Company wants young girls in IT

RIGHT ANSWER: Some of the girls and IBM Exite camp, where they explored technology as a career. 19/07/07. © Unknown.
RIGHT ANSWER: Some of the girls and IBM Exite camp, where they explored technology as a career. 19/07/07. © Unknown.

Tebogo Monama

Tebogo Monama

Thirty girls from three schools took part in IBM's week-long intensive training programme aimed at enticing them into careers in technology and engineering.

In the past seven years, the yearly IBM outreach programme has gained momentum in growing the critical technical skills base in the country.

As part of the programme, IBM's technology camps, called Exploring Interests in Technology and Engineering (Exite), are held around the world between May and October.

The camps offer school girls the opportunity to explore technology as a career and work together on maths and science projects.

This year, 30 grade 9 pupils, aged 15 on average, from Diepsloot Combined High School in Alexandra, Riverlea Senior Secondary and Sebokeng High, attended the camp at the local IBM headquarters in Sandton.

IBM's human resources director for South and Central Africa, Cathy Smith, who leads the local programme, says the initiative gives the girls a chance to choose subjects that will have a bearing on their careers.

"IT skills shortage versus demand, globally and in South Africa, is a real issue. It becomes a double challenge when one looks at the negligible participation of women in the mainstream economy.

"Girls make up a sizeable number of pupils in the school system, just as women make up 52percent of the country's population, but very few pursue technical careers," says Smith.

Through the Exite camps, IBM intends introducing girls to technical careers as a way of enticing them to consider becoming software engineers, IT architects and the like.

The Exite camps are aligned to several IBM initiatives to create a short- and long-term pipeline of IT and technical skills.

These skills in turn position the country competitively in the global economy.

This year's programme included field trips to MultiChoice and IBM Khulani Park, an IBM technical service and maintenance centre.

These locations were astutely selected to help pupils discover the roles played by technology in different industries.

The girls also interacted with IBM executives and specialists.

More than 5000 girls have so far taken part in Exite camps around the world since its inception in 1999. This is part of IBM's commitment to reaching out to groups that are under-represented in the technical fields.

IBM also wants to recruit and train individuals from those constituencies.

The camps are held at different locations around the world including the US, Netherlands, Ireland, Bangkok, Thailand, Caracas, Venezuela and India.