.

“I was inspired by the story of Laurie Pickard. In 2013, Laurie needed a business education to move forward in her career, but after researching the options, she was unconvinced that an investment of her life savings in a traditional MBA would pay off. She thought there might be another way and with the help of free online courses from the world’s top universities she began her self-taught journey. She documented her noble experience on her blog, No-Pay MBA, so that others could learn from her – and the public quest went viral. When I read about her experience I knew it could be replicated and even improved in South Africa,” says Tom.

Tom began conceptualising what a low-cost MBA would look like and soon approached Cape Town based NPO, Salesian Life Choices to partner with him.

Sofia Neves, Salesian Life Choices MD says; “When we heard the concept of the No-Pay MBA we knew we wanted to be part of it. Our mission as an organization is to tackle inequality and this concept excited us. The fact that only a few elite can afford the exorbitant fees required to pursue a MBA in South Africa feels unethical. Business skills are a scarcity, but they are essential to support SA’s economic growth, – something we are in desperate need of.”

The No-Pay MBA uses blended learning that reverses the traditional learning environment by delivering instructional content – often online – using MOOCs, outside of the classroom. Students watch online lectures, collaborate in online discussions, carry out research at home and then once a week engage in peer-learning in the classroom with the guidance of an expert.

“The program welcomes people from different fields, no background knowledge is required; however preference is given to candidates with some management experience. The course is ideally suited to those desiring to enhance their business acumen, looking to change careers, start a business or just get better in their profession,” says Tom.

As with Pickard’s design, courses offered are based on MOOCs from leading institutions including, but not limited to, Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT), the University of California, University of Pennsylvania and Macquarie University in Australia. The 100 week programme demands 10 hours of commitment per week – seven hours of self-study and three hours in meet-ups and will start in April 2018.

“We have begun our recruitment and anyone can join the open days before the closing date on the 28th of March. The programme will be piloted in Cape Town and the weekly meet-ups will happen after hours at our academy in the Southern Suburbs. The aim is to accommodate working professionals as much as we can. The cost for the two year programme is R38,000 and there are several options of payment.

“Five scholarships will be offered. The aim is to push boundaries and align the programme with how modern education should be – dynamic and equitable,” says Sofia.

Laurie Pickard, the originator of the No-Pay MBA concept and author of the book Don’t Pay For Your MBA says, “The curriculum of Life Choices No-Pay MBA is outstanding, comparable to the education you would get at any major business school. Even more valuable, having the support and guidance of a community of other learners and professionals is something that could have added much value to my own No-Pay MBA journey. There is potential for dedicated learners to get outstanding value out of this program, far beyond what they could get with a traditional MBA program. A comprehensive curriculum, a cohort of peers, and an affordable price. What more could you ask for?”

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UN calls for electronics overhaul to beat e-waste

Seven UN entities have come together at the World Economic Forum to tackle the escalating scourge of electronic waste.

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Seven UN entities have come together, supported by the World Economic Forum, and the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) to call for an overhaul of the current electronics system, with the aim of supporting international efforts to address e-waste challenges. 

The report calls for a systematic collaboration with major brands, small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs), academia, trade unions, civil society and associations in a deliberative process to reorient the system and reduce the waste of resources each year with a value greater than the GDP of most countries. 

Each year, approximately 50 million tonnes of electronic and electrical waste (e-waste) are discarded — the weight of more than all commercial airliners ever made. In terms of material value, this is worth 62.5 billion dollars– more than the GDP of most countries.  

Less than 20% of this is recycled formally. Informally, millions of people worldwide (over 600,000 in China alone) work to dispose of e-waste, much of it done in working conditions harmful to both health and the environment. 

The report, “A New Circular Vision for Electronics – Time for a Global Reboot,” launched in Davos 24 January, says technologies such as cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT), support gradual “dematerialization” of the electronics industry.  

Meanwhile, to capture the global value of materials in the e-waste and create global circular value chains, the report also points to the use of new technology to create service business models, better product tracking and manufacturer or retailer take-back programs.  

The report notes that material efficiency, recycling infrastructure and scaling up the volume and quality of recycled materials to meet the needs of electronics supply chains will all be essential for future production.  

And if the electronics sector is supported with the right policy mix and managed in the right way, it could lead to the creation of millions of decent jobs worldwide. 

The joint report calls for collaboration with multinationals, SMEs, entrepreneurs, academia, trade unions, civil society and associations to create a circular economy for electronics where waste is designed out, the environmental impact is reduced and decent work is created for millions. 

The new report supports the work of the E-waste Coalition, which includes: 

  • International Labour Organization (ILO); 
  • International Telecommunication Union (ITU); 
  • United Nations Environment Programme (UN Environment); 
  • United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO); 
  • United Nations Institute for Training and Research (UNITAR); 
  • United Nations University (UNU), and 
  • Secretariats of the Basel and Stockholm Conventions (BRS). 

The Coalition is supported by the World Business Council for Sustainable Development (WBCSD) and the World Economic Forum and coordinated by the Secretariat of the Environment Management Group (EMG).  

Considerable work is being done on the ground. For example, in order to grasp the opportunity of the circular economy, today the Nigerian Government, the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and UN Environment announce a 2 million dollar investment to kick off the formal e-waste recycling industry in Nigeria. The new investment will leverage over 13 million dollars in additional financing from the private sector.   

According to the International Labour Organization, in Nigeria up 100,000 people work in the informal e-waste sector. This investment will help to create a system which formalizes these workers, giving them safe and decent employment while capturing the latent value in Nigeria’s 500,000 tonnes of e-waste. 

UNIDO collaborates with a large number of organizations on e-waste projects, including UNU, ILO, ITU, and WHO, as well as various other partners, such as Dell and the International Solid Waste Association (ISWA). In the Latin American and Caribbean region, a UNIDO e-waste project, co-funded by GEF, seeks to support sustainable economic and social growth in 13 countries. From upgrading e-waste recycling facilities, to helping to establish national e-waste management strategies, the initiative adopts a circular economy approach, whilst enhancing regional cooperation. 

Another Platform for Accelerating the Circular Economy (PACE) report launched today by the World Economic Forum, with support from Accenture Strategy, outlines a future in which Fourth Industrial Revolution technologies provide a tool to achieve a circular economy efficiently and effectively, and where all physical materials are accompanied by a digital dataset (like a passport or fingerprint for materials), creating an ‘internet of materials.’ PACE is a collaboration mechanism and project accelerator hosted by the World Economic Forum which brings together 50 leaders from business, government and international organizations to collaborate in moving towards the circular economy. 

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Matrics must prepare for AI

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students writing a test

By Vian Chinner, CEO and founder of Xineoh.

Many in the matric class of 2018 are currently weighing up their options for the future. With the country’s high unemployment rate casting a shadow on their opportunities, these future jobseekers have been encouraged to look into which skills are required by the market, tailoring their occupational training to align with demand and thereby improving their chances of finding a job, writes Vian Chinner – a South African innovator, data scientist and CEO of the machine learning company specialising in consumer behaviour prediction, Xineoh.

With rapid innovation and development in the field of artificial intelligence (AI), all careers – including high-demand professions like engineers, teachers and electricians – will look significantly different in the years to come.

Notably, the third wave of internet connectivity, whereby our physical world begins to merge with that of the internet, is upon us. This is evident in how widespread AI is being implemented across industries as well as in our homes with the use of automation solutions and bots like Siri, Google Assistant, Alexa and Microsoft’s Cortana. So much data is collected from the physical world every day and AI makes sense of it all.

Not only do new industries related to technology like AI open new career paths, such as those specialising in data science, but it will also modify those which already exist. 

So, what should matriculants be considering when deciding what route to take?

For highly academic individuals, who are exceptionally strong in mathematics, data science is definitely the way to go. There is, and will continue to be, massive demand internationally as well as locally, with Element-AI noting that there are only between 0 and 100 data scientists in South Africa, with the true number being closer to 0.

In terms of getting a foot in the door to become a successful data scientist, practical experience, working with an AI-focused business, is essential. Students should consider getting an internship while they are studying or going straight into an internship, learning on the job and taking specialist online courses from institutions like Stanford University and MIT as they go.

This career path is, however, limited to the highly academic and mathematically gifted, but the technology is inevitably going to overlap with all other professions and so, those who are looking to begin their careers should take note of which skills will be in demand in future, versus which will be made redundant by AI.

In the next few years, technicians who are able to install and maintain new technology will be highly sought after. On the other hand, many entry level jobs will likely be taken care of by AI – from the slicing and dicing currently done by assistant chefs, to the laying of bricks by labourers in the building sector.

As a rule, students should be looking at the skills required for the job one step up from an entry level position and working towards developing these. Those training to be journalists, for instance, should work towards the skill level of an editor and a bookkeeping trainee, the role of financial consultant.

This also means that new workforce entrants should be prepared to walk into a more demanding role, with more responsibility, than perhaps previously anticipated and that the country’s education and training system should adapt to the shift in required skills.

The matric classes of 2018 have completed their schooling in the information age and we should be equipping them, and future generations, for the future market – AI is central to this.

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